Tiny farming: transplant

Winter spinach

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[From 1-Oct-2013] Later and later we go: More late season/winter harvest experiments, with four-week-old spinach transplants into the unheated greenhouse. Also trying out a trench approach to transplanting—a furrow about 6″ deep, made with a hoe—instead of putting them in one by one. Seems a little quicker, but it all takes time!

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Bare-root transplant

Bare-root tomato transplant

It’s out of the moist paper germination environment, and into the wilder world of the cellpak. This is a baby golden cherry tomato—can’t you tell?!—going into standard sterile seedling mix of equal parts perlite, vermiculite and peat. As long as the root hasn’t gotten too long, I just plunk ‘em down, cover and water in, letting the roots find their own way down (a few years back, I probably would have made tiny holes and painstakingly inserted each one, but really, they seem to do that work a lot more efficiently). On a side note, I think I heard that perlite or vermiculite (maybe both) have made it into some people’s not-so-environmentally correct category, along with peat. So complicated—I will look into that. :)

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1440 onions

1440 onions

I’m sure I’ve taken this photo before, but somehow, it’s still new—the first transplants of the season! This is the look of 1,440 onions, starting out. These are 72-cell plug sheets, and the plan is to multi-plant four onions in each spot. Do a little multiplication—5 trays, 72 cells, 4 onions per—and the results are clear. Whether things will turn out exactly like this, perfect bushels of Red Globe red and Utah sweet Spanish, is anybody’s guess, but I’m quite confident we will get…something! :)

All the usual tools and methods for this tiny farm are back for another run. There are still at least a couple of years left on the roll of donated food-grade plastic wrap that I use (and re-use for the season) to hold moisture and increase heat, just until the tiny seedlings emerge. To check temperatures in this new seedling room, on the lowest shelf of the light rack, where it’s coldest, is one of the minimum/maximum digital recording thermometers. And of course, there are the trusty, home-built light racks themselves, with an assortment of T-12 and T-8 fixtures and Cool White fluorescent tubes, providing the bare minimum of heat and light to get things started.

I’m always up for trying new approaches and new gear, but a lot of the time, if it gets the job done and you’re already having fun, what more could you need?!

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Garden in transition

Garden in transition

The weather is warm, the days still feel long (although, at 5:00 a.m. for Saturday market, I’m already waking up in the dark)—summer is in full effect, but you know the season’s soon changing because the field is clearing out. Today, I did some tilling, cleaning up before weeds get too established, and preparing for a last seeding of spinach for fall harvest (a gamble, for sure).

In the pic, a couple more passes to the left of the freshly turned strip and we’ll be at the edge of the previous spinach planting, barely visible, seeded about 3 weeks ago. To the left of that, a half-bed of bok choi, delicious and miraculously untouched by flea beetles, at tiny baby stage from seedlings transplanted at the beginning of the month. Beside the bok choi, beds of broccoli and cauliflower, also set out 4 weeks ago, and looking pretty good for harvest in October.

This section was planted out at the start of the season to snap peas, lettuce, and the first spinach. After adding in some of the handy pelletized alfalfa, it gets to go round again!

In the next section (top right of the photo, which is…east), I’ve started tilling in an overgrowth of grass and vetch, where more peas and the first plot of potatoes used to be. That section is done for the year, and may get a protective cover of fall rye, as a green manure to be turned under in spring.

In the market garden, it’s always one thing after another… :)

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Last of the spring planting

Transplanting winter squash & pumpkins

It’s another week till the start of CSA shares and the first picking of peas, and at least 3 weeks until some of the heavier crops—broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash—are ready, so Friday’s are still about general fieldwork, not HARVEST. Just ahead of the end of spring, Lynn, Libby and Jordan planted out a last wave of winter squash and some fast-maturing (80-90) Neon pumpkins. That brings the spring planting to a close, a little later than usual, overall, but considering the first-year, start-up situation, really good!

We also put in one bed of melons under infrared-transmitting (IRT) plastic mulch (above).  For a couple of years, I planted 5-10 50′ beds under IRT mulch (more heat to the soil), but yield wasn’t worth the effort, including the extra watering (didn’t use drip tape under the plastic). This year, with one bed to focus on, it’s an experiment—we’ll try to give them extra special care!

Lynn vanished early from lunch, only to be found reading her new herb book under a tree. This photo (below) doesn’t nearly capture the scene: it looked like an impossibly peaceful countryscape, from a simple, carefree world—fit for a postcard. We were laughing, and Jordan spontaneously got out his camera and took photos, too.  I asked her if she’d scouted the location for the setting (joking, but I can also be a bit of a cynic! :), she said it was just the best spot she could find for shade!

Reading in the shade of a tree

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Welcome back, my friends

Transported pigweed

An interesting surprise discovery today, my own little transplanted patch of pigweed, accidentally imported from the old farm, growing strong in the shelter of three relocated and thriving rhubarbs (top right). I suppose some pigweed seed got shaken out of the root clumps of the transplants, and eventually made their way to germination. This is the first time I’ve seen pigweed on the new farm, and it instantly brought back a flood of memories from our multi-year…relationship at the old place. Not unpleasant memories, pigweed is forever a part of this tiny farm experience, still, it’s not missed. Nice visiting, now it’s time for a quick hand-weeding!

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