First Seeds, First Sowings

Today marked the official start of the 2010 growing season!  This morning I pitched my expanded “grow list” to my first restaurant client and it went smashingly – agreements from this one account will double my gross revenue from 2009 —and it was the smaller of my two clients last year.  Main increases will be in duration rather than volume – I expect to be marketing produce for a full 32 weeks in 2010!  From March’s Frost Kissed Spinach to December’s storage crops of onions, potatoes, carrots, and squash this looks to be a great year.  With some luck in storage next winter, the 2011 “season” may see produce sales all 12 months of the year.  Awesomeness.

More immediately important ,this afternoon I planted the season’s first seeds (70 sq ft of Bloomsdale spinach) and placed my first order for seeds.  The Hoop House (11×25, not the proposed monster Hoopty) soil is still completely frost free, but is wicked dry. I went no till: first scraped the soil with a scuffle hoe to clear the tomato debris from October, then “lifted” the soil with my U-Bar digger, then raked if flat and hand seeded the beds.   Tomorrow I will plant another section with another variety of spinach.   My favorite part was “watering” the seeds with 10 bucket loads of snow; it will be 35+ degrees and sunny for the next three days and I will have melted by noon tomorrow in the 80 degree heat. The first seed order for the season was for some purslane (favorite of the landowner) and half my onion seeds – about 3000 starts.  Ailisa Craig, and two cippolini types: Red Marble and Gold Coin – I will begin onion starts in only a few short weeks, hopefully in soil blocks (expect a post there).

Hoop Houses make the winters very short indeed!



10 Responses

  1. “Hoop Houses make the winters very short indeed!”

    You know, this is probably the best argument *against* a hoop house that I’ve seen. I want my winter break! And right now I can’t believe how booked I am with garden-related workshops, classes, seminars, conferences, and beekeeping meetings. This is the only time of year I can do this! And this is supposed to be “down time.” I don’t think I want a hoop house until all my perennials are in place and I’ve firmly converted to no dig beds. If I knew my spring chores would involve no major holes to be dug, and no heavy equipment to wrestle with, then maybe I could stand to ease into spring a lot earlier. But there’s still a lot of compost to be loaded and unloaded from the beater truck, and, and, and… I’m feeling old now and should just stop whining.

    It’s nice to see your enthusiasm, Rob. I’m glad the growing year is looking profitable for you.

  2. Ha! That is certainly Mark Shepard’s take on them – “Why would I want to *extend* my season!? – I am already working 30 hours a day 400 days a year!”

    In my situation with a full time job “on the side”, I have decided to find ways to extend the weeks of the market. Ex. my sandwich shop client will take 30# of tomatoes every week- but she can’t take 100# in week in August just because I have them – but if I can get them 4 weeks sooner and 3 weeks later, then I can sell 210#’s more tomatoes. Same for cukes, peppers and lettuce. And then I add in the storage crops and I am selling carrots and potatoes 7 months of the year with succession planting. I am still only working about 2 days a week, but doing so profitably for much more of the year. I hope to have tomatoes for market from Mid June (Siberian) through Mid October this year.

    Also, by composting year round (hope to do 20 yards in the hoop house each winter) I stretch out the compost season to, meaning I have to do half as much in the summer when I need to be cultivating and harvesting. Plus it feels so damn good to be turning compost and planting seeds in January!


  3. Wow!!! Can I put in a request for pics of your progress as the seedlings begin to grow?

    Your plan sounds excellent and I can’t wait to see some first-hand results with the hoop house. I’m reading “Four Season Harvest” right now and the construction of a simple greenhouse is on the 2010 goals list.

    Keep up the excellent work.

    Rob – have you thought about bees for your home garden? I’m signing up for an introductory beekeeping class and would be interested in any experience you might have had.

  4. Thank Tim. I will try to post as much as possible – I am already finding myself a bit too busy to take pics as much as I would like. I have not ventured into bee keeping yet, though it has crossed my mind on several occasions – my grandfather kept bees and I have the 130 year old book that he taught himself from.

    Kate from Living the Frugal Life would be my recommendation for homescale bees.


  5. Thanks for the recommendation to the Living Frugal blog – I reviewed that blog already when checking out potato yields grown in buckets (you posted a link back in your potato yield summary which was excellent) – we are planning on trying this technique and are collecting FREE food-grade buckets from local grocery stores! Kate’s blog was also part of my motivation for checking into bees. You guys have really lit a fire under my backside to get serious this year.

  6. In the MiniHoopty, first planting date is March 1. I’m trying to enjoy the remaining time “off,” but like Kate, I have classes scheduled almost every weekend in February!

    This week’s greenhouse activity has been killing voles. The onslaught seems to be slowing…whew…

    • Voles… I put my traps up the day I planted the first seeds. Feel a little bad. For the first 2 months of winter I give them shelter and all the free food (compost pile) they want. Life goes swimmingly… then WHAM! Industrious little buggers though. Tunnels everywhere!

      Of interesting note, Hoopty Compost Pile still running full steam – 120 degrees and I turned it last week as the damn quack rhizomes in it were sprouting. Still – ground is entirely frost free and the 300 gallon water tank only has 1″ of ice in it.

      Its working muhahahahaha!


      • All sounds very exciting and promising, Rob. I too look forward to hearing of progress from your extended harvest.

        I was turning my own compost pile this morning, in the shade of the biggest tree we have to reduce evaporation – and nice and early to avoid our tropical summer sun – before returning indoors to a cold shower, iced water and to read about your mere 1inch of ice in your water tank.

        All the best.


  7. […] soon, if this post is any indication, I can begin starting spinach seed indoors to cut and to transplant into the […]

  8. […] or poor germination – leaving only 70 plants with true leaves out of 600 cells.  Also, the spinach in the small hoopty is up and several plants have true leaves.  With the sun forecast for the next week it is looking […]

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