Posts Tagged ‘transplanting’

It’s been a busy few weeks at Stone’s Throw Farm, and we’ve even had a little company. One of our farm members, Guy, and his friend and mentor, Roy, set up two bee hives last weekend, which will be great for our pollinator-dependent crops and the general health of the farm. Guy and Roy checked on the bees this weekend and said they’re doing great; the queens are laying eggs and everything was as it should be. Then farm members Alisa and Don visited yesterday to see the piggies, which are now set up in a pen just north of the orchard. The pigs were happy on the trailer but seem very glad to be on the ground. This is the first they’ve encountered dirt, but they know what to do — dig! Alisa and Don also took a stroll with Elden and me on our little trail through the woods, where we currently have a carpet of what they helpfully identified as Spring Beauty wildflowers. They also pointed out a Jack-in-the-Pulpit growing right on the path.

My dad, Craig, has been taking care of the pigs and inhaling gas fumes non-stop while preparing the fields for planting with the tractor. He also seeded some oats and field peas that we hope the pigs can forage on later this season. My mom, Jean, has been faithfully watering our pots and trays in the hoophouses, pulling masses of chickweed and other enemies out of the field, and getting her perennial and flower beds in order. Elden has been out on the weekends getting his welder set up, improving the pig feeder roof, cutting firewood, and so forth. I transplanted the onions and then a ton of Brassicas — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Napa cabbage, and Pac choi — as well as our first round of beets and lettuce. I finally was able to seed radishes and salad turnips, greens mix, lettuce mix, spinach, and snap peas, too. Most of these beds will be a weedy mess in short order since the soggy conditions didn’t give us a chance to kill the weeds before planting, but the weeding work will keep us out of trouble this summer.

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kale_transplantsThis past week the sun kept shining, the soil kept drying, and I was able to get many seeds and all the transplants (those that were ready to go, anyway) into the ground. At the end of the week I was tired and sore – and I’m sure my parents were, too – but relieved to have made progress. It rained on Friday night, forcing us to take a break … a welcome break. There’s always more that I wish had gotten done, but I can’t complain when I really think about all that was accomplished.

The week started with seeding of the first snap peas, which is very important as it seems to be almost everyone’s favorite veggie. On Monday evening, I put the collard greens and kale into the ground. I hoped to be transplanting these crops in late April, so May 13 felt pretty pathetic, but it could be worse! I spent the next couple of days transplanting, transplanting, seeding, and transplanting. On Thursday and Friday, I spotted tiny leaf lettuce and spinach plants that I had seeded last week (in some sandy soil that dries out faster) finally poking out of the soil. Thank goodness.

Sometime toward the end of the week, I looked up and noticed for the first time the light green cloud of new leaves in the trees. I also saw three crows chasing a raven through the air above the fields.  On Friday, I saw a porcupine crossing the road in front of me on Highway 23 as I headed back out to the farm from Duluth. I slowed down and stopped to take what ended up being a crappy photo of his rear end with my phone. What interested me was that the porcupine never altered its pace as I approached in the car, slowed down, and stopped. I guess I can understand why a porcupine might feel pretty invincible.

My progress in the field sometimes seems slower than the porcupine’s (think turtle-speed), but it is much, much faster than it was the first couple years I was farming thanks to my parents, Craig & Jean. It’s almost as if I have a magic wand – I say that a particular task needs to be done, and it happens. My dad has been taking care of all the field prep, spreading compost where needed, disking and tilling – a real gift to me, the clumsy tractor operator. While I was transplanting in the west field on Tuesday, he was prepping the middle field. On Wednesday I transplanted in the middle field while he prepped some beds in the east field … and so forth. He also keeps the piggies happy, and are they ever – their lives seem completely stress-free from my perspective:  smelly, but content.

My mom helped me a bit with transplanting onions and Brassicas and did the entire second round of lettuce– 244 plants – by herself. She has mainly been taking good care of the greenhouse, watering, weeding, seeding and potting for me. Unlike the tractor work, I do enjoy that stuff, but I’m more than happy to hand over the reins at this point so I can take care of other things. My interest has waned a bit, but my mom still seems delighted that the seeds germinate and the potted plants shoot up and out in the sun. I have a feeling the plants appreciate her enthusiasm as much or more than I do.

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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 expected to be spreading compost in the fields right about now, not shoveling snow, but there’s no way around it — no matter what the calendar says, it’s still winter here. This weather will shorten our already short growing season and condense our ordinarily rushed spring schedule into what I can only imagine will be a frenzy of field prepping, seeding and transplanting when we finally can work the soil. (Right now, I’d just like to be able to SEE the soil.) I’m already anticipating a delay in our first share delivery in June, but Stone’s Throw Farm members will still get a full season of produce. I’m hoping the seedlings in the greenhouse will see some much-needed sun today, and the snow will end eventually!


Look at these big piggies! And notice that there’s NOT a foot of snow on the ground where they are . . . sigh.

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Ten pigs arrived at Stone’s Throw Farm on Sunday night after a long, cold journey. They immediately went about exploring the whole pen and seemed to approve. Their pen is west of our vegetable fields this year on a rectangle of sod that they’ll “plow” for us and fertilize to help prepare it for use as a veggie plot next season. In the meantime, the piggies are pretty entertaining and we’ll have pastured pork for sale this fall.

Though warm by our standards, it was a chilly night compared to what the pigs were used to, but the next morning found them snug in one of the straw-filled huts — they had all piled into one hut, of course.

The farm is hopping now with the addition of my parents, Craig & Jean, and increased presence of myself and my friend, farmer Heather-Marie of Rising Phoenix Community Farm. In the last week, seeds have been sown and plants transplanted into the field, so let the sun shine!

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You know it’s summer when you’re so busy transplanting “hot crops” — tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squashes, corn — that you don’t have time to update your blog!

The pigs always run over to greet me when I approach their pen, even when it’s a hot day like this one was. They’ve finished up this paddock and I opened up a new area for them the other day — happy pigs!

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Getting out

When you put your hand in the soil right now, it’s so cold that you wonder why anything would want to grow there, but everything I’ve transplanted so far seems happy to be in the ground. On Sunday, I put out some lettuce and the bok choy (pictured). I had my neighbors’ dog, Samson, helping me.

Yesterday I transplanted some chard and the first set of scallions. Little by little by little, I’ll move stuff out of the hoophouse, freeing up much-needed space and reducing the time I spend watering. I’ve got to keep at it or I’ll never get everything into the field. Sarah, if you’re reading this, the big onion transplanting is on my radar . . . .

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It’s crunch time at the farm. Tasks done or not done right now will have reverberations throughout the rest of the season. Waiting too long to prep the fields could mean many crops are delayed, but working the ground before it dries out properly leads to soil compaction and can mess up the soil tilth, or texture. Seeding and transplanting is a priority, but skipping proper field preparation could make weed control later difficult or impossible. For some slow-growing crops, a seeding delay of a day or two can mean a week or more delay in maturity several months from now. Everything needs to be done right now, and the weather has not been cooperating very well.

I actually took the time to take a few photos at the farm yesterday with plans to share them here, but I forgot to bring my camera home. You’ll just have to trust me that things are hopping at Stone’s Throw Farm, including the spring peepers.

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The pigs are on their way! I hope they like chest-high rye (it kind of shot up in the last few weeks) and moist soil. I have a feeling they will. I’m not sure how they feel about rain, but I know every plant at the farm loves rain — except the ones in the hoophouse that have been patiently waiting to be transplanted, because I didn’t quite get their beds ready before the rain (believe me, I am kicking myself). Some of them are getting a little impatient. It’s been too wet to work the soil with the tractor or rototiller the last few days. Maybe it dried out enough overnight, but I doubt it.

On the bright side, conditions are perfect for digging out those pesky grasses by the root. I’m happy to report I’ve been seeing a ton of earthworms in the soil as I dig. That’s a sign that we have healthy soil, and the worms are improving the soil as they wriggle. Check out this article if you’re not familiar with this concept. 

More rain in the forecast for the next few days. I might have to get creative.

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Does this look like rain to you? I snapped it right before I left the farm yesterday. We hadn’t gotten any rain yet at that point, but my irrigation supplies did arrive. That’s very good news for the boat load of plants in the hoophouse that are ready to be transplanted. It takes me an hour just to water them some days, so I will be relieved when they are in the ground.

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