"To plant a garden is to believe in the future."
In March the farm sits right on the cusp. The fields are still mostly empty but the momentum of baby plants growing rapidly in the greenhouse and the seeds begging to be sowed is building like a wave. Before too long that wave will break onto our fields leaving at bright green sheen behind--a promise of the food and flowers to come.
We spend many hours in the winter selecting the varieties of each crop we want to grow and ordering the seeds we need. This season we are growing more than 50 different vegetable crops and another thirty or so kinds of flowers; all together we are probably planting in the ballpark of 150 different individual varieties. Each variety was selected for beauty, flavor, and vigor: each individual seed that we plant contains the promise of a whole season in one tiny package! The first seeds of the season are slowly but surely making their way out into the field: fava beans, sugar snap peas, and the first radishes are already tucked into the soil. Most of the rest are growing quickly in the sheltered environment of the greenhouse.
Raising our transplants plants in the warm, welcoming environment of the hoophouse allows us to grow the strongest plants and select the ideal time to transplant them into the harsher outside world. Growing healthy transplants is one of the best ways to ensure a successful growing season: using this method we can produce crops earlier in the year, optimize seed usage, and grow a cleaner crop resulting in a higher quality product for you!
The ins and outs of growing transplants are pretty simple in theory: we look at our crop plan to see what we need to start each week, write out labels, fill trays with soil, seed them, water them & wait for them to grow.
While the basic process is far from rocket science, it does take time and attention to detail to grow healthy transplants. Farmer Beth carefully researches the hidden secrets for success. Some seeds need warm soil temperatures and go on the heat mat, others need light to germinate and are sown right on the surface of the soil, some need total darkness and get wrapped in black plastic and checked daily for signs of life, some need to be chilled or even soaked in water before they are seeded out into trays… the list of tricks goes on and on. Flowers in particular demand some extraordinary measures to coax life out of their often bizarre looking seeds (we’ve found badminton birdies, tiny pyramids, and toothy monsters among them).
Once the seeds germinate, they get checked on multiple times per day. We monitor them to make sure everything is properly watered, and as the plants get bigger watch for signs of stress caused by lack of nutrients or getting cramped in their little cubes of soil. We can add some organic fertilizers, when they look like they need a boost, but sometimes they just end up getting a little cramped as we wait for a good weather window to transplant them into the field.
In the past two weeks over 3 ½ inches of rain left the fields a little soggy. While we are thankful for this much needed water, the wet soil is not ideal for the vigorously growing kale, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, beets, fennel, and spinach plants that are really ready to move outside. It looks like we are moving towards clear skies for a few days and hopefully the soil will dry out just enough to get these vibrant little plants into the soil.
Let the great greening begin! We can’t wait to start seeing crops out in the field—baby onions, growing roots, lettuces and brassicas unfurling their big leaves... Spring brings much excitement to the farm!
Beth & Erik