Checking in on the fairly massive time investment we made in thinning 800′ of late-planted Touchon carrots—and it’s paying off! Not that there was any doubt that thinning works, it’s just so…tedious. After laying down carrot seed thick (in other words, after using the Earthway seeder), we spent hours removing thousands of extra seedlings. Because these guys went in so late, I wanted to give ’em every shot at making the best of good weather and sizing up while they could. Now, the effect of 1″ (2.5 cm) spacing really shows. We still kept them pretty tight, thinning a few short stretches to 2″ (5 cm) for comparison, but mostly did them like this, aiming/hoping for a big yield of fairly slender full-size carrots towards the end of October. You can see, second from right, a little one that escaped. It may seem obvious, I’ve found appropriate spacing is easy to overlook or downplay. When you’ve actually seen the massive difference it usually makes, it’s hard to ignore! Think better seeder. :)
Another successful carrot germination event, with trusty, open-pollinated, heirloom Touchon, and our latest refinement in cover. Although this landscape fabric looks like the stuff we started with last year, it’s a heavier grade that doesn’t tear and become useless after one or two outings—it should last FOREVER, or, hopefully, for at least 10 uses, at which point, the cost will be near zero. This germination, in mainly hot, sunny weather, is exactly one week after seeding, with no watering in. Pretty good! Deprived of light, the seedlings are already stretching—I might’ve taken off the cover a day or two earlier if I’d checked—but they’ll be fine. And if you’ve used an Earthway seeder, and ever doubted the incredible amount of seed it can dump down, don’t (see above): I’d rather see all those carrots pushing up than too few, but the waste from overseeding is quite severe, and major thinning is in order, adding to the labor. Still, it’s all part of the joy of farming largely by hand… :)
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!
You can’t go wrong with baby carrots, it seems. They are, well, cute (I’ve heard people say that way more than once). So you can buy them and eat them, or maybe stick ’em in a clear vase full of water for a while (idea!)… In any case, these Nelson carrots are not only fun to look at, and small, they’re pretty tasty! Nice crunch, and good sweetness for summer. Because of the kinda slow-growth in this cloudy weather, we took the time to do a second carrot thinning, just to harvest these (often, at this point, they’d be bigger, and we’d start digging up whole rows).
Also along for the ride, and sold out quite early, baby beets, mostly the candy-striped Chioggia (below), with a few red Kestrel in there. And, a couple of varieties of lettuce, the super-red Granada oakleaf and the butterhead Kendo. Both have a strong, bold taste, able to hold their own in sandwiches or…anywhere else. Plus, not in sight, all-lettuce mesclun (well, baby leaf mix).
Along with the last of the Sugar Ann snap peas, that was it for a fairly rainy, kinda rained-out Saturday at the farmers’ market… Still, fun!
It’s a harvest Friday, second for the farmers’ market, and first for CSA, but the load is still light. After picking snap peas, we spent the day doing other field work. In the photo, Libby, Jordan and Michelle are hand-weeding the small strip of spring-planted garlic, and we spent some labor-intensive time thinning a 400′ (122m) of carrots, and several beds of beets (the thinnings were the beet greens harvest). In late afternoon, time to cut greens: spinach and mesclun. Plus a little parsley.
Checking back over the last four years, at this time, we had broccoli once, radishes usually, baby Swiss chard a couple of times. And, of course, garlic scapes. And, a couple of years, no peas yet. So, all in all, with the slightly slower planting schedule in this start-up this garden, and all the cloudy weather, we’re doing pretty well!
It’s a start. Whenever they reach 3-4″ (7.5-10cm), I trim back the onions to about 1″ (2.5cm), and now they’re thick enough to collect and EAT! I don’t have the greenhouse up yet, so didn’t start lettuce REALLY early, so it’s not a whole seedling trimmings salad like last year… But these baby greens are great: tender, with a delicate onion flavor and just a bit of bite. Taste-wise, they’re easily over-powered by stronger, heavier foods. We tried them on burgers and in a salad, but they’re best more on their own. My favorite: quite finely snipped and sprinkled on a boiled (farm) egg, with only salt and pepper. Tastes like the garden!