Friday, August 28, 2009

The Art of Planting and Watering Fall Starts

Do not be deceived by the sturdy nature of Brassica .  As babies, they are as needy and deserving of attention as any other plant.  Today at the Indian Valley Organic Farm, we harvested, cleared, pruned, seed-saved, winnowed, and learned exactly how to plant lettuce and Brassica starts.

Above is a photo of a properly planted cauliflower start.  The reason it is a properly planted cauliflower start is this: 

- First, we pinched off all of the leaves along the stem except the top two.

- Then, we held up the baby plant to gauge its length from the bottom of the roots to the small crown (where the plant stem meets the roots) at the base of the leaves.  

- Next, we dug a hole plenty deep to lay out the root system gently, all the way to the bottom of the hole, making sure that the roots are not bunched up.  "You don't want them to have to do all that work to reconfigure themselves," Steve said.  

- Finally, (and this is the step that is "super, super, super," important, according to Steve) we filled in the hole and look to see that "the crown is on the ground".

As we planted we kept in mind the harrowing sight of a poor young broccoli Steve pointed out to us.  It had been planted just a few days earlier with too much stem exposed,  and it was weak and wilted.  We were careful to tuck that soil way up around the collar of the small plants.

Now we can move on to watering in the starts.  In the photo above a classmate demonstrates the best water technique on a row of lettuce she has planted:

- Use a twist in the hose to control water pressure, and make sure that water pressure is not too strong to displace soil or harm the start.

- Water in a small circle around each start until the ground is well-soaked.

Those of us who grew up in the Bay Area know that fall comes with a breath of hot air, just when its time to go back to in now.  When the days are still extremely warm, it is best to plant Brassica in the evening.  If you cannot plant in the evening, you must make sure to water immediately after putting the starts in the ground.

Babies are babies are babies, and they are tender and delicate and deserving of our most refined attention, no matter the species.  If you care for the young with heartfelt attention in the early days, they will grow sturdy and live bountiful evidenced by the produce stand at IVOF.

Bethallyn Black, Indian Valley Organic Farm Site Manager 

More action shots from the day...

Today we're collecting "Indian Valley Red" Lettuce seeds

Using the wind to winnow


And sifting

And looking forward to this.

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