The first sowings

by Doug Muller

Today brought more gray and rainy weather, but inside the hoophouse all was bright as I made the first round of sowings for early, cool-weather-loving green vegetables. (It really was bright in there; somehow the plastic covering amplifies the bright gray of the sky and casts a pleasant, diffuse glow on everything.) Now is the time to sow seeds for such crops as early cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, lettuce, and many of the heartier herbs. Nearly all of these crops can be sown directly in the garden in mid- to late-April, but by starting them now you ensure an early start to your fresh-from-the-garden eating. (Many of the seeds sown now will bear harvestable leaves by late May, whereas late April sowings won't provide edible plants until mid-June or so.)

031 The soil block maker in action.

I've gotten in the habit of sowing in soil blocks. I like that they allow me to avoid the plastic cell trays that many growers use, but they do have their down sides, namely that they dry out quickly and that they take some time to make (though this is offset by the fact that--when pressed--they automatically create little indentations to drop the seeds into). Soil blocks require a starting mix that is more heavily proportioned to peat moss in order to hold together well. I'm told that some ready-made potting soils work as blocking mix, too, but I haven't tried any yet. On a larger scale, it's much more cost effective to throw together your own mix in a barrel.

I took a few shots of some of our winter garden survivors. I even discovered a bunch of lettuces that made it through the winter, including a few that are basically tiny seedlings. I can taste the first salads of spring--relief from the winter diet of shipped-in quick-to-yellow vegetables! More on early sowings tomorrow.

Mache, or Corn Salad--probably the heartiest of all greens. Mache, or Corn Salad--probably the heartiest of all greens.

Onion seedlings emerging. Onion seedlings emerging.