Hardening Off and Potting On at the TC3 Farm

This week on the TC3 Farm: Hardening Off and Potting On by Hannah W.

hardening off seedlings
Seedlings Hardening Off

Now that the days have been getting warmer, if you walk up to the greenhouse on the TC3 farm, you’ll see a full table of seedlings outside, getting used to the wind and cooler temperatures. After a while, they’ll be brought back inside for the night. This process of “hardening off” helps tiny seedlings prepare for life in the farm field. As they grow, trays of seedlings are gradually moved farther from the greenhouse heater, then eventually placed on the ground, where it’s cooler still. 

seedlings ready to plantThe final steps in hardening off involve moving the seedlings outside. Even though the plastic on the greenhouse seems thin, it does offer a bit of protection from the sun, so plants also have to get used to the brighter sunlight as they transition outdoors. Seedlings may be brought outside for just a couple hours at first, then graduate to spending the whole day outdoors.

potting on tomatoes
Potting On Tomatoes

This week, the laboratory portion of class featured a tomato potting-on extravaganza. “Potting on,” refers to transferring a plant into a larger container with more soil. As the seedling grows, its roots spread out through the soil in the container, absorbing nutrients. After a while, the seedling will eventually run out of nutrients in the small area of soil it has to work with. 

Tomato seedlings also compete for light, which is another reason to pot them on. Tomatoes, as warm-weather crops, spend a long time in the greenhouse and need space to spread out their leaves. For plants like bok choi, which are cold-hardy and can be planted out in the field soon, there’s no need to move them to larger pots.

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This week on the TC3 Farm – Student Post by Maria

This week on the TC3 Farm we were engaged in various activities including harvesting lettuce, seeding, cultivation, broadforking, rock picking, and the final work on the crop rotation plan.  These tasks are all from different stages of the planting process, starting with getting the soil ready to plant which includes picking rocks out of the beds and broadforking.

Broadforking
Broadforking the Hoophouse Beds

For those not familiar, a broadfork is a wonderful tool for tilling and aerating garden beds by hand.  It consists of 5 metal tines, 8-12” inches long, spaced a few inches apart on a horizontal bar, with two handles extending upwards to chest or shoulder level, forming a large U-shape, like a pitchfork on steroids.  It is designed to use your body weight to insert and maneuver the tool instead of your back and arms.  You stand on the tool, gently rocking and wiggling the tool to work the tines into the ground. Then pull back on the handles using your weight and the tool’s leverage. Your motion is a natural pulling and pushing, instead of bending and lifting.  I found that you do need to use a fair amount of upper body strength to maneuver it properly, but my weight was a great benefit and certainly helped where I lacked in strength.

Removing Rocks
Removing Rocks from the Beds

The benefits to broadforking are numerous.  For one, as a hand tool, it requires no dependence on fossil fuels nor the noise, pollution and compaction that results from using power equipment.  The long tines allow for deep loosening of the soil to improve aeration and drainage, both important for growing healthy plants.  The rocking motion of the tool allows you to break up and loosen the subsoil with minimal turning, which leaves the topsoil on top where it belongs, and minimizes destruction of soil structure.  This is important as the topsoil is the layer with the most organic matter and the available nutrients plants need to grow.  And oddly enough, we found broadforking helpful in removing large rocks found below the surface of the soil, so we were rock picking at the same time!

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TC3 Farm Starting Ginger, Tumeric, and Seedlings – Student Post

Starting Ginger, Tumeric, and Seedlings on the TC3 Farm – By Steve

The first in a series of Sustainable Farming and Food Systems student posts for the Spring 2016 semester

starting seedlings
Seedling Flats in the Greenhouse at the TC3 Farm

Here at TC3 Farm we have been very busy getting ready for the planting season. In the last few weeks we have started over 5,000 seeds and planted over 1200 lettuce transplants. We also have Arugula and Mustard Greens started in one of our hoop houses. We are taking a lot of our mixed greens to Coltivare Restaurant and to The Rook Restaurant, both in downtown Ithaca. We are supplying the greens to them once a week so they can incorporate fresh local food to their menu items. These greens are what we call, cut and come again crops, which means we will get three or four harvests off each plant. This year the farm also decided to plant some ginger and some tumeric. These plants start right from the root and are in our greenhouse now, germinating and getting ready to be planted when the last frost hits.

planting ginger and tumeric
Planting Ginger and Tumeric

This year the farm is also doing custom seedling sales for the home gardener that does not own a greenhouse or growing lights. They supply the organic seeds they want germinated and we start the seeds in a flat seedling tray to start transplants in the greenhouse for them to plant in their gardens when it is time. Also, we have started many seedlings for a plant sale that will be taking place at Greentree Garden Supply store located on Route 13 in Ithaca, 606 Elmira Road, in front of Ithaca Brewing Company. It is on Saturdays and the dates are May 21st, May 28th, and June 4th , from 9am-2pm. Transplant sales, tours, and workshops. There are over 45 different varieties of produce and herbs being grown on the farm this year which supplies produce for the CSA program and the produce stand out in front of main campus at TC3.

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