After a couple of very busy weeks our hard work is really starting to pay off. We tilled under the over wintered clover crop a few weeks ago and the soil is looking great. After adding a healthy dose of some of Maine's finest compost (http://www.kinneycompost.com/) and amending the soil with some powdered lime and crab meal the plot was ready for bedding up.
We do all of our plantings in thirty inch beds with one foot paths in between. The primary plot will be divided into three sections, each made up of eighteen forty eight-foot beds, which for the most part will be subdivided into two twenty four foot plantings so that we are planting half of a bed per week for our weekly successions.
We direct seeded our first carrots this week, as well as a bed of arugula and mesclun. We use a 4-way seeder for densely planted crops like carrots and greens, which allows us to plant twelve rows to the bed in straight rows. In the background you can see our first planting of summer squash and zucchini which we set out under a layer of remay. The remay creates a micro-climate for the plants, keeping them and the soil about ten degrees warmer than the outside air.
In the plant house things are coming along great as well. During week one we built some shelves along the back wall for seedling tables. In the center are a couple of simple saw horses providing more table space. It's a small space but with good timing and management it should suffice for the scale we are producing on.
In no time the tables were almost filled up. We seeded all sorts of crops including onions, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, peas, beans, beets, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and more. The wooden frame in the middle is a box I built to keep mice out. We had some visitors the first night we had seeds planted and they devoured a number of our bean, melon and cucumber seeds. It is a simple box made with scrap wood fit for the table, and a screen is nailed to the top so that the soil blocks still have good air circulation. We ended up catching them in some traps we set and since then they haven't caused too much of a problem.
In just a couple of weeks almost all of the seedlings had popped and many are ready to go into the ground. We plant all of our seedlings in the plant house using soil blocks. A technique created by the Dutch and modernized by Eliot Coleman, soil blocks are created using a soil block maker. There are different sized blocks for different seeds, but the general idea is that you form a tray of blocks with moist potting soil and plant your seeds in those blocks. When the seedlings are ready to be transplanted or potted on, you simply pull the soil block from the tray and plant it in the ground. The roots of the plant hold the soil together and the system eliminates the need for any pots. In addition, you are only using the minimum amount of space required for each crop, and in a small plant house like ours, we need all of the space we can muster up. But I'll write more on soil blocks later.