This time of year is a real crazy one on the farm–Transplant Days. Right now we are tasked with harvesting at nearly full capacity, seeding and planting at nearly full capacity, weeding, feeding the plants, as well as transplanting nearly everything we seeded in the spring. At least this year the watering is being taken care of for us!
One of the biggest adjustments from rural farming to urban farming is trying to get a large harvest out of a really small space. It requires lots of intensive, successive plantings. I feel like Molly and I really nailed our spring seeding schedule this year, and will be able to tweak it slightly to get the most spring and summer harvest possible in the next years. In the beginning of April we seeded the section that would be the tomato, pepper, and eggplant section. We plants these plants together because they are all in the family solanaceae and are all warm-weather fruiting plants. The plants we seeded in April are the greens, radishes and lettuces we’ve been giving to you so far. Now, we are tearing those up just in time to transplant all of the warm-weather fruiting plants. The next thing we seeded in the spring were the beds that would be for the squash, cucumbers, and melons. These plants are all in the family cucubritae. They are all vining, fruiting plants that like warm weather. We pre-seeded their section in three different classes of vegetable–really quickly growing (radishes, mustards, arugula); quickly growing (lettuce, spinach, bunching greens); and not so quickly growing (carrots, beets, scallions, turnips). In one of the two beds that are full of really quickly growing things we have already seeded melons and in the other we seeded cuces and zuces. Cucubrits require a lot of space between each plant, because they eventually sprawl extensively. So instead of having lots of bare ground between the small, young plants, we will have harvest-able vegetables!
If we were in a rural area we would being using cover-crops instead of early greens, because organic farmers never want bare ground. Cover crops tend to restore nutrients and give the soil a break; while growing food requires nutrients, and taxes the soil. Because of our more intensive system, we need to compensate the soil in a few ways. First, we don’t till or turn the ground between plantings. Tilling and turning increases the surface area of the soil that is exposed to oxygen, and therefor speeds up the bacteria that break down the soil nutrients into ions that the plants can take up. We like this bacteria to slowly release these nutrients over the course of our long, intensive season. Also we try not to pull the old plants out of ground if we can. Instead, we cut them just below the soil level so that their roots remain in the ground. Plant roots are a living ecosystem of fungus and bacteria that symbiotically eat the plants’ excretions while also breaking down soil matter into small ions that the plants can take up through their roots. By not disturbing or killing this ecosystem, it is all ready to support the new plants that we transplant or seed in the same spot. Finally, we spread compost between every planting to restore the nutrients we harvested and ate. This season we are trying to put compost directly in holes we are transplanting into. We hope that this will give the plants the nutrients right where they need them.
See some of you Sunday, and some of you Wednesday,
Katie (and Molly)