Tiny farming: seedlings

Early lettuce heats up

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Couple hundred not-so-early early lettuce, toughing it out in the semi-sauna-like greenhouse, along with seedlings that should be out in the field soon. This year, we went from chilly late winter conditions to summer-ish heat, with absolutely no mild spring in between—one day to the next. Always exciting (never dull)!

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Seas of seedlings

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An endless sea of sweet pepper seedlings, out from under the fluorescent lamps, getting used to the sun. Well, not endless, a few hundred plants, mostly red, yellow and orange bell type. If all goes well, that should be…plenty!

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Toothpick timekeeping!

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Toothpick timekeeping system. Two toothpicks means two days hardening off in the sun. Simple and, I suspect, sustainabls – a single box of toothpicks could probably be made to last a lifetime. For when you’re not doing everything at once…

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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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Toughening up

Hardening off onions, cauliflower, broccoli

Today, it’s a warmish (57°F/14°C), overcast, gray day, with a light breeze. In the next week or so, the unheated greenhouse is to be relocated, set up, and outfitted to house hardier seedlings. All things considered, right now is a fine time to start this season’s hardening off… In early afternoon, we set outside trays of onion, cauliflower and broccoli, preparing them to head out from the cosy shelter of the seedling room to the real world. They’ll stay out till early evening, then it’s back in for a few more hours under the lights, and more of the same for the next few days. These first acts and sights of spring on a tiny farm never fail to excite (I think it’s the gambler in all of us)…

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Editing onions, counting peppers

Thinning onion seedlings

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right? That’s how it seems, in a soothingly familiar way, as seed starting 2010 really gets in gear at this new farm location. A little over two weeks since we set up the seedling room, and the fairly intricate task of managing dozens of crops and varieties and thousands of seedlings is on!

It can be a little complicated, keeping track of all the details, but it’s also…simple. Kendall, trying her hand at tiny farming-style veggie production for the first time, shows no fear with the sharp, little snips, as she learns about thinning onions (above). We’re multiplanting this set of onions, aiming for four per plug sheet cell. Since I used seed from last year—a common rule is that you should get allium (onion family) seed fresh each year to ensure good germination, but why waste?!—we went a little generous in the seeding. Germination was great, and now we need to remove the extras.

Next, Kendall’s on to another kinda critical seed-starting task: taking inventory of what exactly we’ve got going. That means a lot of counting and note-taking, and making sure the markers in the trays don’t get pulled out. Below, she tallies some of the 20 or so varieties of sweet and hot peppers that’re on for this season. For the new girl, it’s business as usual!

Counting pepper seedlings

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