September 28, 2012

Photo Friday

Seedlings of bulls blood beet in the foreground, and tokyo bekana in the background.
What greenhouse one looks like.  Flats of spinach, lettuce and mizuna for the growth rate project in the foreground, and newly seeded flats for the variety trials in the background.

September 27, 2012

Today I planted . . .

winter density


Mustards (B. juncea):
chirimen hakarashi
ruby streaks
scarlet frills

Pac choi family (B. rapa var. chinensis):
red violet tatsoi
pac choi green
chinese pac choi (white stems)
tatsoi savoy
fun jen

Loose head chinese cabbage (B. rapa var. pelinensis):
tokyo bekana
vitamin green

Cole crops (B. oleracea)
red russian kale
white russian kale


Beta family:
rhubarb chard
bulls blood beet


September 25, 2012

A graph a day keeps the doctor away

Only three harvests in, and already I'm seeing some interesting data!  I'm growing spinach, lettuce and mizuna for the growth rate project in two greenhouses.  In greenhouse one the heat turns on when outside temperatures fall below 50 degrees.  In greenhouse two the heat turns on at 40 degrees.  

Recently, night time temperatures have been in the forties so the heat has turned on in one greenhouse but not the other.  Consequently, the greens have grown taller and weigh more in the warmer greenhouse.  Since there are only three data points I can't really make any real conclusions until more data is collected.

September 21, 2012

First harvest of the season

Planted September 4th, just 17 days ago! 
Planted September 11th, 10 days ago. 
It feels like I just began planting for the fall season and already there are harvestable greens!  This week we had our first mizuna salad from the first planting of greens, and by next week I will be harvesting lettuce as well.  Next week is also a big week because I will be planting over 20 varieties of greens as part of the variety trial.  I am super excited to start this project!  Finally I will have some answers for all the people looking up vitamin green.

September 18, 2012

Leaf length and harvest weight - why measure both?

Today was the first day of data collection for the season and it's only been two weeks since planting!  (Two week old greens on the left, one week old greens on the right.)  Like last spring I measure ten leaf lengths per quadrant and then measure the weight of all the greens in that quadrant.  
So, why measure both?  

Leaf length indicates when greens are ready to be harvested.  With a quick glance at a tray of greens I can say 'those are big enough to harvest' or 'those are still too small to harvest.'   I've found that between 6 and 10 centimeters is about the perfect size for baby greens.  A lot of the greens I'm growing can, and will get bigger than that, but then are too big to be 'baby' sized.  

Harvest weight, which I measure in grams per square meter, is important because salad greens are priced by weight.  Right now the price of mesculun mix at farmers markets is about $12 per pound.  So, knowing how the weight of the greens increases as they grow will be important for budgeting analysis (when I get to that step!).  For example, 6 cm long greens will weight less than 10 cm long greens.  So, if you let your greens grow more you could make a larger profit.  

September 14, 2012

Comparing nutrient density in lettuce (aka Lettuce Smackdown!)

When people think of salad greens usually they think of lettuce.  Even I do, despite the fact that I have a mediocre opinion of it.  But lettuce is what people like and know - so what kind is the most nutritious?  Happily someone else has already thought that question and found the data.  No Baloney, a dietitian and nutrion scientist duo, have compared looseleaf, romaine and mesclun mix.  I know, I know - mesclun is made of more than just lettuce, which may be why they declared it the winner based on nutrient density.

For the full face-off see the article here

September 11, 2012

New season, new tools

Last year overseeding was one of my biggest problems when planting.  My goal was to have 25-30 seeds per row, but usually there were at least a few extra.  To solve this problem I now have a vacuum seeder!  There are a variety of vacuum seeders, but the one I'm using is a wand with twelve holes in it (and the vacuum part which I didn't take a picture of).

When it's on I cover the hole in the lower left corner and dip the yellow tip things into the trough of seeds.  One seed is held onto the end of each tip.  When I remove my thumb from the hole the seeds fall off in magically straight rows of 12 seeds.  I do this twice to have 24 seeds per row.

This is especially useful when seeding lettuce because the seeds are so small.   See the nice, not-so-densely seeded lettuce below?  It's just beautiful.

September 9, 2012

First seedlings of the year

After just a few days mizuna and lettuce seedlings are popping up.  
No signs of any spinach yet, but it has been sunny and warm in the greenhouses.

September 6, 2012

The fall plan for wintergreen's

This past week it sometimes feels like fall.  Partly because I choose to wear shirts with actual sleeves, but mostly because I planted the first crop of spinach, lettuce and mizuna for the fall!  In the coming months I will be doing three major projects to expand on the data I already have and to address some new questions.

First I'll be looking at growth rate of greens throughout the fall, early winter and early spring.   This will be the same as the growth rate study I did during spring 2011, but instead of looking at the growth rate of ten varieties of greens I'll only be following three. (For more on good old spinach, lettuce and mizuna see here).  I'll plant these three greens eight times in the next two months and take leaf length and harvest weight measurements throughout their lifespan.  

Next, I'm going to try using different types of media to see how they affect yield.  So far I've grown everything in super nice, but very expensive compost.  What about less expensive compost?  Or potting soil (which is what growers often have on hand)?  Or potting soil with slow release fertilizer?  Again I'll be using spinach, lettuce and mizuna and again I'll be measuring their growth rate using leaf length and harvest weight.

Last, (and most exciting!) I'm going to do a variety trial of 25 different greens that are cool weather tolerant.  Some will be greens I grew last spring like tokyo bekana, tatsoi and outrageous lettuce.  But there are going to be a lot of new varieties that I've never heard of before like tatsoi savoy, wasabina and white russian kale.  And of course vitamin green, which seems to be what most people want to know about anyway.