Posts Tagged ‘seedlings’

My grandpa, Bruce Dominick, was an avid gardener. My grandparents moved to my hometown when I was a little kid, and my grandpa would drive out to our cattle & hog farm nearly every day to help out. As I recall, he kind of took over the vegetable garden plot, which no one minded at all. Grandpa Bruce’s family farm near Pierz, Minnesota, was a dairy farm, but they also raised raspberries, and my mom says that my Grandpa would drive to Minneapolis at 4 am to sell the berries.  I remember that whenever we had a bumper crop of some vegetable or berry in the garden, he would talk proudly about how we really should sell some of our bounty in town. He was an excellent salesman, so I wish he was around to sell my wares today.

This Memorial Day, while Elden sided our walk-in cooler shed at the farm, my parents and I were finally able to plant our potatoes. I know we were all thinking of Grandpa Bruce for several reasons. He was so proud of his part in organizing the flag display in my hometown, and the last photo we have of him was with my grandma Trudy and the flags on Memorial Day, 1989. He died a few days later, leaving us with not only our memories, but also 480 hills of potatoes he had planted in our family garden that spring. We planted 5 or 6 times as many seed potatoes on Monday, but that was for 55 CSA shares! I know Grandpa would have been excited if he was with us, even if it wasn’t as ambitious a planting as he would have undertaken.

When I asked Elden to take some photos of the potato planting on Monday, he responded that you should never take marketing photos on cloudy days, but who has time on a farm on a sunny day during a wet spring?! Most of these snapshots I took with my cell phone, so you can blame me for the poor quality. Our seasonal creek is running and bubbling in the woods, or at least it was the day I took a stroll to check it. The first snap peas are up in the field, and in the greenhouse, a volunteer pea plant sprouted in the soil this spring. I potted it up, just for fun, and found it trying to climb a neighboring tomato plant the other day. I’ll have to find it a better home somewhere; now that I’ve encouraged it, I feel responsible to keep it going.

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treeline_04-22Thank goodness for the sun. When that beautiful globe shines on us and it warms up, however, I think it’s difficult for some non-gardeners to understand that everything is not quite back to normal (the next few cold, wet days should increase understanding, unfortunately!). It takes a while for the ground to completely thaw and to soak up all that moisture, and then I imagine the soil temperature will still be below normal for a bit. We have made some significant progress at the farm, though. We’ve gone from this on the 22nd …

treeline_04-29 … to this on the 29th.

west_fields04-26 From this on the 26th …

west_fields04-29 … to this early on the 29th …

onion_beds04-29 … to this. And, thanks to another warm and windy day on the 30th, I didn’t see any snow or ice in the fields at the end of the day. The soil is very saturated with water in most places, but I can’t see standing water in many spots. That’s very good because this particular pic is a shot of the beds where the onions are supposed to go this year, and unlike the weather, the onions are right on schedule — ready to go.

onions04-29Here are some of those onions in the greenhouse. My neighbor (and farmer extraordinaire) Rick complimented me on these onions yesterday, and I credited the Caretaker Farm soil mix. (It’s the same mix I’ve been using every year and I’ve never had onions so nice at this point, but I’ve never done them all in plug trays, either. Rick inspired me to do that.)


Here you can see an onion plug with roots clearly ready to get out of the confines of their tray. Hold on, little onions!


The first round of lettuce is ready to go, too. I’d normally have them in the ground by now.

The other thing that some folks don’t understand (understandably so!) is that there is always work that can be done at the farm. I remember when a new Food Farm intern asked me if we ever got a day off due to weather; I smiled and explained that those Food Farmers could get pretty creative about finding tasks for us. There are a million things on the to-do list that normally just don’t get my attention. Some of them are little things; for example, a week or more of not-very-sunny weather, combined with rich, moist potting soil and warm temps in the greenhouse results in icky green stuff (yes, that is the scientific term!) growing on top of the soil in the pots and trays. This should all be scraped off. There are big things on the list, too — organic certification, anyone? My tendency is to put off the big, complicated things in favor of checking off many little tasks. The initial certification forms might not be quite finished yet, but I have a lot of potting mix all ready to go, stockpiled in the greenhouse. It’ll all get done eventually.

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I’ll be celebrating Earth Day by potting the rest of the pepper seedlings, and I hope to make it to hear Will Allen speak about “Growing Power and Growing Food” at 7 pm at UMD.

The baby veggies are all out at the farm now, and they seem pretty happy. The Napa cabbage and first set of broccoli plants are ready to be transplanted to the field, but the field isn’t ready. It’s been too wet to work the ground so far. Hold on, babies!

The rye that I seeded in the hoophouse last fall took off this spring and is huge. I need to kill it this weekend so it can be incorporated into the soil and break down before it’s time to transplant the first set of tomatoes into the hoophouse ground. It’ll add a good dose of organic matter to the soil.

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The other babies

Baby plants! Eighty-four square feet of them. They’re loving the sun today.

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I am in love with the piglets, yes, but this farm is not ALL about them. I have been starting some seedlings, too.

Again this year, I’m starting plants at my house in Duluth, since I’ve still been working my winter jobs (thank you, winter employers!) and it’s a little chilly to camp at the farm.

Here’s how the little hoophouse looked when I dragged myself out of bed this morning. I blame my friend Ron, who did several snow dances yesterday to let the universe know that he’d welcome more snow. At least someone’s happy.

It’s not all about the piglets, but that doesn’t mean I can’t post a quick video from my visit to Iowa a few weeks ago. I love the little piglet that looks so innocently at the camera, as if to say, “Who, me? I would never chew on my friend’s tail!” I’ve asked my mom for some updated photos . . .  she reported that the orphans are finally chewing on some of their dry food, so my parents might wean the litter today (I know, it’ll be sad) and stop preparing milk replacer for the orphans four times a day.

Also, we still have a few summer shares available, if anyone is looking to sign up.

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The Big House

Yesterday I decided enough was enough. It was time to bring some of the plants that I no longer have room for at home in Duluth to the farm. Here they are, looking quite lost in the middle of the big hoophouse. For now I’m hauling water over from the neighbors’, but we’re supposed to get a well drilled soon.

I’ve been slowly putting up a second layer of plastic on the endwalls of the hoophouse, using some of the many pieces we trimmed off the big sheet. Today, Elden got the fan set up that inflates the two layers going over the top of the house. I also got to ride the new water wheel transplanter over at Northern Harvest Farm — fun!

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Seedling update

The little hoophouse is filling up! I’ve potted on the first round of Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc) and the Pink Beauty tomatoes. The rest of the first batch of tomatoes and all the peppers are hanging out in there, as well as the onions and leeks, of course. In the germination station, the celeriac are finally emerging, and the asparagus you sent are sprouting, Chris. I’ve also seeded kohlrabi, beets, and scallions.

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It pays to watch craigslist. On Saturday, Elden found this post advertising supplies for starting seedlings. I got a bunch of used trays and some pots when I bought the hoophouse from a former bedding plants grower, but I didn’t have everything I needed, so I called and it sounded promising. Elden and I headed up to Saginaw yesterday afternoon. I found lots of square plastic pots that will work great when I “pot on” the tomatoes and peppers into larger containers. I picked up some plug trays, a few carrying trays, and some other goodies, too — Elden insisted we take a couple of giant hard plastic Easter eggs for the pigs to play with! There’s still a ton of six-packs, smaller square pots, and large round pots that I didn’t take if anyone is interested.

I saw a few pepper seedlings peeking out of the soil yesterday evening. Here’s a photo of the tomato seedlings.

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Kale seedlings


I seeded some tomatoes and peppers, celeriac, and brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale) on Wednesday, and already some seedlings are emerging. The brassicas germinate very quickly. I had some room left in the germination station after seeding the veggies, so I started some flowers, too — the marigolds greeted me this morning. Outside in the portable hoophouse, the onions and leeks have perked up after finally getting some real sunlight.

My friend Cree of Chelsea Morning Farm stopped by yesterday and seemed to think setting up the little hoophouse here was a good idea. Thanks for the encouragement, Cree! It was great to finally get a chance to chat. One of the many hats Cree wears is facilitator of our local Farm Beginnings program, which was very helpful to Elden and me as we made plans for Stone’s Throw Farm. If you’d like to support farmer education in this area, you can make a contribution to the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association. Thank you!

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Problem Solving

Problem:  Our big big hoophouse isn’t ready to receive plants. I need to start a bunch of veggies right now if we want to eat well this summer.

Solution:  A small, portable kit hoophouse set up next to our garage in Duluth. I erected this baby in no time, all by myself, yesterday afternoon. It wouldn’t work out on the farm in the open with all the wind, but in a sheltered spot, it’s just fine. I might need to bring some plants inside at night if it’s going to get really cold, but right now all that’s out there is the onions and leeks and they can handle cooler temps. 

We’ll see how it goes!

In other news, the bucket fairy struck again last week. I’ve been meaning to thank you for that, Mr. Nice Guy(s).

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