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!

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!

Post-winter greens

Post-winter greens

The covers are off and it’s all shades of green! That’s about three months, left to their own devices, living through freezing nights, often around -20°C (-4°F), and a low of -32°C (-25.6°F), under a couple of layers of medium-weight row cover, which means, little light (with the plastic added in, somewhere around 50% of already weak winter sun). Inside, at ground level outside the row cover, the lowest it got on the coldest night was an amazingly not-so-chilly-at-all -13°C (8.6°F). As a simple survival test…excellent!

 

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!

Working around steel

Bed preparation and hoophouse steel

Exactly where it was delivered last fall, the steel for the new hoophouse is kinda in the way, so we’re working around it (it doesn’t look like much in the pic, but it will expand into 30’x108’x16’H of plastic-covered year-round field protection). Beds of brassica greens are already in and protected by row cover from flea beetle attack. Lisa preps beds for more. Spring direct seeding proceeds…

Prepping and seeding…

Prepping and seeding beds

This is exactly what small-scale looks like. Prepping and seeding another 20 or so beds, a couple already seeded with salad greens, the rest with compost lightly scattered—maybe a little more spreading, then tilling, sectioning into 50′ or 100′ by 4 or 5′ beds, smoothing, and seeding with the Planet Jr. Sometimes this tiny farming feels to me like being in a little boat on a big, big ocean. Maybe not that dramatic, but I’m definitely adrift in a deep blue sea! Fun.