Monthly Archives: October 2010

>Salad days


My salad days,
When I was green in judgment…

I’ve heard second hand that local growers believe direct-seeding salad in September is foolish. In my defence, I just try stuff that Eliot Coleman tries, adjusting somewhat to the fact that Maine is ~5 degrees latitude south of ours. I try to get local opinions when I can but usually I can’t. But sometimes ignorance can be bliss.

Such bliss comes in the form of my low-tunnel salad green experiment which is vastly exceeding my limited expectations although partly because of luck. Pauline and I prepared the bed on a very busy Saturday afternoon in September, the 11th. We worked a little overtime that day because the forecast called for rain starting that evening which would be good for germination and bad for any subsequent attempt at seeding. The rain came and, after a couple days of soggyness, I put the hoops out and covered it with poly, which harnessed the limited sunlight to create extra warmth.

The first picture was taken on October 10th, a month after seeding; the second, on the 27th. Despite record September rains and typical rainy October weather, there’s apparently been enough light to create a bit of a problem; too much growth. My plan was to harvest about 1200 heads of romaine sometime in February. But the seeder obviously dropped way more seed than one every 4″. There are so many plants that they now threaten to start rotting since there’s virtually no air flow between plants.

Solution: thin the plants to 4″ apart (for now, later I see it will have to be more like 8″ or 12″). I pull out the plants I don’t want to keep, then cut off their roots, keeping just the succulent leaves. Then I call it salad mix and sell it to people and the health food store for $9/lb.

This post was meant to go out at least a week ago so here’s an update. The thinning is pretty much complete which is good because Natureworks is having a hard time selling it. People at this time seem to be more interested in braising mixes and head-lettuce. With the constant daily loss of light, I doubt we will be able to harvest heads from these beds this calendar year but it could be a little earlier than my initial guess of late February.

We have another double bed with a low tunnel into which we transplanted all the lettuce and brassica plant starts that got too big to sell in the fall. They look great – and big – so I’m thinking we might start taking those off any time now.


Things are supposed to be winding down this time of year but we at Chorus Frog Farm are going bananas. First, since our ‘thing’ is the winter harvest, we have almost as much produce now to sell as we did in the middle of summer; which isn’t all that much, granted. Still, our Tuesdays, in particular, are very busy.

Second, the tenants renting the property on which our farm sits, are probably going to be staying in the house for longer than they thought. Trying to make the best of it, they are making some aesthetic and functional improvements to the property and house that they hope will make living there more enjoyable. Because we are now embarking on the greenhouse project on the west side of the property, we all realized that there’s no point in us continuing efforts on the south plot that currently only has some salad heads and the garlic so, after harvest, the land will revert to something other than row crops and the tenants will regain their uninterrupted southerly vista.

The tractor shack, however, is on the east side of the property. Once the greenhouse is built, not only will the tractor shack be even further away on average but it’s not getting any prettier or studier. Hopefully this week I’ll be able to construct one of those sketchy garages-in-a-box to house the tractor and other farm stuff in a location much closer to where it will be needed.

Third, we need to extend fence lines to incorporate the greenhouse. And while we were thinking about how to do that, we thought; why not use just a little more fence to enclose an area big enough to enable a small chicken operation? There’s a shady 40′ X 120′ swath of grass in the northwest corner of the property that 25-50 birds would love to scratch in. Mary and Blair are both vets and animal lovers and have even offered to do some of the work (just letting the chickens in and out of the coop would be an amazing bonus to us). Then, we can offer eggs on the stand which would be a huge bonus to our clients.

Speaking of marketing, Pauline suggested we set up a table at February’s Seedy Saturday (that would get her off the hook for organizing it, as she did last year). When I said I doubted we’d have very much produce to sell, it got me thinking about selling CSA memberships. And that led to a whole torrent of ideas that morning which I will write about in the weeks ahead. Nevertheless, the ideas will take some effort to plan and fulfil although they’re good winter activities.

Fifth, Pauline’s working at the SSI Conservancy 20 hours per week for the winter. Plus she volunteers at the Salt Spring Seed Sanctuary. And does contract work for a real estate agent. Her marketing work for Foxglove Farm will end soon.

I am the recently-appointed treasurer for the Centre School PAC and that has proven to be more work than I thought it would be. Now that I’ve got the system mostly figured out, the ongoing commitment should be reasonable. Famous last words.

And, finally, an update on the plowing for the greenhouse. The weather was sunny on the day of and the day after plowing but the soil was quite wet, too wet for safe plowing and for the health of the soil. Ron got stuck for a moment in one section. Two days later he was back to check it out but realized it hadn’t dried out enough(hard to do when it’s 90% humidity). So, last Thursday at 2pm with the 7-day forecast nothing but some form of precipitation, I started making calls for someone with a 4X4 tractor (which I though Ron had, whoops).

Seeing little chance of someone coming immediately, I got out the BCS with rototiller and started going at it. What a work out. The plowing had left furrows up to 18″ deep that the BCS wanted to get sucked in to. Mostly, the rototiller-half kept the unit floating on top but it was still a major wrestling operation to get through the muck, especially after it had packed 75lbs of soil and stones between the tines and the housing. In any case, it did a very reasonable job and, in about an hour, most of the area was reasonably flat with little grass showing. I then rolled out a 24’X120′ piece of poly in the middle of the tilled area to hopefully keep the rains from soaking the soil beneath it. If we get a few days of sun, I’ll slide it over to allow drying from above. Otherwise, it will probably stay on until the greenhouse is up.