• Local
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • more weather >
Judy Isacoff
Posed poised hemlock tree crowns, April 17, 2019.

NATURE’S TURN: Wood frogs, peepers, wind woo springtime sower

By Monday, Apr 22, 2019 Farm and Table

April 22 – May 5, 2019

Mount Washington — Needle-leafed twigs, branches and boughs shape the towering hemlock tree’s outer body. Layer upon layer of fan-like woody ribs with green fabric-like covering move singly or combine to rock together in a tussle with the wind. They nod, shake, twist and are lifted to show their undersides silvery in sunshine. They are held fast to a tapering, sun-dappled umber trunk that sways with the strongest gusts: hemlock trees, a forest of them, spires reaching into the blue sky.

Wood frogs mating, smaller male on top, surrounded by masses of eggs. Click to listen to their vocals. Photo: Lang Elliott

Wood frogs “honk” and “click” in the wetland at the western edge of my garden, while across the way, pond-side, chorus frogs – spring peepers – peep. The cacophony of wood frogs started the second week of April; they sang from an ice-covered end of a thawing pool. As described by the National Wildlife Federation, “These frogs have adapted to cold climates by freezing over the winter. During this time, they stop breathing and their hearts stop beating. Their bodies produce a special antifreeze substance that prevents ice from freezing within their cells, which would be deadly. Ice does form, however, in the spaces between the cells. When the weather warms, the frogs thaw and begin feeding and mating again.”*

Wood frog habitat: the forest and blue sky reflected in a wetland pool, April 16, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

The warmth that thawed the wood frogs thawed my garden beds and gave rise to tiny leafy tops on half a dozen overwintered parsnips. I dug them on the 10th and by the 14th planted a new bed with seeds I harvested last fall from one of my own second-year roots. Parsnips are a productive crop for the home gardener, with a long harvest window from fall until spring. I soak parsnip seeds overnight and sow them 4 inches apart, 18-inch row spacing. They are slow to germinate. An interplanting of radish works well.

I was introduced to planting on the diagonal at last year’s NOFA Conference.** Following this method promises enhanced productivity, i.e. greater yields per space allotted. I am including mention of my experimenting with the method because the design is dynamic and we can learn together by practicing and researching as we go. See the photograph of fall-planted garlic.

Mulched garlic shoots appeared in April from cloves planted on the diagonal in October. Photo: Judy Isacoff

In the coming weeks, I will continue to broadcast lettuce, arugula and Asian green seed; diagonal plant onions, beets, kale, collards and more parsnip. Tall varieties of sugar snap peas go in along a trellis.

Dear readers, be wooed to care for planet Earth in every way every day.


Amphibian sounds – tps://musicofnature.com/calls-of-frogs-and-toads-of-the-northeast/
*Wood Frog – https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Amphibians/Wood-Frog

Opportunities to participate

April 27 and May 25, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Turtle Tree Seeds, Copake, NY – https://www.turtletreeseed.org/

May 10 and 11, Berkshire Botanical Garden Plants and Answers Sale, Stockbridge, MA
Members only early buying Friday, May 10, 9-11:00 a.m.; public sale begins Friday, May 10, 11:00 a.m. – https://www.berkshirebotanical.org/events

Save the date

**August 10 – 11, Northeast Organic Farmers (NOFA) Summer Conference 2019 – http://nofasummerconference.org/

More by »