Winterizing At Harp and Shamrock Croft
Just until the recent first frost, an array of eggplants and peppers awaited their final picking, signaling the end of the long growing season at Harp & Shamrock Croft in Spartanburg County.
Established and operated by husband and wife team Paul and Jenni Callahan (and their four children), the three-acre farm was once dubbed by a former director of the Hub City Farmers Market as the “Little Farm That Could.”
Despite its small size, the farm is quite diversified. The Callahans grow plants as a SC licensed nursery; sell thousands of pounds of produce such as greens, lettuces, herbs, root veggies, squashes, tomatoes, peppers, beans, okra, eggplant and more; and produce organic-fed and pastured eggs through their many chickens, affectionately known as the “happy hens.”
Additionally, the family raises goats whose milk is used to create homemade cajeta (goat’s milk caramel) and an array of soaps that not only smell and look delicious (think Peppermint with Activated Charcoal, Lavender, Bergamot, Pumpkin Spice, Oatmeal-Honey and Cinnamon), but also are great for those with skin conditions. Jenni sells these soaps, as well as various sewn products (among them, rustic burlap Christmas tree skirts and colorful, fun mom and daughter aprons) through the farm’s Etsy page and at the Hub City Farmers Market.
As all farmers, the Callahans look forward to a bit of rest after the last harvest, knowing, however, that farmers never truly rest. “Currently, I am pulling all of our nightshades and other plants that finally died due to the frost,” says Paul. “I will compost all of this so we can hopefully use it in our potting mix.”
But composting is not all that’s going on during the off months. Other plans include dismantling semi-raised bed boxes to create more garden areas, and turning dirt in a few growing areas that need to be enriched, increasing the organic matter in the soil.
“We always need more growing areas. This coming year, no space will go unused,” Paul says.
In early to mid-January, their real fun begins, assessing supply needs, ordering seeds and starting prep work. The couple plans to start many of the early spring plants in established high tunnels through the winter months. Currently, the farm’s structures house a number of items they will sell at winter markets, like kale, arugula and lettuces.
“Since we are small, we feel it’s important to have a seamless transition from 2016 to 2017. We really cannot afford to take our foot off the gas if we want to increase our production and get better at growing fresh, local produce,” says Paul.
It’s that belief in fresh and local that inspired the family’s move from DC and full-time jobs to full-time farming, supporting the community while teaching their children the things that matter most. “We always felt farming could be a great avenue for us as a family to exhibit localism. More importantly, we wanted our kids to know where food comes from and how it is supposed to be grown.”
Paul’s Tips for Winterizing the Home Garden
1. Soil needs to be cared for. Dump any leaves, straw, food scraps (no meat) in your growing area and let sit. Gardening is about soil health, and we should always be trying to create an environment where worms reside. Treat your soil with the same respect you treat your vegetables you will grow in these areas.
2. Grow cover crops like clover, rye or buckwheat. It really helps. I have some sorghum I am going to try out, as it is hearty (and was free!).
3. Cover new garden prep areas with black tarp or cardboard to kill grass and weeds. Around the first week of March, till heavily. Then lay straw and crushed leaves to the area to keep the grass and weeds at bay.
4. Decide what you want to grow and plan the garden layout. Draw a diagram of your planting area and assign the areas for spring/summer/ fall plantings.
5. Remember rotation. Heavy feeders, like tomatoes, should not go in the same spot two years in a row. Instead, rotate the crops, amending the soil in between seasons for optimal harvest later.
6. Order your seeds and begin praying for good weather in the spring.