Technically we started some seedlings in February… ha! Too early even if we lived several states south of here.
The amount we have learned in such a short time is mind boggling.
Most of the seedlings we started super early (February/March) died off over the months. The ones that survived through planting out are about the same size, if not smaller than, the ones of the same variety we started a couple of months (or even one month!) ago. I’ve been reading a lot about seed starting and it seems like without a lot of light they are just going to be stunted. None of the seed packets (and pretty much none of the detailed planting info you find in books) say “plant 6-8 weeks before last frost UNDER LIGHTS.” So I’m still a little unclear on whether lights are implied or whether a greenhouse would be enough. This “get a jump on the season” stuff seems like an urban (ha!) legend, since all of the early plants are at the same developmental stage as the later (sunnier/warmer) ones.
Actually, a lot of our cold weather crops never took off at all. We got some early lettuce and tatsoi (which we ended up letting bolt because we were trying to hold off harvesting for the CSA), but most of the lettuce and spinach never became anything. Unclear on why.
Starting about a month ago everything we planted was giant and shiny and awesome. Our container tomato plants nearly TRIPLED in size in the last week. So next year we are going to save ourselves a lot of extra work/sad faces and 1. not plant too too early, 2. plant in a greenhouse where there is more light, 3. harden the seedlings off so they don’t freeze to death when they go into the field. There is some question about the tomatoes – the earlier ones we started were heirloom seeds and the later ones mostly hybrid we were gifted. So the later ones might just be bigger because they are hybrids bred for vigor.
In general our transplanted seedlings (now that we’ve gotten a grasp on hardening off) are way happier than our direct sown seeds – a big chunk of the raison d’être of transplanting as a practice, but it is especially true of our farm. The peas came up nicely, but other than that our direct-sown sprouts (like our earliest beets) either disappear (I blame the ants that are everywhere, though I’m not sure that’s fair) or never come up at all (lettuce mixes, a lot of herbs and flowers). There are too many variables to know why. Nutrient deficient soil? Bugs or birds eat the seeds? They blow away? The soil gets crusted and they can’t push through? Too dry? We’ve started soil blocking even things that are recommended you only direct sow (carrots! parsnips!).
The last few weeks we’ve seen our first insect damage. There was a deer in the field a couple of weeks ago, so we finished putting the fence up. This weekend there was a bunny in the field early in the morning. I chased him. Like physically, with my legs! He lives in the bramble patch behind the barn – we put dried blood (they sell it!) along the edge of the fence – supposedly the smell will freak him out.
Cucumbers, melons, squashes, pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplants (more or less – flea beetles attack!), zucchinis, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, cabbages, onions, and corn are all pretty well on their way. Basil isn’t growing much. We put a compost side dressing along all the beds. The newest lettuces seems to be doing fine, but I’m worried about the heat (lettuce likes it cool). There is a partially shaded spot in the field (currently empty) in the designated lettuce section, and we should have planted it there. I’m actually really excited to try again for the cool weather crops in the fall. Two chances in one year – sweet! :) There are also a few exciting extras we’re expecting to come through throughout the season. Can’t wait!