Tuesday, April 12, 2011

(almost) felt like Summer

Thank you, sun!  A chilly weekend was bookended by two glorious days of sunshine, and last week marked my first outdoor transplanting and seed-sowing.  I transplanted peas along trellises I had set up on a soggy Friday a few weeks back.  Generally, it is not advised to transplant peas but rather to direct sow them as early as the ground can be worked.  While that idea is cute in theory, waterlogged, clumpy beds and low soil temperatures are not the most encouraging place to tuck in spring's first crop.  Last year I experimented by sowing three or four peas in each cell of a 6-pack tray.  The peas got a jump start in the greenhouse while I waited for beds to dry out, and were moved out as soon as that happened.  By doing so, I "earned" weeks on my pea harvest - if I had waited to direct sow, I would have lost that time.  The idea that peas cannot be transplanted is an example of farming lore that needs to be challenged to see it is not necessarily true.

Since peas run down the middle of the bed, ample space on either side left me enough room to sow beets and carrots next to them.  One of the advantages of being such a small-scale grower is that I can interplant or "mix" crops within a bed.  This space-maximizing practice works well if cultivating is done early on so you aren't left with a weedy, tangled mess.  Examples of interplanting I've used are radishes, calendula, and beets around peas; nasturtiums around kale; and onions and basil around tomatoes.  Interplanting can be beneficial in a few ways: it increases the yield in each bed, and generally, the more ground cover you have the better.  Interplanted crops act as a living mulch that outcompete weeds, prevent erosion from rain in the spring, and lower soil temperatures in the summer.  A little fussier to deal with, but overall worth the investment for me.

Yesterday I transplanted kale, cultivated beds, and potted up tomatoes and brassicas.  In the sun.  All day long.  Since this week was forecast to be rainy and grey, Monday was quite a treat. 

Potting up means moving seedlings from smaller plug trays to larger (usually 4-inch) pots.  A start is ready to be "potted up" if its roots are peering out from the hole in the bottom of the tray.  Usually, that coincides with the setting of the first true leaves.  Potting up allows the roots to expand and the plant to grow much bigger that it would if left in a small plug.  There is a certain calming rhythm to the act of potting up, and it is especially rewarding because starts respond quite quickly to having more space.  The only downfall is that the tables in my greenhouse were already full, and each flat of 72-cells turns into four flats of 4-inch pots.  Time to get spatially creative...

Thank you to Serena, Amanda, Olive, and Owen for helping me along on the sowing and potting up adventures!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


watering the greenhouse-within-a-greenhouse

peas!  heavily sown as cover crop and for pea shoot harvest


spinach that the wireworms left behind

garlic patch with cows looking on

garlic!  recently fish-emulsioned and re-mulched