It’s another cold, rainy, depressing day here at the vineyard but I was happy to see the hoop house temp climb up to 70º, even though the outside temps didn’t leave the 50s and there was no sun whatsoever. I entered the hoop house this morning to uncover all the plants from their evening fabric layers and was shocked… Something ate my cucurbits! It was most likely a mouse, maybe several mice; I’m not sure… but well over half of the 375 potted cucurbits were dug into and the beautiful, plump, just-sprouting seeds were methodically pulled from their casings. I brought a few of the less damaged trays inside tonight just to be safe and I left a nice, big, electronic mouse zapper, loaded with dog food and peanut butter, right in the middle of the rest of the trays. Maybe I can rent a barn cat for a few weeks while the seeds all germinate.
I spent the better part of the day potting up eggplants, peppers, marjoram, cilantro, lavender, and rosemary. I went through 9 bags of potting soil and used up every single spare 4″ pot I could find. Last year, when I bought the box of -405- 4″ pots, I figured I’d be set for life. Well, it looks like I could use another box. The hoop house is also starting to feel nice and full. We’re about 2 weeks away from the major outdoor planting rush, but a lot of the stuff I potted up today was a bit scrawny. I’m hoping a couple weeks in a hot hoop house will give it all a nice boost before going outside. Good news: the tomatoes in the trenches are looking lush and I can see the first flowers forming. I’m already pulling suckers off the stems!
Also, the tomato plants that I potted up a week and a half ago are finally taking off. I think I did some damage to the tomato roots when I was pulling them out of the trays and putting them in larger pots. For the past two years, I used soil blocks for tomatoes; and while the seeding process was messier and more time consuming, the potting up process was effortless. This year, I used Pro-Trays and the results were reversed. The seeding process was simple, fast and clean, but potting up was a huge pain because a lot of the plants stuck to the inside of the trays and a lot of roots were torn. I need find a solution for next year. There has to be a trick for removing plants from the pro trays. The other thing I noticed was that the plants seemed a bit healthier and sturdier with the soil blocks. I’m learning all this as I go. Luckily, a lot of veggies are pretty forgiving.
Hey, this evening we’re getting a much needed soaking rain!
Also, Happy Anniversary to us! May 18, 2007 is the day we closed on the house. So this marks the end of 3 years here. In some ways, it seems like a lot longer than 3 years (with the amount of work we’ve done.) But on the other hand, year one was really focused on moving and the wedding. So we’ve really only been planting and growing things for two years… which really feels strange. So much done, so much to do!
I started 375 (or so) pumpkin, melon, cucumber, squash, zucchini, and gourd plants in the hoop house today. Which means that there will be 375 things to plant outside in about 3 weeks. Time to prep the field.
The High/Low thermometer tells me the temp in the hoop house hit 28.5ºF last night. I was happy to see green plants this morning. They do look a little stressed, but they will have 14+ hours of glorious sunshine today. Come on, seedlings… you can do it.
We spent the day weeding the garden today. We got through about 30 of 35 rows before calling it a day. This is HUGE progress on a task that’s been gnawing away at us for a while. In the photo above, (l. to r.) you can see lettuce that made it through the winter and is looking fine, healthy garlic, sprouting peas, onions, and more lettuce and arugula under that row cover. We also planted our first beets, carrots and chard of the year in a row to the left. Good day, today.
We took all the remaining seedlings out of the hot room today and brought them into the hoop house. This room is heated to about 75º and seedlings are under fluorescent lights for about 16 hours per day. In 2008, this room was active from mid-March through the end of May (almost 2 1/2 months.) In 2009, it was on from April 1 to about May 15. This year, we only needed it for about 40 days. All seedlings are growing under solar power for the rest of the year!
The hoop house is finally coming to life. I got ten more tomatoes into the ground this morning. In just two days, the other ten tomatoes are already starting to show brand new growth, despite two nights with temps dipping below 40º. I’ve been covering them with two layers of Agribon fabric at night for a little more protection and so far everything seems just fine.
The first ten tomato plants of the year are in the ground (in the hoop house). Last year, there were 4 tomatoes in the hoop house, planted in plastic bags, around May 15th. This year, I dug a proper trench and added lots of composted manure and will soon set up a soaker hose. If they survive the cool nights of the next month or so, they should do much better than last year’s hoop house tomatoes. Here we have Sungold, Sapho, Bloody Butcher, and Matt’s Wild Cherry. Another row of ten more will be planted about 8 feet to the right, once I get that trench installed. I’m hoping for a tomato in June.