We finally got a break in the weather to start planting! Besides the wintered over spinach that is starting to grow again with the warmer nights, we finally put together our first tunnel. Lettuce is the first seeding so the tunnel will protect it from frost which we tend to get at this time of year. Our last frost has been known to be as late as Mother’s Day!
Since it worked out so well last year to grow lettuce through succession planting, by only planting only one section at a time, one week apart, we started the first section of our row with 4 internal rows of various lettuces. Every week we will seed another section and by the time we finish seeding the last section, the first section will be full size. This results in lettuces at different stages so customers can always get perfectly ripe lettuce instead of all old lettuce at the end of the season. We just pull out any bolting lettuce (old and going to seed), and replant with new seed. We managed to keep good lettuce into November!
First row in means the rest are not far behind! Wish us luck with the weather!
We completed succession planting the lettuce resulting in a very full lettuce row! It was so impressive that grasshoppers and other insects moved in. Can you see that grasshopper on our red lettuce? That is just one of Many! On top of a grasshopper infestation, the lettuce started to bolt from the heat. Even the wild birds couldn’t keep the grasshoppers under control!
This all resulted in a decision to pull the bad lettuce and replant before it got too late in the season. According the Farmers Almanac we can plant new lettuce up to August 1st and it will still have enough time to grow full size before the first frost.
Some of the lettuce had already bolted, or went to flower and to seed. We collected seed from those plants to replant, and left a few other plants to grow so we could collect seed later for next year. This is the ultimate succession planting!
Spoiler alert…..Not only did we get a great second crop, it lasted almost all winter!
We are getting into late fall so it’s time to collect seeds for next year before they blow away or are ruined by bad weather. This picture is of bolted lettuce that was left to bloom and as you can see it’s loaded with seeds. They are a lot like dandelions where if you blow them the seeds float away. You collect them by carefully pulling them off the stalk and removing the white propeller top that usually helps them float in the air. They are tiny seeds.
I collected spinach seed which also grow on a stem that bolts up from the plant. They don’t have propellers. The seeds dry in litter clusters on the side of the stem Once dry, they are easy to just peel off pop into an envelope.
Bean and pea seeds are easy. You have a bean or pea pod full of beans or peas, they dry, you pop the pod open and pull the dried beans or peas out. It’s as simple as that.
Cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and peppers have seeds inside the fruit. Collect the seeds, rinse them and dry them on a paper towel before storing.
Unfortunately my carrots and beets did not bolt which means I will need to purchase more seeds for next year. I’ll have to do a little more research on how to promote bolting on these root vegetables. I’ve only been successful with radishes. Here is crossing my fingers for next year,
If you want to view how to do a little seed collecting, you can watch a video on the farm’s Youtube channel:
With the weather warming, I’ve gotten the bug to start growing my vegetables! When I lived in the south I could start growing indoors in January and move everything outside in March. In the North West I’d start early March and have everything outside mid-April. In the Rocky Mountain region we have to wait until April to start both indoor and outdoor planting. There always seems to be a snow storm between now and Mothers Day. It never fails. Hot weather plants shouldn’t go outside until Memorial Day unless they are fully protected. It’s a short growing season here.
Today I’m starting to grow my cold vegetable transplants for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and celery, along with some herbs that usually take a while to germinate.You can buy trays and seed starting mix at any home improvement store. I pick a good quality organic mix.
I’m trying to be more precise in how I plant so I finally bought sturdy plant tags to be sure I don’t mix up what I’m growing (I’ve mixed up plants before!).I also found a neat trick to be sure I plant at the correct depth by drawing lines on a marker in 1/4 inch segments and using it as a measuring tool.
A cover on your tray will help keep the soil moist through the initial germination and then you can remove it. A standard shop light about 12-18 inches above your trays is plenty to grow your transplants. You don’t need a grow light. It’s more important to just keep the soil at least 70 degrees and moist.
We’ll check in a few weeks from now and see how they are doing.
Unfortunately, with all the home renovations last year, I got a very late start on the vegetable plot and didn’t have time to grow any plants inside from seed. It was expensive purchasing tomato and pepper plants so everything else in the garden was grown outside by seed. We had an okay crop, but I learned what I like (Roma tomatoes) and don’t like (crook neck squash), what does well (lettuce) and what doesn’t (potatoes). I also learned I can save money on seeds by purchasing heirlooms and collecting the seeds at the end of the season to use the following year. In addition, the heirlooms are GMO free. I already collected heirloom tomato and lettuce seeds for this coming year! And of course, since it’s already February, I just bought 30 new non-GMO, heirloom seed packets, most of which are organic. If this is going to be an artisan farm, I want the produce to be the most natural and tasty it can be. We’ll try these new seeds out this year and see what works best.