Spring on the Farm – 2012 Edition

Time for Greenhouse Seeding!

Spring is in the air, with warmer nights, sunny days and precipitation arriving as rain instead of snow. I started up the seed house last week – which involved lots of cleaning and getting the fans and heater going. This year my son Noah and I replaced the ‘inflation blower’ – a small fan in the greenhouse that inflates the space between the two layers of plastic covering the greenhouse. These pieces are sealed on all sides and the fan inflates the space between them, creating an insulating air pocket between the inside and outside. The old blower setup had become compromised because of the way we originally set it up and lots of air was leaking.

Inside the greenhouse I am keeping the air temperature to around 50 degrees minimum at night, but the newest flats of peppers, eggplants and early flowers sit on a heat mat set to 90 degrees and covered with plastic to form a mini-greenhouse inside the greenhouse. Early plantings are progressing bit by bit – I can’t be in too much of a hurry because of the upcoming planting timeline. Typically, our earliest plantings are transplanted into the field at the end of April after our main irrigation supply, Fire Mountain Canal, is turned on. Some years we have a supply of early water by the end of March, but without knowing if i will have this water I can’t grow transplants too early – instead I will direct seed early crops like beets, peas, carrots and salad if I have early water.

Into the Field…

The ideal scenario is to transplant into the field right when the plants have formed a nice root ball, but before they are root-bound – if I plant too early in the greenhouse, the transplants will wind up waiting to be put out and getting ‘root-bound’.  With a crop like lettuce or broccoli, this means greenhouse seeding around 6-8 weeks before transplanting – meaning March 1st is the earliest I want to start seeding these crops in the greenhouse.  Other crops like peppers, eggplant and tomatoes are slower growing and get transplanted into larger containers before eventually making it into the field in late May or early June after the danger of frost has passed.

What to Plant?

Figuring out exactly what to plant and just how much is part of the art of small scale farming. I look at last years records and go thru each crop on a spreadsheet, trying to decide what crops deserve more space, and which ones I had too much of. I mix this with a health helping of intuition about the season – what will work well, what I can wholesale, etc. Every year there are new varieties to try, and there are always new or developing projects. For example this year I’m planning on filling the new hoop house with melons – lots of small watermelons ant cantaloupes.  The larger field hoop house will be filled with lots of colored bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.

Whats Next?

The next few weeks on the farm are a whirlwind of activity – spreading manure and preparing the field for planting is the biggest job. This spring I have large field sections that were planted in cover crop last fall and these will be left until late spring or early summer when they will be mowed or tilled in. Many of this year’s veggies will be planted in the inner part of the field, among the old apple trees – last year this section of the field was fallow. The far field will get larger scale plantings like corn or beans.

Sign Up Early!

Your CSA signups have started to trickle in, and we appreciate that. Summer is still a ways off, but early signups do help us plan the season. If you can’t afford the pay in full option (with a 10% discount on veggies), you can just send $150 to hold your spot for the season. We really want people to sign up as soon as they can so we can best plan the season’s plantings. We usually receive a steady stream of signups, then a flurry just before the harvest season begins, but we would rather have the signups come in earlier.

Thank you! More farm updates will arrive as the season progresses. 

Sowing the Onions

I’m getting an early start on this year with a bunch of onions from seed. We didn’t have quite enough onions last year, and the fall crop never matured in time to be harvested, so I’m getting an earlier start and planting a lot more variety from seed. i’m still planting the same from-transplant bets of red and yellow sweet ontions, but i’m adding an early bed of mixed red & yellow storage onions, plus a bed of specialty onions like the oblong ‘red long of tropea’ and flattened mini yellow and purple onions. I’m also planting a patch of (seed grown) shallots this week which will be ready by fall, as well as chives and bunching onions which will be ready early this spring.