Things are beginning to pick up here at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm. We have several crops started under lights in the germination chamber (which is a room in the barn that has heat so we put all the seed starting equipment in there). We have broccoli, leeks, onions and lettuces growing at the moment.
The onions are germinating very slowly which has me a bit worried but I think the problem is the growing medium has not been getting enough moisture and has been allowed to dry out on top (these seeds are in rather deep pots so I am pretty sure there is water in the soiless mix just not where the seeds are). I noticed yesterday evening that the Copra onions are germinating fairly well as are both kinds of leeks but the rest of the onions are pretty hit and miss. But all the alliums seemed to respond to getting the soiless medium they are in very wet. I have not checked on them yet today (it is not even dawn yet). I am curious to see if they are growing better with more moisture. Or if I over did it and have started a mold problem.
The broccoli was started 4 days ago and within 48 hours had germinated. I am hoping that using the Stella Natura and planting the broccoli on a flower day will mean big heads this spring. last year we had a huge failure with the broccoli and in reading the How to use section in the Stella Natura I think I found out why. We planted the broccoli on a leaf day which means few broccoli heads and a lot of leaves, which is what we got. I did check to see when we planted the broccoli last year and sure enough it was on a leaf day. We also planted cauliflower on the same day and got spectacular (for us) cauliflower. It was the first time cauliflower actually worked for us and made beautiful heads and everything. It was a horrible seller (because the heads were not nearly as big as the chemically induced heads one sees at the grocery) so it will not be grown by us this year.
The Lettuce was started 10 days ago and is about 15 days away from being big enough to be transplanted into a hoop house. The plan was to do 200 heads of 6 kinds of lettuce, Simpson, (green leaf) Amish Deer Tongue (heirloom, green), red sails (red leaf), Marvel of Four Seasons (red bibb, heirloom), Lollo Rosa (red and green frilly lollo type, heirloom) and Cracoviensis (green and purple asparagus lettuce, ancient heirloom and one of the best tasting lettuces we have ever grown).
When we start most seeds we use tiny soil blocks. A seed or two is placed onto each mini block. When the seed germinates it is moved to a 2" soil block that has a square hole that is the same size as the mini block. Basically, I take the mini block and drop it into the hole in the larger block and I am done. Repeat the action several hundred more times. The large block is big enough to hold the seedling for 4 to 8 weeks which is about all the time that is needed before it is transplanted.
Squash is an exception, with squash we have no more than 3 weeks to get them transplanted. They grow big quickly. So starting early zucchinis can be tricky if the weather does not cooperate. This happened last year. We got squash started in March so it could go into a hoop house in early April and we got the Easter Freeze which made it way too cold for the zukes to go into a hoop house so we ended up tossing the plants into the compost, having no early zukes for the first time in about 5 years and starting over. hopefully we will be able to do early zucchini this year, that the weather Gods and Goddesses will smile upon us and allow a fabulous crop of specialty zucchini to come early to Boulder Belt and the Oxford Farmers Market and the SW Ohio Locavores.
Now that we have some crops started the next step is preparing a couple of hoop houses to receive the crops and than hardening off the seedlings and transplanting. Lettuce will be the first to go, than broccoli and than all the onions and leeks (which history tells us will take the two of us several weeks of transplanting to get everything in, unless we get some help). And of course, in that time we will be starting more seedlings in the germination chamber. Soon things will get a bit complicated, though nothing out of the ordinary.