observations so far about our seedling/planting process

The eggplant we seeded in the miniblockers must not have been deep enough, because over half of them managed to pop their roots entirely out of the ground.  It was pretty horrifying to see their naked white roots just lying ON TOP of the soil like that.  I noticed right away and only 2 of them died before I buried them all deeper.  It’s odd because none of the other mini-blocked seeds had a problem.

When you make soil blocks you are supposed to use a special mix so that the blocks 1. stay together 2. hold enough water 3. don’t harden into little bricks 4. have enough nutrients, etc. When we did the first few batches 2/21 and 2/28 we didn’t have all the right ingredients, so we did an experiment where we made some blocks using a regular planting mix and some using Johnny’s Seeds soil blocker mix.  Granted we didn’t quite know what we were doing back then as far as how much water to add or the right technique for using the blockers, but it’s clear that regular planting mix is not the way to go.  I put lettuce and tatsoi outside today (third time’s a charm – hopefully this batch will be alive next weekend) and the blocks disintegrated in my hands, which didn’t happen with the others.  Actually the best mixture so far has been the one we’ve made ourselves (which does include some of the potting mix as an ingredient).

The seedlings we hardened off for a week in the mudroom looked great, so we put a bunch more trays out there to make room for new things in the “greenhouse.”

I’ve also learned that the wider metal hoop row covers that are spaced 3 feet apart are WAY better than the more narrow covers that are spaced 10 feet apart.  Not only are they cheaper, you don’t need to run twine between them to keep the row cover floating, and therefore the twine doesn’t stretch out and end up on the ground anyway.

Another bummer of a lesson is that, just like everyone says, including the earthway people, the seed plates for the earthway seeder get static build up.  I tried to put in 2 rows of carrots and ended up doing it by hand because of the static problem (apparently rinsing the seed plate with dish soap takes care of it).  Also learned that seeders are meant for larger scale operations than ours.  Ha ha ha.  The packet of carrot seeds didn’t fill the hopper high enough for the plate to really dip into the seeds.  We’d need to drop like 4-5 packets in there at least (though it worked great with the larger parsnip seeds last weekend).

Also, remember how I wasn’t sure how to incorporate the leaves/grass mulch left in the garden beds from the fall?  I’m still not sure about the “incorporating” part, but for now it seems way better to pull that stuff aside, plant the seedlings, then snuggle it back up as mulch again.  No reason to abandon perfectly good mulch.

That’s about it for a recap of what I’ve learned so far.

This weekend Lewis spent about 4 hours steam cleaning the carpet upstairs (it is amazing the things you can rent) in anticipation of welcoming the farm’s new grower.

Here’s my question of the week which I hope to have figured out by the end of the year – you are supposed to rotate crops so you don’t grow the same thing in the same spot 2 years in a row.  But some crops need vastly different environments (full sun vs acidic soil vs sandy soil vs heat loving), so… you just… rotate each one through each spot anyway, or what?

One last thing… there are worms EVERYWHERE WE DIG!  Sweetness.