Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It tried to snow today...

I have been trying to take advantage of our brief hint of spring to get a little work done outside.  The first snow last fall was not our usual pattern of a couple of teasers that drop a little layer of snow that lasts for a day and then is gone allowing for more time to put the garden to bed before the real thing (winter) happens.  Last fall the snow kind of caught me unawares.  They predicted it, we knew it was coming but not in time to get all the fall garden chores done.  I got caught with potatoes that never got dug and cornstalks and weeds and all manner of garden trash still in the garden.  I have been kind of hoping for an opportunity to get some preparation work done while it was still too early to plant so that I am not trying to do prep and planting at the same time.  The soil is still to wet to turn it over but I am working on raking the dead weeds and other plant material off the top.  This is the big garden.  There are lots of weeds still on the ground, but you can kind of see the weeds that have been raked off in piles here and there.  There is a pile of shredded leaves on the end of the garden that were supposed to be  spread between the rows.  The trash bags contain more leaves that have been hanging out all winter since they didn't get spread before the snow came either. 

Here are a few pictures of garden seedlings that are under lights in the house.  Not everything has been started yet,  as it is still too early for our zone 4 garden for much of the tender crops.  We are starting a bunch of herbs.  The plan is to use them in the summer of 2016 for a special event and we are hoping to get them started this year and overwinter them in the greenhouse.  Some are perennials a zone or two south of us and we are hoping that our greenhouse will be similar to those zones.   



 Kim, these are shallots but this is what the onions and leeks looked like before their haircuts.

three kinds of peppers
I have also been rearranging in the greenhouse hoping to make room for the seedlings that are in the house under the lights.  Last winter with the record colds that we had, we ended up moving all the tables to the center of the room away from the glazing since the plants nearest the windows were not growing.  They did better once moved so this year we started with the tables in the center of the room which kept them a bit farther from the windows but left a space along the whole front edge that was unusable.  Now that we are hopefully past below zero temps I am trying to use that space.  The two feet in front of the windows now holds plants.  I made little walkways in the row of tables to be able to get to all of the areas with the watering can.  These pictures show both winter salad greens and summer garden transplants.  The transplants will eventually find their way to the gardens at the farm and the gardens of friends and family.  Some will be offered for sale in the farmstand. 

we tried radishes this year

lemon basil from the house

these sage plants are older than the ones in the house

Amara, a new green for us this year.

onions and lettuces


more onions, after their haircuts

Our forecast is for a bit cooler and some clouds which will be nice for the plants in the greenhouse.  There is still lots to do in the big garden but I am pleased to have gotten a start. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

a great weather report

The forecast just keeps looking better and better.  Today it is sunny and expected to get to 47.  Monday and Friday this week are expected to high above 55 and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are expected to be in the 60s.  We have already lost a bunch of snow and the yard is soggy where the snow has melted during the day but it firms up over night.  Ponds are staring to form in all of the low spots.  I have the heated water buckets unplugged and have moved the milk house heaters out of the greenhouse. Hoping that my electric consumption will notice although I do have those lights on in the house...   Of course I haven't moved the heaters and buckets too far since this is probably not going to last but so far it has a real spring feel.  I did see on the forecast that there was a jet stream bringing abnormally warm air and of course they aren't saying how long it will last but when I look at the 10 forecast I have nothing to complain about.

If it can dry out a bit I am hoping to get some garden prep done.  The raised bed boxes in the potager and the future hoop house are the only places that are ready to plant because we moved all that new dirt off the trailer into them. With our early snow there is a lot of the garden that can use a bit of attention before planting and even if we get more snow if I can get the cornstalks and weeds away and some compost spread I will be a happy camper.

I am seed starting in the house and things are moving along nicely.  It is  still a bit early for much of what we will start but I have been working on some herbs that will be going into pots.  The leeks and onions are doing great and have had their first 'haircut'.  I started them in batches and the youngest ones have not been trimmed yet.  Today I am going to try to move some of them out to the greenhouse thinking that natural light has got to be better than the fluorescent lights in the house.  My bigger sage plants are pretty droopy and I have read that that happens due to light issues.  This is the first year that I have tried growing sage.  We are growing Mediterranean herbs this year, sage, thyme, two basils, lavender which are already started and rosemary which is backordered and will be started as soon as it arrives. 

Today I have plans to spend a bunch of time in the greenhouse.  We will be harvesting some greens for Caitlin to take back to the cities and so I will be reshuffling and transplanting and soaking up the ambiance.

Should be a great day.   

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

working on the garden plan

So my weekend goal was to get my garden plan together.  I have gotten a start and have been doing a bunch of research.  It has evolved into a much bigger project than I originally anticipated.  But I have made some progress and a bunch of what I am doing I hopefully will only have to do once and then just some tweaking from year to year.  So here is what I am doing.

Master crop rotation plan:  I have chosen to use a four year crop rotation.  Each of my potential plants will be placed into one of four 'families' with other like plants.and each of the families will be assigned to a fourth of the available garden rows.  In my big garden the south side is set up (mostly) in permanent no till rows.  There are wood posts installed every five rows and I was working on applying numbers to them last year.  They were stick-on numbers so we will see if they remained stuck through the winter.  My four families group the plants according to how they affect the soil, what they remove or what they add.  I plan to have every fourth row be of the same family.  I am not sure if the ideal plan will have equal rows from each family but that is where I am going to start.  The book that I am reading had suggestions for which plants should go into each group and which order they should follow in the rotation.  I have set up a spreadsheet with a twelve year rotation for the families (3 four year cycles) and what is left is to figure out is which plants in the family will go in which rows that are assigned to the family.  It sounds kind of like elementary school but I am making flashcards of each of my plants and on the back I am putting the family that they have been assigned.  Next I will look at each family's flashcards and assign a row for them.  Some plants might need more than one row and some might require only a part of a row.  I am also looking at companion planting and succession planting to see if more than one crop can be grown in a particular row.

Master calendar: Part two of my garden plan is to put together a calendar that will incorporate dates for sowing seed indoors, when to sow seeds or plant transplants outdoors and perhaps some information about when to expect  harvest.  So far I am thinking that my master calendar will be set up with date information including weeks before and after last spring frost date and weeks before and after first fall frost date.  The draft that I created and am trialing is a full sheet of 8.5x11 paper punched to fit into a three ring binder.  It will be a file in the computer that will print for a working hard copy.   There will be a page for each week.  It will have a to-do list for the week and the rest of the page will be a kind of a journal for handwritten notes.  Later I can take the journal notes and transfer that information into the computer and tweak the to do list so that when it prints for the next year it will contain updated information.  I envision that each year around the new year I will print a new calendar for the year, punch holes and pop it into the binder.  The binder can go with me to the garden for hopefully up to the minute notetaking.  That may be a fantasy that is not going to happen but I am hoping to be a better record keeper.

I have been giving some thought to a second binder or perhaps a computer file that has a page for each row or raised bed and it could contain a history of what has been planted there each year, what soil amendments have been added or cover crops planted.  If done correctly this would be an ongoing record of each planting space.  A third binder or folder could contain records about each crop and detail variety, packet size, seeding information, yields, any issues, whether we had transplants to sell at the farmstand and if they sold, if we had crop to sell at the farmstand and if they sold.  We could document how many plants were in a row and if that was the right amount.  We could document what we would do the same, what we would do differently, plant more, plant less, did we have the right amount for canning?  It would sure make it easier to plan our seed order each year.           
I have been using this book as a resource as well as various online sites.  Right now tons of garden bloggers are sharing their seed starting strategies so there is a lot of information to sort through and evaluate. 

Think spring!