Category Archives: Planting

Summertime Seedlings

We have cleared out our winter crops and we are into our mid summer plantings of tender greens and herbs.

Crops that we grow in the winter and spring like kale, collards and broccoli taste more bitter and sulfurous in the summer heat because they are defending against insects and disease and also using those compounds to deal with the stresses of heat and sunlight. Instead of trying to get a harvest from summer-stressed crops, we plant them in late summer so the crops can get close to mature by the time it starts freezing. This timing is crucial to having fresh greens to harvest in Idaho from November to March.

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In the summer, we plant many successions of  dill, cilantro, mustards, cress, arugula and lettuces to produce a consistent fresh supply to our customers. This means 2 to 3 plantings per month from May to September. The size of the bed planted varies with the hours of sunlight in the day. The longer the day the smaller and more frequently we plant beds of a certain crop.

We have around four different beds of each variety of herb and lettuce in any given week. One bed has fresh seedlings, one bed is being harvested, one bed is starting to flower and finished with harvesting and one bed is being turned over and prepared for planting again -a bed for each stage of life.

If we aren’t planting a certain crop one week, we will be planting it within the next two weeks.

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Here’s the succession of a bed, for example:

We start with an overgrown bed of lettuce for example. It is just starting to flower, there are many weeds growing, the bed is knee high with green leafed plants, and it all gets chopped up and tilled into the soil to feed the microbes.

After tilling we do a rough leveling of the soil and then water it for a few days to germinate weeds and digest all the plant matter. When the weeds have sprouted, we hoop hoe the bed to incorporate the new weed seedlings then we level it again, mark the lines and plant the seeds. The bed is wet enough to germinate after 3 days of watering (both intentional seeds and weeds). Then the race to harvest begins.

We are doing lots of seeding, watching seedlings, pulling weeds and harvesting greens all summer long. Summertime blue skies and hot days here in the hills around the Treasure Valley sure make these greenhouse grow greens and herbs fast!

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Coming soon: Leafy Greens!

Last week I was driving truck for Idaho’s Bounty Co-op picking up lots of potatoes,  onions, squash and meat from farms around the Magic Valley like M&M Heath Farms, Kings Crown Organics and bringing it to the Treasure Valley to sell. Purple Sage Farms produce is also distributed by this online co-op and available for anyone to buy at www.idahosbounty.org.

This week on our farm we are harvesting lots of sweet spinach that survived a bitter cold winter.  The cold wind is blowing outside but on a sunny day in the greenhouse hoeing and harvesting make it feel like spring already.

This spinach was planted in Sept. 2012. Now, in Feb., it is really starting to produce!

This spinach was planted in Sept. 2012. Now, in Feb., it is really starting to produce.

For the past couple years we have been changing a lot of plastic on our hoop-houses. That’s because a lot of them were put on around the same time 6 to 8 years ago and have now reached the end of their lifespan. When the wind gusts get up to 45 mph you can barely hear another person talking inside one of the houses because the the frame flexes and the plastic whips in the wind. Then it tears open. The house that lost plastic last weekend was the oldest out of the 12 houses and I had been expecting it to go in a storm since last summer. Hopefully we won’t have plastic trouble for a few more years after we repair this one.

In mid Feb. a windy night tore the plastic off the house full of curly kale that lived through the winter.

In mid Feb. a windy night tore the plastic off the house full of curly kale that lived through the winter.

We planted our first round of seeds for mustard greens and lettuce in the hoop-houses this past week.  These crops germinate in 3 to 5 days and begin senescence, start to flower and mature, within 4 to 6 weeks depending on the season. If we get a lot of sun in the next few weeks I think we will have our first harvest in mid-March.

These seeds were planted 3 days ago and after 3 sunny days they are eager to get the season started.

These seeds were planted 3 sunny days ago, they are eager to get the season started.

Dill, Cilantro, Pea shoots, lettuce mix, watercress, are all planted in the hoop-houses now but grow a little slower than the mustard greens. All winter I have been missing our wide variety of greens like tender tatsoi, mizuna or miner’s lettuce. Come March and April, we will get those greens back on our plates. I can’t wait!

Michael Sommer