Tiny farming: eggplant

CPBs

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[From 4-Aug-2012] Pre-squish: Brand new Colorado potato beetle, larva about the size of a match head, on eggplant. Around the leaf edge, older damage done by bigger CPBs. Recently, for whatever reason, they’ve been around but not in numbers enough to be a big problem. The crazily erratic weather of the last few fears seems to have obliterated regular pest cycles, so we just see ‘em and pick ‘em…whenever.

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Brrrr… Peppers under wraps

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Not the happiest campers after three days and nights of frost protection, peppers and eggplant have one day and two nights more under row cover, if the forecast is to be believed. But the 15-day forecast a week ago was for no more cold nights, so…who knows! We’ve had about a week of frost warning nights so far since the second week of May, which I don’t think I’ve seen before. Normally, the covers would come off during the day, but with everything else to do now, and the kinda elaborate weighting-down-with-rocks setup, it’s simpler to leave it in place till the end…

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Eggplant!

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Eggplant pushing up, for the first time probably ever in my tiny farming career, in real sun, not those kinda ghastly (but effective enough) fluorescent lights. This is part of the current season’s unusual start-up, split between two farm locations (where I live and where I grow, about a mile apart, eight minutes by bike!), and smaller and way later than usual, and than the crazy weather allowed. These guys, along with peppers and tomatoes, are in 200- and 128-cell trays, seeded from bareroot germination into a smaller cell size than the usual 72, to make the most of window space. They’ll soon be off to the seedling room on the other farm, and 14-hour days of indoor lighting. Meanwhile, they seem to like it like this—raise your hands in the air! :)

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Bare root seed starting

Bare-root seed starting

It doesn’t get simpler than this for seed starting in controlled conditions: the bare root approach. Spread seeds on paper towel, place another paper towel on top, mist with a spray bottle, roll up (don’t forget to mark the rolls if you are doing more than one), and place in a ziploc-type sealable plastic bag.  Then, put the bag in a warm spot, light not required. Be sure to check on the seeds daily, as they can use the oxygen! Within a few days, you will see the little white radicle tip emerge, and from there it is root growth in action. When to take them out is open to experimention: all the veggie seeds I’ve come across are pretty tough and wanting to grow, given the minimum reasonable conditions, so you can plant right at germination, or a couple days down the line with more root. As always, there are lots of variables to consider, play around with, and so forth, but you should be generally fine no matter what. Since I usually only do this for germination tests, I don’t actually plant them (cruel, huh?!). Other materials than paper towels (they shred easily when wet, an advantage when separating if roots start growing into them) and plastic bags could be used—kinda interesting, a while back I checked the book and called my certification agency to see whether there were organic standards for the paper towels used with this method, since they are in such intimate contact with the seeds at such an early stage and who knows what’s in the paper, but no…this is not covered, anything goes, if you’re certified, this would be, well, certified organic. Anyhow, this year, these seeds are for production: here, it’s sweet peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes! We’ll see how it goes!

Germination in ziploc

NOTE: Yeah, I am still messing around with my phone camera and the sometimes cheesy photo filter effects in Instagram for Android…

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Beef and eggplant stew!

Beef and eggplant stew

Another in my series of possibly-not-so-appetizing photos of oh-so-delicious food. Local food. Ingredients either grown by me or gotten from those who did. I still find knowing where your food comes from endlessly satisfying, it doesn’t get old. Anyhow, without further ado, on to the one-pot, no-culinary-skills-required Beef and Eggplant Stew. More »

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Patchy frost

Eggplant under row cover

[Fri, Sep 16, 2011] First frost wasn’t too bad at all, a patchy frost that hit the field lightly, and in some areas, hardly at all. Still, the row cover, over some beans, peppers, eggplant, and a couple of beds of cherry tomato, worked out well, the exposed plants in those areas did get mildly to quite well…toasted. In the pic, we have Dusky eggplant, under its thin layer of salvation. Raising the floating row cover with a few non-pointy sticks, so it’s not pressing on the leaves, is a good idea—moisture often collects where the leaves touch the cover, freezes, and can deliver some pretty severe leaf burn. But for mature plants at this point in the season, I usually don’t worry about that—it’s different with seedlngs at the other end—and just float on the cover and leave it at that!

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