The Troy-Bilt Horse walking rototiller is back in action for the first day of tilling in the field. I prepped a 50’x50′ section for snap peas. The Horse is noisy and uses a fair (though not unreasonable) share of gas, but it’s also a very handy machine for larger areas (in fact, I would’ve used the rototiller on the tractor, but the ground is still too wet to take the weight). All things in moderation on the way to becoming a fully-rounded, taking-it-slow, hand-laboring farmer! (Gear note: This Horse is c. 1995, from the original Troy-Bilt line, before the company was gobbled up by a bigger one and the construction got more lightweight. I bought it used, at half the price of new, and in near mint condition. It should last a long, long time—in my first farming year, I borrowed a rusty 30-year-old Horse that did just fine.)
It’s around 8:30 in the morning and I’m about to uncover the early lettuce. Floating row cover is a very lightweight spunbonded polyester, light enough not to crush seedlings when laid down directly on top. It lets in water and sunlight, and also retains heat, to differing degrees depending on weight. This one is medium weight, my all-purpose cover. It transmits 85% of sunlight and keeps the temperature 3-4°F warmer when the surrounding air is around zero. Over the last couple of nights, the greenhouse low was 19°F (-7°C)—the lettuce can take a little freezing, and would probably manage without cover. Still, every edge helps, and this one’s easy. Floating row cover is a common sight around here throughout the year, it’s my main organic alternative to pesticides (it keeps out certain flying insects on certain crops at certain critical times) and also gives you an edge in getting things out early and keeping them out late. Beat that frost!
True leaves are starting to appear in the first trays of eggplant and peppers (that’s Dusky, and Vittoria behind, both eggplant). It’s around 20 days from seeding. Rapid growth is on the way!
My box of back issues finally arrived. Reading through it may cause my head to explode (so many things to try, so little time :), but I’ll take the chance! This is the entire collection, seven years worth, of a fantastic market gardeners’ monthly newsletter called Growing for Market. Tiny farming lies in a kind of information nowhere land between gardening and large-scale agriculture. Most of what I do is straight from gardening methods, but the scale is a little…bigger, with things to do and problems to solve that just don’t happen in even a very large personal garden. Meanwhile, commercial farming info is all about tractors and agrochemicals and acres of one crop at a time. All wrong. So where do you learn the best way to stake 500 tomato plants, or how to keep veggies fresh for half a day at a hot outdoor summer market?
Continue reading Fill your head!!
Five weeks after seeding in plugsheets under lights, around 180 little lettuces are in the ground. Especially without a hardening off stage, they’ll have a bit of struggle in the greenhouse-hot days and subzero nights ahead, but that’s the gamble for extra early harvest. Luckily, lettuce has been good to me. I have faith. And row cover.
A first tray of early lettuce, set out in the unheated greenhouse yesterday afternoon, survived the around-zero night no problem. Lettuce is quite forgiving, and I’m forgoing the usual hardening off, going straight from the grow racks to the greenhouse ground. Although the sun feels great (it just came out now), hopefully it will only appear in breaks over the next couple of days, or the lettuce will be toast. The soaker hoses running up and down were on yesterday for a few hours to get ready for transplanting (without watering, inside the greenhouse, the ground obviously gets very dry).
The first day of fieldwork! Organizing hoses, picking up rocks. The ground is still quite wet, so we stayed on the paths, especially with the tiny tractor. (The Brothers are back volunteering, which is great!)