>One man’s junk

>P will rue this day for quite a while. She helpfully informed me this morning that a guy up the road was liquidating his tools and hardware. At first I didn’t want to go because I was motivated to get started on covering the brassicas with floating row cover. But I knew that sometimes you can get really useful things for next to nothing. So we went.

Again, it was P’s eagle eye that spotted the opened but nearly full boxes of nails and screws for $2 or $5. And then the boxes of large and really, really large bolts, washers and nuts, one box weighing 113 lbs. And then the boxes and pails of joist hangers and the like. For $60, we got so much stuff that the “farm truck” suspension was fully … suspended and P had to walk home. But before she left, she enquired about any tables for sale. Just one, it turned out. For another $5, a stainless steel table, perfect for potting. Delivery included.

Yesterday, we prepped the second half of a double bed, the first half already planted out in lettuce and brassica transplants. Then I used the handy-dandy uber-expensive Johnny’s precision seeder to seed 12 closely spaced rows of 3 kinds of radishes. The seeder is designed to dig a narrow furrow for each of the 6 hoppers. But, unless the bed is extremely clean i.e. NO gravel, sticks, root balls, it will get hung up and fail to seed. The workaround for this is to bring the furrow-digging shovels to above-ground. Doing this allows the seeder to progress smoothly over the bed and to drop the seed on the surface of the bed.

The problem then is how to keep the seed from drying out. For half of the planting, I sprinkled “Special Blend” organic potting mix on top. For the other half, I simply shovelled loose soil on top. Then I got out a garden hose and a wand sprayer and wetted the whole planting. I wetted it a few times in the following several hours since it quickly ran off the slight slope, especially at first. Towards the end of the work day, the water was soaking in nicely. I’ll be interested to see which covering works best.

After the radishes, we started setting out the bunching onions. You may recall our Day one of this venture in which we seeded a bunch of soil blocks. For bunching onions, P prefers not having individual blocks but rather one whole tray in which seed is broadcast evenly and densely. Onion seed is tiny so separating individual seeds would have been time consuming. After 4 weeks of growth, the onions were about 4 inches tall and there were probably 500 in the tray (this would have required about 15 trays had we used 2”X2” blocks).

To set them out, we first soaked the powdery dry soil with water and made sure the soil in the tray was also moist. Then we dug shallow bed-width furrows every 2 inches. We grabbed a handful of onions with their roots and soil and gently separated each onion from the others in the bunch, layed its thin roots in the furrow and pressed a bit of soil around each onion stalk to try to make it stand up. We planted each furrow to a 2 or 3” spacing so the overall area of bunching onions is still fairly compact; 30” by perhaps 10 feet.

If all goes well, we’ll harvest radishes, bunching onions and salad greens all at the same time in about 3 weeks. At that time, our next succession of salad greens plant starts should be ready for transplant into the same bed. Since we also have broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages in this bed, we’ve had to install a row cover to protect the lot from the cabbage moth, one of which P spotted yesterday and sent away with a stern rebuke.

A technique that’s all the rage in the Johnny’s world is to use 10′ lengths of electrical metal tubing (EMT) bent into a semi-circle to make a 6′ wide by 3′ high ribs. Spaced at 4′ between ribs and covered with spun bond fabric (Reemay), crops can be kept a little warmer at night and not too hot during the day plus airborne pests can be kept out (seed growers also use it to keep certain crops isolated from wind-blown pollen and pollinators in order to avoid genetic crossing). I also plan to use EMT with a polyethylene cover to keep our low-growing bed of melons, squash, peppers and basil hot in the summer and fall. For the winter harvest, I’ll use the EMT with poly for keeping salad greens growing.

Using a semi-circle of plywood as a jig, I bent 20 lengths of EMT for the brassica beds. It’s hard to shove in the ends of the EMT into soil, particularly soil that’s so stony, so I first used a thick length of rebar and a hammer to make 6″ deep pilot holes. Once the ribs were up, I dug a narrow trench 3″ deep just outside each side of the ribs. Then I spooled off 80′ of reemay along one side of the ribs and began burying one edge of it in the trench before filling with soil and compacting with foot pressure. I did about 10′ on each side before crossing over to the other side to bury that side’s edge. The ends got the same treatment.

The 6′ width of the ribs cover 2 – 30″ wide beds plus the 12″ footpath between them. One thing I forgot to do was lay down drip line on the second bed. Now I’ll either have to commandeer a small maneuverable child to run the drip line inside the tunnel or untrench the reemay on one side.

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