Starting Seeds and Direct Seeding at the TC3 Farm

While the weather outside may still be brisk, Spring has emphatically arrived at the TC3 Farm. We are excited to be starting our first full growing season with greenhouse seedlings and hoophouse crop production. Our students have been keeping busy seeding and planting, and we now have production started in all of our houses. This photo essay will give you an idea of what we have been up to, and for those of you that are CSA members, a preview of what you can expect in the first few pickups this year.

Starting Seeds in the Greenhouse

The greenhouse at the TC3 Farm has 6 benches – each 12 feet x 6 feet. The benches are strung with thin rubber tubing that runs heated water under the plants, providing seeds with a little bit of warmth to get them started. Above you can see 10 flats of onion seeds sitting on one of these benches.

In the past couple of weeks Sustainable Farming and Food Systems students have helped us plant over 5500 seedlings of onions, leeks, basil, parsley, and cumin  into plug trays.

Planting Greenhouse LettuceAnother big project over the past few weeks was planting lettuce in our greenhouse. We planted 4 – 60 food beds of lettuce each a mix of different leaf forms and colors. In the picture below, you can see the 4 newly transplanted beds, along with one that was transplanted about a month ago (second bed from left), and one that was transplanted in the Fall (far left). These are dense plantings with each 60 foot x 4 foot bed hosting about 600 plants. We use mixed varieties of Salanova Lettuce. These are varieties that have been bred by Johnny’s Seeds to fall away into leaves (rather than heads) when cut. We find that by harvesting multiple varieties we can make a beautiful and tasty lettuce mix for restaurants or CSA. Coltivare has been buying winter lettuce from us for a a few months now.

Greenhouse Lettuce Transplants

Direct Seeding in Hoophouse
Using the Jang Seeder to Direct Seed in the Hoophouse

In our hoophouses we direct seeded a number of different crops including 2 beds of radish, 2 beds of hakurei turnips, 2 beds of mixed mustard greens, 1 bed of tatsoi, 2 beds of arugula, and 2 beds of mixed greens (mizuna, kale, pak choi, and asian greens). We use one of our favorite tools for this job: the Jang Seeder. The Jang allows us to select different seeding rates, and has different attachments appropriate for each seed size. Our students had fun with this task, and we now have a whole bunch of baby plants emerging. Even on cold days, our hoophouses are warm when the sun is shining, and all of these cool season crops are loving it in there.

Finally, we planted a cover crop in the unused side of our Rolling Thunder hoophouses. These are the hoophouses that we roll back and forth between two pieces of ground so that we can rest and replenish the soil between crops. We are using a forage radish called Ground Hog to try to break up some of the compaction we have in these houses and prepare them for planting in the Fall.

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