Spring planting season begins

Overview of the main veggie garden, seen from the location of the future forest garden

The main veggie garden, viewed from the location of the future forest garden, 20 March, 2011

This week finally saw the beginning of the direct-seeding planting season, and the first of the field work in earnest.  Even though things have been quite busy at school, with the end of the term, extraordinary feats accomplished by the CMA basketball program, spring break approaching, and Xenia preparing to depart on a Spring Break Mission Trip and such, I’ve still been able to get a fair bit of work done on the farm.  Not enough, of course.  If I weren’t behind, I don’t know what I’d do with my life!

Anyway, I like this time of year.  The farm starts to really look like a “real farm”, in that you see big empty squares of dirt.  That’s rare at Hole in the Woods, for a couple of reasons.  First, of course, is that we’re really on the border between what you could really call a “farm,” as opposed to a “really big market garden, with a bit of livestock on the side” (give us a few more years to expand production, and we’ll be squarely in the “farm” category!).  Second, more deliberate, is our use of green manures, cover crops, and permaculture elements.  We try to avoid bare ground as much as possible, to both preserve and create fertility, so images like the one to the left are rare, and fleeting.

Wow, long intro.  So, here is a rundown of the exciting developments of the week:

The expanded salad garden was tilled earlier in the week.  This year it is 84′ 6″ x 60′, which is what the original plan had.  However, if we go ahead and use our revised chicken moat plan, which will make the chicen moat around the veggie garden wider, it will have to become narrower next year.

Yesterday, I spread 4 truckloads of composted horse/goat/alpaca/chicken/duck manure on most of it.  Still need two more loads to cover the whole thing with a 1″ layer, but I ran out of time.  I should have had enough time to take care of it, but there were several things conspiring against me.  We got a late start, for several non-farm reasons, so we only arrived at our farrier / manure provider’s  home at about noon.  Then, it turns out the tractor with loader that is normally there was being used off-site, the only time it needed to be used for weeks.  So, not only did I have to unload and spread the manure by hand, but load it, too.  Thankfully, for the loading I had some help.  Still, makes things take much longer…

The entire veggie garden, 1.1 acres this year, was remeasured and re-squared. Last year, we didn’t take possession of the farm until May, and I measured things off very quickly.  And, I made some errors.  Enough that one end of the garden, then only 2/5 the size it is now, was 3 feet wider than it was supposed to be!  If we had left that error in and continued, well, it wouldn’t fit in the space allotted because it would be more than 10 feet too wide on the far end.  I also tried to straighten the middle north/south path up with the kitchen window. It never was a goal to have that path line up with the window, but it nearly did -close enough to look like I had screwed up trying.  Didn’t quite make it perfect, because then things would have collided with other elements, but it’s close.  Of course, the kiwi trellis will block that view once we get it built and the kiwi grows.

Inadvertently, the tomato and pepper plot was tilled earlier in the week as well.  I thought it was the pea plot, because I had mis-read my map.  It had some weeds, crop residue, and winter-killed oat grass (to build organic matter) in it, that I would have rather left for a few weeks.  Oh well, it will help with that farm ambiance for a while.

The pea plot was tilled, beds prepped, and the first succession of 4 varieties were planted all this morning.  It was supposed to have been raining and cold today, so I didn’t expect to have any time to catch up for my lack of productivity yesterday.  But, I did!  It was some frantic, fast-paced farming, but I nearly got caught up.  Anyway, planted 2 varieties of snow peas, 1 sugar snap, and 1 shell pea, hopefully we’ll have some for the first week of the farmers’ market and CSA season.

The root veggie plotwas also tilled earlier this week. Today, also in my rush to make up for lost productivity yesterday, I prepped two beds, and planted the first succession of  4 types of radishes (well, 3 single varieties and a mix), and the first succession of scallions.  I’d prefer to start the scallions inside, in multi-plant blocks using my soil block makers, but I just don’t have the facilities for starting as many seeds as I already do inside. Addressing seed starting issues will need to be a top priority in coming years…

Garlic poking through straw mulch

Garlic "Music" poking through straw mulch on 20 March, 2011

Also in the root veggie plot, the garlic that was planted in the fall, has popped up above the mulch! I’ve never had garlic fail on me, but I always seem to give up hope on it waiting for it to sprout. That’s always stressful, since certified disease free organic seed garlic is extraordinarily expensive.  I should probably switch to a less expensive variety that produces more heads per pound of seed garlic – the one I presently grow was chosen for flavor, and it grows very large heads, with only 6 to 8 huge cloves per head.  Thus, you don’t get many cloves to plant per pound. Meanwhile, at market, people want to buy by the head, not by the pound, and think $.25/head is the right price.  If I get a great crop, I need to charge $1.00 / head just to cover the seed cost.  But, it’s really, really yummy garlic.  I’ll try selling the scapes this year, too.  That might help offset some of the seed cost.

I was hoping to plant arugula, mesclun mix, 3 varieties of lettuce, and spinach this weekend as well.  Unfortunatley, the rain hit as I was finishing seeding the scalions.  I need to shallow-till the composted manure in, mostly to break up the clumps enough to get a fine seedbed, since salad seeds are so small and mostly shallowly-sown.  Then rake it smooth, then plant.  I hope to get that done very very soon, as people are already begging for arugula, and I really, really miss fresh salads.

All-in-all, a productive week, though, of course, we’re very, very far behind schedule.  Spring break starts Thursday, but Xenia will also be leaving Thursday and gone all break on a Spring Break in Mission trip.  So it will be just me, trying to get caught up on stuff.  And, at least for the early part, it’s supposed to be cold, wet, and even snowing.  Ug.

4 Responses to “Spring planting season begins”

  1. Marcy says:

    I had to look up what a chicken moat is — what a cool idea.

  2. Chad says:

    Kris Little originally turned me on to the idea. It makes a lot of sense to me! I don’t know of anyone with a chicken moat as big as we intend ours to be, but don’t see why there would be any serious scaling problems, unless you go up to the industrial scale.

    We plan to use a chicken tractor for meat birds, if we do those, largely because we want to use them for garden clean-up sometimes, and tick control most of the time. But laying hens and ducks we plan to keep in a chicken moat…

  3. Harry Frick says:

    Do you have blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries for sale?

    • Chad says:


      Sorry I missed your post until now. For some reason, the spam filter caught it. When they’re in season, we have blueberries from Sider’s blueberry farm. Our soil is too akaline to grow blueberries successfully, and Maury grows great blueberries, though this was a bad blueberry year with a short season.

      We did have strawberries from an organic grower in Plymouth, but the season was only 2 weeks. We also had raspberries, from a farm near La Porte, but we were unable to locate organic raspberries closer. This spring we intend to plant 4 different kinds of raspberries, assuming we can come up with the capital to do so. We’re also planting our asparagus patch. We should have our own Certified Naturally Grown raspberries of two of the varieties in the fall, and for the other two varieties the following June.

      We’ll probably have to hold off on strawberries until the 2013 growing season. In the long run, though, we plan to have a signifigant focus on berries and other small fruits. You can’t do everything at once, though, and a diversified small farm has lots of projects!

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