Tag Archives: seedlings

Announcing two new plant sales locations

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We start thousands of seedlings every year in our greenhouse; this year is no exception! Many of them are destined for our fields, but nearly half of them are grown specifically for your gardens. We choose tried and true varieties of vegetables and herbs for our garden starts, grow them up ecologically in our wonderful new potting soil from Vermont Compost, and sell them in their prime. Buying plant starts is a great way to kick start your garden, grow successions of things like zucchini and lettuce, and to try several varieties at once. We think about seeding in February so you don’t have to! And we are always happy to pass on tips or help you with your garden planning, so come with questions!

You can find our plant starts at the following local plant sales:

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Day 3: Tucking the farm in for the winter

There is something deeply satisfying about having a job that goes to sleep with the trees. Our longest work days correspond to the longest days of the year, so by the time we hear the first geese call overhead, we are pretty ready to start putting the farm to sleep.

 

For the vegetable fields, that means mowing the last standing crops, pulling up plastic mulch, discing in the crop residues and planting cover crops. If we have our act together, which—remarkably—we did this year, all of the beds are cover cropped except for the lettuce, greens, and root crops that carry us through the Thanksgiving markets.

We tried three combinations of cover crops this year. First we put in a mix of winter rye and crimson clover, and when we ran out of that, we seeded a bed of oats and peas. The oats and peas will probably die at some point this winter, but then they will become mulch, which will still protect the soil.

We also seeded a mix of spring barley and Austrian winter peas, which, like the rye/clover mix, should survive until spring. Our main goal with cover crops this time of year is to have roots in the ground at all times. Above-ground, the leaves have dropped and all signs point to sleep, but below-ground, life is teeming. Soils are still warm and roots are no longer burdened with leaves, fruit, and other pulls on their productivity. They continue to grow rapidly, exchanging mineral nutrients for sugary secretions, they also help feed the vast community of arthropods, worms, and microbes that do the work of breaking down all those vegetable plants. And if the roots belong to a tree or berry bush, they are gathering and storing the nutrients they need for spring leaf-out.

All this activity will eventually slow way down when the ground freezes, but the soil is one part of the farm that will never fully go to sleep.

A spring snow

About three inches of snow fell last night. Coarse, wet, heavy spring snow. On nights like these Ben and I tag-team through the night to keep the high tunnel and greenhouse free of snow. He stays up to the wee hours, and then sets an early morning alarm for me.

This morning, the greenhouse looked like an abandoned museum exhibit, with the dim first rays filtering through the poly walls to settle on the gossamer row cover draped over our seedlings. Many of them are garden starts to sell at our first markets in April. There are tomatoes, of course, and lettuce, and three generations of basil, herbs and flowers. But there are farm seedling there too. All of the farm eggplants and peppers have been seeded, most of the spring brassicas, our first tomatoes, and our chard. We will seed more today–our second generation of farm lettuce, the first dill, and flowers for sales, including, incredibly, the first sunflowers.

This last night, the snowy one, was the first that we dared to leave all of our cold-sensitive seedings out in the greenhouse. Last week we risked first one flat, then four, before we felt confident enough in our wood stove and the little electric heater under the bench. There is no perfect solution; either we carry sensitive flats in every night, disturbing roots, exposing them to our next clumsy move, and depriving the plants of the first rays of the sun, or we risk that cold, or chilling injury, sets them back.

There are also seedlings in the bakery. Yesterday the rye sprouted, and today, wheat. I am working on developing a dense, Danish-style dark pan bread, which is a complete departure from most of the bread I make. I am going for toothy, dark, and moist, a bread that makes a meal with bit of smoked trout and dill. It is recipe-development time at Little Hat Creek Farm. I’m learning the behavior of flours from Carolina Ground and Woodson’s mill, tweaking current recipes, and increasing my repertoire of skills. This will be the first sprouted grain I have tried. Last week I experimented with fermenting flaked grains before mixing them into dough, which resulted in an impossibly tender crumb in the barley almond bread.

So go ahead and snow old man, you can’t stop the force of spring that has begun. It may look, and feel, like winter out there, but the true story is told by the first daffodil two days ago, the expanding buds on our Nanking cherries, and the little peepers peeping their spring song.

We’ve planted garlic!

Yes, this counts as the first-ever crop that Little Hat Creek Farm has put into the ground!  We saved our largest, most beautiful heads of garlic for next year’s crop.  Its tempting to disturb their thick hay mulch blanket to see if they are *actually* growing, but they really wouldn’t like that very much.  Alas, we won’t see much action until spring. Luckily, we have other things to distract us, like seeding spinach in the fields, and getting our lettuce and greens ready for the Charlottesville City Holiday Market.  We’re babying these sweet little seedlings, covering them on cold nights, and bringing them in to our house on even colder nights.  Grow, babies, grow!