In the greenhouse: bok choi vs flea beetle

Bok choi vs flea beetle

[From 29 Apr 2016] Everyone loves the greenhouse! The warmth, the wind break…crops, weeds, all plants love it in here. Now it seems flea beetles have acquired the taste as well. For whatever reason, the FBs usually stayed out of the (much smaller) little greenhouse, but here in the new big house—munch, munch, munch—bok choi is under attack. Hoped for a free pass on FBs in here as well, instead, it’s row cover. Learning as we go…

The light on the lettuce

Sun shining through lettuce leaves

[From 20 Apr 2016] The low-riding late afternoon sun shines through lettuce leaves, creating quite the vivid show of color. (This is also great light for revealing carpets of the tiniest emerging weeds that are otherwise easy to overlook or conveniently ignore—seeing so clearly what’s to come really motivates you to get weeding early.)

Making salad mix

Combining varieties of lettuce seed for salad mix

Adding a pinch (5g) of fairly pricey Rushmore (a beautifully deep-red oakleaf) to a batch of salad mix. This is the basic all-lettuce summer blend: seven varieties, selected mainly for color (greens to reds), texture (flat to frilly), and to some degree, seed cost (the price range of lettuce varieties is quite extreme). This inexpensive digital gram scale makes it easy to add relatively small quantities of certain varieties, and keep each batch consistent. Weigh out, shake up in bottle, ready to go. Here: 100g – that’s a lot of little lettuce!

Trimming parsley

Trimming parsley

Parsley, curly and flat-leaf, overflows its 72-cell plug sheet. Time to trim it back (again), so they still fit under the lights. To be unfussy and safe, a quick shear of only 2-3″ off the top literally takes a few seconds and does the trick. Snip-snip-snip-snip-snip! This is what you have to do when you start seedlings extra early, and then wait on the weather!

Weed ID-ing in the Digital Age

Weed ID app photo

Wormwood of some sort, this weed from the greenhouse, according to our best guess from a selection of possibilities offered up by the smart smartphone plant identification app I’ve been playing with/trying out. There are several such apps for Android: this one’s called Like That Garden—”See a plant, take a photo, and find out what it is – instantly!” It got the highest ratings, and is free, so I grabbed it.

Like the advertising says, it’s that simple to use. With the app, you take a snapshot of the mystery plant that’s saved as a low rez image (above) and sent off into the ether where it’s checked against a vast plant photo database, several possibilities soon return, with multiple images for each, and you pick the one most likely (I suppose in some cases, only one choice comes back, but so far, that hasn’t happened). The technology is all about advanced image recognition and visual searches, very…digital. Trying it out on a few plants, it’s worked quite well.

While this app is doing fine, I have a great (effective) weed book as well. Is the app a novelty toy, or a serious tiny farming tool? Or will the smartphone be accidentally dropped in a puddle and destroyed before we get a chance to decide? Only time will tell…

Transplanting: tiny sections

Greenhouse transplanting: tiny sections

Transplanting lettuce into the unheated greenhouse, filling it out in small sections to work around wetter areas. The seedlings, waiting for drier conditions, stayed a couple of weeks longer in trays than ideal—now they’re a little floppy and stretched, but I’m confident they’ll figure it out. This first spring, seeing how the ground dries in the new hoophouse is part of the learning curve. Tiny farming!

Winter salad

Over-wintered salad greens from unheated greenhouse

This bowl of lettuces and kale is the first cut of spring, taken from the unheated greenhouse while snow flurries whip around outside. With the help of 6 mils of plastic and some row cover, the salad easily survived three months of winter, with temperatures that went down to -30°C (-22°F). The texture and color are good, the taste, deliciously bold. Fantastic! The flowers are bok choi that managed to bolt in the alternating warmth and cold—on sunny days, the hoophouse temperature could easily reach 10-15°C (50-59°F), even when it was sub-zero outside. Interesting!