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: Continue reading “Spring planting season begins” »

The Great Soil Block Experiment – part 2

Just a minor update to the soil block experiment this week…  Sorry, no photos.  But, here’s the status of things:

About 50% of the pepper seedlings started in the 3/4″ cubes have already germinated!  The first pepper germinated in just 5 days.  It seems that not only does using such small cubes maximise the use of the seedling heating mat, but, probably because they’re smaller and heat more efficiently, they also seem to benefit from it even more.

About 20% of the leeks have also germinated.  Also, a mouse got to them and dug a hole through the middle of four of them.  I hate mice…

I received my 4″ x 4″ block maker, but have not yet tried it.  It’s extremely well made, and even our machinist/farmer (and he’s a bit of an artist of a machinist) neighbor was impressed with the quality of its construction.  Which must explain the high price…  The volume of soil it looks like it would need is staggering, so hopefully I’ll only need it for a handful of plants.

I need to pot up the celery and celeriac seedlings, but they’re also VERY weak and spindly.  I think they spent too much time after they germinated and before I got the lights set up, and may not recover.  Ug.  I’ve never grown celery well, but, then again, it’s difficult to get horribly excited by.

The Great Soil Block Experiment – part 1

2x2 inch soil blocks

2x2" soil blocks, freshly planted with 4 leek seeds each

A couple of years ago, I bought a “mini-20″ and a 2″ x 2″ x 4 block soil maker. Seed starting in soil blocks is supposed to prevent transplants from becoming pot-bound, eliminate transplant shock, and avoid the need to store and sterilize a bunch of potting trays all of the time. And, I never used them – until this year.

There’s a great deal of very positive hype about soil blockers for seed starting, but almost all that I have seen comes from either Eliot Coleman (a man I greatly respect, but just one guy, after all) or people selling the things. Since there isn’t a whole lot of info out there from people actually using them, I thought it might be useful to record my results for folks throughout this season here.
Continue reading “The Great Soil Block Experiment – part 1” »