Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring Planting

Field crew weeding and seeding

Rain Break
We are taking a break from the fields, and letting the recent rains soak in and nurse the many seeds, transplants, and perennials on the farm. We are happy with the progress of this year's Spring planting. Most of the crops look healthy and happy, an example of which is the broccoli shown below. The lettuce is sizing up nicely for the first week's share, the strawberry plants are blooming, the beets and carrots are coming up, and all of the potatoes are in the ground.

Broccoli under the sheer of the row cover

A peak inside--broccoli sizing up
A block of 600 broccoli and 600 cabbage plants

A few crops are struggling a little. A portion of our earliest direct seedings of peas, carrots and beets either rotted, or could not bust through the hard dry crust of soil that developed during the last few warm, sunny weeks. Some of the plants we set into our no-till beds got a different kind of shock, as the soils were still a bit too cool under the deep layer of hay. The no-till areas have since been draped with row cover and, as we are on our third seeding of carrots already (they have come up great), we should not be at a loss for these prized vegetables.
Getting ready for your shares

Summer Crops
We have just about finished planting our Spring crops (including cover crops) and are now turning our attention to the summer crops. Previous blogs have highlighted the starting of the tomatoes. As the photo below shows, we now have a large mass of beautiful green plants waiting to be set in the fields. We expect to start putting the cherry tomatoes out within the next week, weather permitting.
The peppers and eggplant are also slowly growing on their way out to the fields. We have over 1,200 total plants sizing up in the greenhouse. Over the last few years we have learned that our transplants need to be larger when we set these plants out, to help give them a nice head start.
Larger transplants mean more potting soil and the need for more greenhouse space. We are trialing several different size pot this year. In the photo below we have (from top to bottom) 4-inch plastic pots, 2-1/2 inch square "cow pots" made of manure/compost, and 2-1/2 inch round peat pots. The latter two can be planted directly in the ground, and will help to minimize transplant shock.

Another test is with 4-inch soil blocks. While these use up the most potting soil, and are quite heavy, we are still interested in seeing how the plants grow in this medium.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dodging the Rain and Planting

While Rocky may make things look quiet on the farm, we have been busy planting when we can. Last week offered a few days in which we could prep a lot of beds and do both some direct seeding (carrots, beets spring turnips), and transplanting (broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, onions).

The broccoli and cabbage went in the ground via our new transplanter. It pulls behind our large tractor ("Grandpa"), punching a hole in the soil and filling it with water. The farmer sits on the transplanter and drops plants into the holes as they roll by. We then come around behind and firm in the plants for a good stand. In our first trial morning we planted 600 broccoli and 600 cabbage plants. We plan on perfecting our method this Spring.

We are very happy with the quality of our transplants righs now. The greenhouse looks good and able to put out very healthy starts. They are growing so well that our main concern is holding them too long in the greenhouse if we can't get them out to the field. We will continue squeezing in our planting between rain showers as we can.

Broccoli transplants in soil blocks

Lettuce transplants

Last week we had the help of many hands for a day or two of our work. Six students from the William Jewell Ecology of Food class filled their service learning hours by helping with the lettuce and brassica planting. They also helped us cut 500 pounds of seed potatoes to prep them for going in the ground.

On Sunday we took a break before starting another week to have brunch with some friends and celebrate Rebecca's 37th trip around the sun. It was a beautiful day and a splendid time was had by all. Happy Birthday Becky!