Hello! Welcome back for another week of Happy Valley Farming!
This week, we are harvesting big, moving ground, analyzing seedlings, planning curriculum, and revamping old systems.
We’ll start with the most recently exciting event: Harvesting Big! In a single harvest today, I picked 1 POUND and 10.3 ounces of lettuce from 2 garden beds. Wow! The spinach outweighs the lettuce at 2 pounds of delicious nutrition. I am stoked to serve this bounty to our lovely group tomorrow.
It feels good to finally bring in more than a few measly ounces to the kitchen. They won’t be giggling when the entire salad bar is composed of homegrown greens!
I have been documenting the progress of my most recent plants on index cards so I can keep track of how each plant and variety respond and grow in the environments I impose upon them. My broccoli seedlings have produced some interesting results.
I planted two varieties, Belstar F1 and Fiesta F1 broccoli. I put half of each variety in my controlled room environment, and half in the mini-hoop house in the corral.
Here’s the cool part. Indoors, the Fiestas sprouted at 100%. Both seeds in each pouch sprouted, so I had to cut the extra seedling :'(. The Fiestas aren’t so proud outside, however, where the temperatures get near freezing some nights, and when the cover doesn’t get pulled off in the morning, the heat inside the enclosure can get up to 80°!
The Belstars, on the other hand, sprouted 2 brave stems indoors, and in the hoop house, 4 emerged. Now, this is no grand-scale experiment so the numbers are small and can hardly count for anything. But isn’t it peculiar how the Belstars have a higher success rate outside and the Fiestas thrive indoors?
All this is well and good, but no germination success rate can live to tell of its glory if a slug comes along and chomps of its head.
So the outdoor broccoli is no more. Drat. I guess what they say about starting seeds indoors to protect from pests has merit. But until I have a proper growing space, I will not give up!
My next big project this week was moving ground. Remember what I said a few posts ago about terracing our land inside the corral? Well, I’ve got the plan all drawn out, I had my right hand man clear my space, and still without proper environmental approval from the main man Tim, I have made some pretty serious changes to the topography. It looks great! Just tell Tim it’s okay for me, will you?
On this leveled out space, students will put their minds together to plan out a configuration of raised box gardens to create 100 square feet of growing space. We will not have to work the ground any more than it is, for we will create soil from the compost Happy Valley has generated, peat moss, and vermiculite.
Before we move on, take note of the wagon covered raised bed in the background of this last photo.
It just wasn’t working for me. Why? It was growing plants just great, but the fact of the matter is, gardening shouldn’t be harder than it is enjoyable (remember that). The design was flawed, as we knew from the beginning, we just weren’t sure exactly how it was flawed. Hoisting the plastic over top of the very tall PVC pipe tunnel was not a one-person job, yet I’m usually working solo out there. There were also screws poking out of the PVC for intended convenience, but really they served only to catch the plastic and tear it.
I was no longer interested in this garden because it was frustrating. So, I made an improvement.
I unscrewed the PVC from the sideboards, chopped a foot and a half of length, and re-screwed it into the side of the bed. Yes, I know the PVC pipes are uneven. The last one is higher just in case we grow taller plants!
I tested it, and without the catching screws and a 6.5 foot height requirement, I can completely cover this bed with plastic on my own. That is so nice.
Since the ends aren’t sealed with the plastic as you see here, my next step is to cut plastic to fit the last two loops. I will secure them so they stay permanently for the cold season. Perhaps this will prove a viable seed starter house? I am also considering floating row cover options.
Though it awes me every time, I must accept and adapt to the fact that Northern Central California does in fact, frost.
Thanks for keeping up with my progress here in the valley. And remember, enjoy yourself out there!