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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Farm Preparation and Planning – Spring at the TC3 Farm

Farm Preparation and Planning at TC3 Farm – Student Post by Murray

Farm preparation and planning Planting seeds properly is the most important job on the farm. The start of a new plant is so crucial and if attention to detail is ignored, a huge failure in the season would be possible. Seeding is not as simple as one might think; it involves many hours of preparation and planning. Also, plant data and growing knowledge is key for success. Understanding how the particular seed grows, what temperature it needs, the best way to transplant/direct seed or what nutrients the soil needs, the grower must understand these basics.

Seeding is very important, in fact, one of the most important in determining the whole season’s success. First, using seedling trays is necessary if the seedlings have to be transplanted. Seedling StartsThis gives the control of their environment and also proves to be easier when transplanting. It is also important to know how many seeds per cell are needed as the germination rate may be high or low and compensation is needed for the differences in crops. A great company where TC3 Farm buys its seeds is called High Mowing Seeds.

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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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Crop Rotation Planning at the TC3 Farm

This post by Logan about crop rotation planning at the TC3 Farm is the second in our Spring 2016 Sustainable Farming and Food Systems student series. You can find the first post here: http://tc3farm.com/index.php/2016/04/11/tc3-farm-starting-ginger-tumeric-and-seedlings-student-post/ – Taylor

The class at the TC3 farm finally came together and started planning where the crops are going this season. Sitting around the class, students started brainstorming on the whiteboard talking out what crop rotation worked best. With some diverse experience, a lot of advice and tips from Todd, there is pretty good start to this season’s crop rotation. The rotation of crops is important to the survival of the plants and there is a lot to be taken into consideration when planning for the season. Pest and disease pressure, nutrient needs and crop families play a key role in the rotation.

crop rotation planning
Working out the crop rotation plan for the TC3 Farm

Keeping in mind the previous year’s crop rotation, the plants are moved from where they were planted last season. This helps the insect and disease pressure by moving the food source, or plants, away from where these pests may have over-wintered in the soil. When the insect pests come up this year the plants they may have been feeding on will be far enough away to help mitigate an early season loss. This rotation will also facilitate the plants nutrient requirements. Some plants require a lot of one nutrient. Using tomatoes as an example they require a large amount of nitrogen from the soil. It takes time for those nutrients to return making it unhealthy for the plants to go back in the same bed. Rotating in a plant, like beans or peas, can fix the low nitrogen in the soil for the following crop.

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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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Radical Mycology and Mushroom Production on the TC3 Farm

Radical Mycology on the TC3 Farm and Upcoming Free Webinar
We have a lot of students that are interested in Mycology. In fact, you can see two capstone projects that our young mushroom lovers did at: http://tc3farm.com/index.php/2016/03/08/growing-gourmet-mushrooms-indoors-using-arduino/ and http://tc3farm.com/index.php/2016/02/05/sustainable-indoor-mushroom-cultivation-capstone/. Because of this interest, and because of the central role of fungi in soil health, plant health, and agroecology, we necessarily incorporate Mycology into our curriculum in a number of different places. The TC3 Farm is also ramping up its Shiitake log production this spring, and we will be doing a Shiitake production workshop on the Farm in a couple of months (stay tuned!). In fact, we see Mycology as central to everything we do on the farm.
 
Radical MycologyThe importance of Mycology within the food system goes beyond the potential role that mushrooms can play as a specialty cash crop in providing a healthy and delicious delicacy to restaurants and other customers. Mycology also has the potential to address some of the biggest and most pressing problems faced by the food system and the planet. This is where the idea of Radical Mycology comes in. According to it’s founders, “Radical Mycology is a grassroots movement and social philosophy based on accessibly teaching the importance of working with mushrooms and other fungi for personal, societal, and ecological resilience”. If you are interested in learning more about Radical Myclology, you can visit the website, or you can participate in a free upcoming webinar on fungal ecology and mushroom cultivation from the founder and author of the book Radical Mycology. Click “Read More” to learn more, including how to register.

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