Lots Of Lettuce

A planting tray

A planting tray

“Lettuce” hasn’t been slang for money in the U.S. for a long time, but I’m still feeling pretty rich after I saw all the lettuce that has been planted at Upper Meadows Farm.

Eleven different kinds of lettuce are being planted this year, in beautiful, long rows interspersed with scallions. And it takes an incredible amount of work to do that planting. Tiny seeds have to be put in tiny cubes of potting soil, and when they sprout, be moved to the greenhouse. There, the cubes that didn’t sprout are taken out and replaced, so that each tray holds exactly 72 plants.

Outside, the cows have been allowed to munch their way through the vegetation that had sprouted on what I seem to recall was last year’s zucchini patch. The ground is lightly tilled, and any weeds that sprout dispatched with a flameweeder. The rows are marked, and each row is covered with a layer of compost.

Planting lettuce, row by careful row

Planting lettuce, row by careful row

On planting day, the crew brings the flats outside and starts digging. They block out a diagonal line across each row and dig holes for four plants in it. Then, one by one, four plants are popped out and gently set in their holes, and four times the compost must be gathered back in around the plant. How long does it all take? Maybe one minute per plant. That doesn’t sound like much, until you multiple one minute times the 72 plants in the tray and again by the number of trays in the greenhouse.

And that’s just for the lettuce.

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Come Celebrate Earth Day with Upper Meadows Farm!

earthdayWe will be throwing a potato planting party on Saturday April 25th to celebrate Earth Day.

All of the details are here on our e-vite!

Seeds And More Seeds–We Start Planting!!

To quote the late George Peppard, ” I love it when a plan comes together!” Megan and Bonnie finished the seed inventory last week. With 257 varieties in hand we are up and running in the greenhouse. So far this season we are up on the timing and making deadlines is seeming to be easy! Bonnie and her brother, Jason Grover, finished the re-glazing of the potting shed on Wednesday and spent Thursday getting  all of the the shelving set. With benches in place, Bonnie is starting to plant. First to go in are the Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, etc.) and aliums (onions, scallions, leeks, etc.).

2006 lettuce flats in the potting house

2006 lettuce flats in the potting house

Next will be the lettuces and escarole. These will be set out in the field around mid to late April. This year I’m pushing the early greens earlier than I ever have since we have had bad luck in the past two years with a freak week of 80ºF weather in May. The strategy is to get them in and under row covers so that they can gain some size before (and if) a heat wave might drive them to seed. Bigger plants are sometimes more bolt resistant early on in the year.  When I first started growing commercially I did all my own transplants. In 1989 I first used a certified organic greenhouse grower called Silver Seed down in Maryland on the eastern shore. Jay Martin, the grower, devised a really neat hand-held wand that he used with a vacuum to plant into the plant flats rather than using one of the big commercial deck type units that cost thousands.

2006onions, parsley, cilantro in the potting house

2006 onions, parsley, cilantro in the potting house

I just found the same seeder for sale and picked up one for 72 cell trays and one for 128 cell trays; the two most common sizes I use. I started doing all my own transplants in 2007 again because shipping was just too expensive. This year we are planting over 300 flats and these new seed wands will save days of labor!!

Planting is a critical chore and one of the most rewarding when the seeds sprout and start to grow.  IF you are interested in helping, keep in mind that Volunteers are welcome! Contact Megan to schedule a visit.