Transplanting…never twice the same!

Lettuce transplants in the greenhouse

[From 12 Apr 2016] Today’s transplants: Still steadily plugging in seedlings in the greenhouse, waiting for more ground to dry out. This round, lettuces (above) and bok choi (elsewhere). All this transplanting is pretty straightforward—taking the photo, I might wonder, “What’s the difference between these seedlings stuck in the ground, and any others…why bother posting the same thing over and over?” Well, I don’t literally ask myself that, but I can see how some folks may think that. There’s no good answer, it really is in the eye of the beholder.

On a tiny farm, where weather runs everything, you never know how little decisions will turn out, and how critically they may affect things. Decisions like, let’s put up this greenhouse in this wet-in-spring field that’s also slow to dry, and see what happens (because the alternatives are too expensive), and fix or work around any problems we may run into. In that greenhouse, THIS lettuce planting, in mucky ground,  in all-new conditions that may also in a few days get infernally hot and downright lettuce-unfriendly if we don’t finish the end-wall windows for ventilation before the temperature shoots up, is entirely different from every other lettuce transplanting. New story, ending unknown, let’s see how it turns out! It’s always something different… :)

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!

Seedlings in the sun

Hardening off leetuce seedlings

Lettuce seedlings get their first taste of full-on springtime sunshine. Next stop, into the ground in the greenhouse. I wouldn’t call this hardening off, some of these are being transplanted later today—tomorrow’s cloudy forecast should give them all the post-transplant adjustment break they need, then bring on the sun! (Starring in this pic, always reliable Black Seeded Simpson.)

First winter harvest

First winter harvest: salad greens

Yesterday’s harvest that went to today’s farmers’ market, my earliest market start by almost two months! From the unheated greenhouse: kale, green and red mustard, and lettuce mix times two. Harvest conditions: -2°C outside, a perfect-working-weather 10°C inside. At the end, the sun came out and it started to get sweatingly hot under a T-shirt, shirt and fleece. But, already done! No rinsing, just covered and into a cool room for a 6 a.m. pick-up this morning. It felt a little odd, starting the year’s Saturday markets so early, and indoors—this fall, if all goes as intended, weekly market will cease to end for winter and become instead a fully year-round thing…

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!

Sundown in the hoophouse

Sundown in the hoophouse

Not your typical postcard sunset, and it’s kinda chilly, damp and mucky in here, even as the temperature outside slides down to an overnight -15°C (5°F). But it’s all about the greens, tucked under a couple of layers of row cover, maybe not exactly cozy with only ground heat to keep them warm—who knows how they’re really feeling—still, well-set to survive another sub-zero night. With that in mind, sundown through 6 mil plastic is a cheery-enough sight to see!

Cold crop lettuce

Lettuce mix in winter

Lettuce in the unheated greenhouse, under a couple of layers of medium-weight row cover, is doing fine so far, firm and tasty after weeks of sub-freezing nights, all the way down to -30°C (-22°F). Now there’s even a noticeable bit of grow-back from the last cut, late December (even the weeds are getting in on the protection, see bottom left). My first full-winter tiny farming experiment continues…!