Preparing for Spring - Pam Dawling

by: EJ on 03/16/2015

Apologies to our readers in Eastern Canada and US.  The CBC radio tells me you are hunkering down under 40 cm of snow!  Cosy up to the woodstove and crack open some gardening books to dream of spring.  Or place your order today for 35% off New Society gardening books and they will arrive with enough time to read them before the snow melts.  Today's gardening blog is by Pam Dawling, author of Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres.  Pam is a contributing editor with Growing for Market magazine. An avid vegetable grower, she has been farming as a member of Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia for over 20 years, where she helps grow food for around 100 people on three and a half acres, and provides training in sustainable vegetable production.  Read on to find out how Pam manages to have thawed soil in February.

Lettuce seedlings 2

In mid-January I made our first sowings in the greenhouse. I switched on the germinator cabinet made from a broken fridge, and the old incandescent bulb came back to life. (Before I run out of incandescent bulbs, I’ll have to make a germination cabinet with a different form of heating. But I’m shelving that problem for now.) I sowed some early cabbage, the first lettuce, some scallions and some Red Marble mini-onions. When the cabbage emerged, I cleared some space for the flat in the greenhouse near the window. Ah! Signs of spring! Even if I did manufacture them, so to speak…

Seed flats in greenhouse early spring

We screen compost in September to fill the cinder-block beds in the greenhouse. Then we pop lettuce transplants at 10″ spacing into the beds. Those lettuces give us salad in February. As we need space in the greenhouse, we pull the lettuce. This system works well in providing us with a large quantity of mellow screened compost for seed flats, indoors and not frozen. The soil organisms have had time to colonize the compost, so it is full of life.

Since then, we have spread compost on the future spinach, turnips, beets and the first couple of carrot beds. We got all ready to till those beds, then we had snow and ice for the next month! But, undeterred, we carried on with our scheduled greenhouse sowings. As I write this, all the lettuce has been harvested and the entire greenhouse is bursting at the gills with flats of spinach, cabbage, broccoli, senposai, lettuce, more lettuce, more cabbage and a tiny flat of celery.

Lettuce bed young

While writing an article for Growing for Market magazine I came across the website on Vegetable Transplant Production from the University of Florida Vegetable Horticulture Program. It has a collection of great articles developed by Charles Vavrina in the late nineties. Plants still grow the same way! Check out the site for lots of useful tips about growing and using transplants. This is a good time of year to make plans to do something in a different way, to avoid repeating last year’s less successful episodes!



Buy Sustainable Market Farming for 35% Off Until March 22nd.
Enter coupon code GARDEN at the checkout on our website.







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