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Preparing for the Persephone Period

November: time to welcome the frosty mornings and early nightfalls with a mix of resignation and delight. There's still so much to do out in the field, but limited daylight hours and mild days in which to do it! This year more than ever, I'm acutely aware of the Persephone Period (first explained to me by Garrett Gleason, farmer at Fat Hawk Farm in Guy's Mills), the time of year when there are less than ten hours of light each day. Without enough light to photosynthesize, plants settle in for the long, cold wait until days lengthen again at the beginning of February--celebrated as Imbolc and The Feast of Brigid (first explained to me by the Benedictine Sisters Anne McCarthy and Jacqueline Sanchez-Small).

Fascinating, right? But why does this matter? Well, in order to have plants that can begin growing that early next year, they need reach a certain size and have proper protection to survive until the light returns. I'm testing out a few different methods and different crops this year in hopes of winter harvests of root veggies and leafy greens (komatsuna, tatsoi, frisee, turnip greens, kale, and mustards) and spring harvests of more greens (spinach, claytonia, mache, lettuce, baby mustards, hon tsai tai) and even some early flowers and herbs.

I've lost count of how often I've been asked, "Is your garden all put down for the year?" in the last few weeks. Sure that would be a relief in some ways, to have all the beds cleared out, mulched, and lifeless till late spring planting, but my long term goal is to have something out there to harvest every month of the year. It will take a few years' investing in season extension technology to fully reach that goal, but this years' efforts are at least a start.

And in case you are curious, Erie's Persephone date is November 10th!

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