Spring Sowing with Pam Dawling

by: Sara on 03/10/2016

Well we were hit with a doozie of a rain and windstorm last night that has left many without power this morning...but the sun is creeping out and with no digital distractions, I imagine many may head outdoors to start getting the garden in shape...except for me, as I have power :(...so for the rest of us...check out this great blog from Pam Dawling, the author of Sustainable Market Farming, Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres and get ready to be inspired!... Don't forget our garden sale runs until March 18th, get 35% of when you order online with the discount code Garden16.

Greenhouse with seed flats

Our greenhouse with flats of seedlings. Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Spring starts in January in Virginia! On January 17 I made our first sowings in the greenhouse. I switched on our germinator cabinet (a broken fridge), and the old incandescent light-bulb came back to life. I’ve got maybe one more year before I run out of incandescent light-bulbs. Then I’ll have to get a different form of heating. I check twice a day to make sure the light-bulb is still working and the temperature in the germination chamber is still OK.

By the end of February, we have sown tomatoes and peppers for growing in our hoophouse, and spinach,
kale, collards, cabbage, lettuce, scallions, broccoli and senposai for planting outdoors. This spring we are
growing five broccoli varieties with varying days to maturity, so we can get a long season. We also do two

Calvin screening compost 9 Wren

Screening compost for greenhouse beds in September. Credit Wren Vile

broccoli sowings two weeks apart, to further extend the season. We’re growing Tendergreen (47 days from transplanting), Green Magic (57 days), Green King (65 days), Arcadia (68 days) and Diplomat (also 68 days). Green Magic and Green King are fairly new to us. The others are tried and tested here.

Our hoophouse tomatoes have already germinated, and are in a plastic tent on a seed heating mat by the greenhouse windows. We have the 48″ x 20″ size, and we extend the plastic tent and graduate the older seedlings off the mat, but still under the tent for extra protection. 

Compost in greenhouse beds Wren

Filling greenhouse beds with compost in September. Credit Wren Vile

Our system is to screen compost in September, and fill the cinder-block beds in the greenhouse. Then we plant lettuce transplants at 10″ spacing into the beds. Those lettuces are big now, and we have started harvesting them for salad mixes. We pull the lettuces when we need to scoop out the compost to fill the flats for seedlings.

This system works well time-wise –we benefit from this lettuce supply in the winter. It also works well in providing us with a large quantity of mellow screened compost for seed flats that
is indoors and not frozen. The tiny critters have had time to colonize the compost, so it is full of life.

As the seedlings grow, we spot them out into bigger flats, with about 2.5″ between plants. My

Lettuce seedlings 2

Flats of spotted out lettuce seedlings. Credit Kathryn Simmons

favorite tool for this job is a butter knife! For lettuce we use 3″ deep flats, but for most crops we use 4″ deep flats, so the roots have plenty of space. We use a dibble board to make the evenly spaced holes in the compost in the bigger flats, to move the tiny seedlings into. It’s a piece of plywood with fat dowel pegs glued into holes at the right spacing, 40 in a 12″ x 24″ flat. On the other side of the board are two small wood handles to make it easy to use.

You can see our Twin Oaks Month-by-month Garden Task List on my website, and sign up to follow my blog www.sustainablemarketfarming.com  





Receive a 35% discount on Pam Dawling's book Sustainable Market Farming as well as any other New Society gardening book when you order online with the coupon code Garden16 until March 18th! Happy planitng!


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