We're still planting and transplanting. Last week we transplanted tomatoes; both trials and the workshop along with peppers, eggplant, melons and flowers and herbs. Over 40 thousand transplants went in last week and now they're taking root; they're much happier in the field than in the flats.
This week is the final push to get all the crops in the ground including winter squash, summer squash and pumpkins. Big week! All these crops also need to have row covers installed directly after planting so it looks like we'll be busy.
We have a full crew now; myself and ten people that love farming. You have to love farming and be dedicated to do this type of work. Many people think working on a farm consists of "riding around on a tractor" and "tending the garden whilst getting a suntan". "Riding around on a tractor" is harder than you might think. First you have to pay close attention as to the operation and upkeep of the tractor and the equipment you're using; is everything operating the way it should? Then you really have to pay attention to details and make sure the beds are straight, the plants correctly set and the majority of the weeds killed in the first pass. Weeding is primarily mechanical now so much time is spent cultivating on our assortment of specialty tractors and weed control equipment and finesse is critical.
"Tending the gardens" consists of long days working in often less than ideal conditions planting, thinning, weeding and trellising. Trellising tomatoes takes days and I mean days- many days each season. First there are 1400 steel posts to put in; then a top wire to run; all 23,000 feet of it, then there's the first pruning, the first string, the second pruning, the second string and so on through July and into August. Along with the weekly spraying of fungicides there's constant weed control, critter control and then harvesting, pulling out plants and posts, pulling plastic and seeding down the field before winter. Phew! Tomatoes are a big crop for us but there are many other crops that are at least as labor intensive as them just on a smaller scale.
Ground prep is nearly done; we have one small field left to do. What fields, or parts thereof, that don't get planted to row crops will get cover crops planted. We have ~ 35 acres to go into cover crops this year; lots of oats and red clover along with a fair amount of annual alfalfa and some buckwheat. I've also got some other crops to seed like sweet orange cane, Berseem clover and some pasture mixes I am anxious to see growing.
We rented a new field this year which looks really good. The soil is deep and rich and rock free. It should be fairly early ground as it's on a hill. It's right on my way home so I can keep an eye on it and keep watch for deer and other pests. We rented five acres but there's more available so in the future we could expend the field by up to ten acres or so. We're going to plant some winter squash over there this year so we'll see how this field performs.
We irrigated last Friday as it was getting dry in some areas of the farm, especially in the main trial field where we have many small seeded crops. As we cultivate and weed we lose valuable moisture which needs to be replaced. The crops enjoyed the shower and rain over the weekend only supplemented it.
Until next week, I'll be in the field.