A little bit of everything

The weather is starting to look up a little, at least if I look at the 5-day forecast.  This morning I ran across Ecclesiastes 11:6-

“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”

This year, our philosophy is to grow some of everything, and see what does the best/ makes the most money, or at least what has a good profit-to-labor ratio.  And it’s very true that I am growing many, many new-to-me crops, and I do NOT know which will succeed.. the weather, the conditions, and the crops themselves are all variables.  It’s exciting to watch, though.  If “both will do equally well” we will be so, so busy!

Spring Purgatory

It’s almost spring, but the weather is taking its time warming up.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in Farmer’s Purgatory, washing out seed containers to reuse them, mixing up seed starting media, and fussing with my seedlings.  Using rainwater to water them is a new thing this year for me also.  So far I have no complaints, other than that I like to let it warm up to room temperature before using it.  Just have to remember to dump the barrels over before mosquito season!

This week I planted some tomatoes, eggplant, lavender, and potato seeds.  I’ve never grown potatoes from “true seed” (i.e. NOT little chunks-o-potato) before.  I ordered 100 seeds, and they sent me something approximating 500.  I called the seed company last night to see what the germination rate was, thinking maybe they sent so many because germination is low.  No, they said, it’s 80%.  So I have about 300-350 seeds in the trays right now.  Good thing we have a lot of space out in the field, because I also have a pile of normal seed potatoes coming later.

The broccoli and some of the onions are taking their first trip outdoors today in their trays.  Hopefully I remember to bring them in before they get too stressed out.

Seed Starting Miscellany

Thankfully, the long winter is at last being punctuated by seed starting time.

I have started about 2000 onion seedlings, and last weekend I managed to get a few broccoli seeds started as well.  I have a whole lot more broccoli to start but am waiting for some more trays to come in along with my cover crop order.

This year, due to the national organic requirements, I made my own seed starting mix.  It’s kind of a shame, because I have an entire cubic foot of pro-mix, never opened, in the garage.  However, my homemade mix seems to be doing really well so far & the root development on the onion seedlings is the best I’ve ever seen.  And the homemade mix is going to wind up being much, much cheaper.

Recipe for seed starting mix:

Mix 4 8-inch flower pots of perlite with an equal amount of coir seed starting media.  Add one shovel-full of mushroom compost.  Stir well.

The grow light setup that we’ve used for years is not going to be large enough this year.  Mr. B. is planning to build an expansion soon, before I run out of room.  There is at least one shop light of uncertain vintage and uncertain functionality stuck in the rafters of the old barn, so we may be using it.

Instead of seedling heat mats, I have used a cheap heating pad (the kind people use for backaches) for years to warm the soil under my tomato & pepper seedlings.  They don’t germinate well in a 60-degree house otherwise.  I almost bought another one yesterday at the grocery store until I saw the dreaded words “With Automatic Shutoff.”  Hopefully they still make them WITHOUT automatic shutoff.  A grocery store heating pad is much cheaper than an 80$ seedling heat mat.   I’ll be starting tomatoes, peppers, and, for the first time, eggplant in a few weeks, and will need to be able to heat more than one flat at a time this year.  If you plan to copy me, please be advised that putting the heating pad on “LOW” is plenty hot, and that I take no responsibility for you giving yourself an electric shock by overzealous watering, or somehow managing to burn your house down.

Cover crops

Trying to locate organic seed for a pasture is a bit of a challenge.  Availability is spotty, so I’ll probably have to blend my own mix from what I can find.

I found a high-omega-3 chicken pasture mix, which sounds pretty good.  Mr. B. would probably like that for his chickens.  It’s not organic, though.  I did find organic flax seed and buckwheat, which are major ingredients.

Seeds

The last few weeks have been taken over by the Seed Ordering Mega-Spreadsheet.  I finally finished the seed order on Friday.  Going organic can be a bit challenging in this regard.  I ordered from three different companies.  The organic rules state that if you can’t find organic seed for a variety you wish to grow, you must document that you tried three different sources.  I know it would be *easy* to find three companies that don’t carry ANY organic seed, and use those as my “three sources,” and thus make my documentation really easy, but I don’t feel that meets the intent of the standard.

Anyway, I found lots of organic seed, and some things I couldn’t find an organic source for, and hopefully my documentation for that is adequate.  The size of the final order amazed and astounded me.  It’s going to be an exciting spring.  We will need to update our seed starting system- one grow light is not going to be enough this year.