While field preparation is ongoing and one season overlaps the next with the planting of cover crops, soil tests, and so on, the season is kicked off by planting the crop. We start many of our vegetables in a greenhouse. About 6 weeks later, the small plants are planted in the main garden. The first step in the planting is preparing the soil mix for starting seeds.
There are many good start mixes you can buy, such as Jiffy Seed Start Mix. We’re starting about 3500 plants total for 2016. This will require about 85 trays of plants. Each tray uses about 1 gallon of starter mix. So we’ll need 85 gallons of mix, or about 11 cubic feet. Making our own seed start mix saves money and allows us to add special ingredients unique to our farm.
Our seed start mix is 3 parts peat moss, 1 part plain compost, 1 part native forest floor soil, plus a light sprinkling of soft rock phosphate. The forest soil is the secret ingredient. We get it beneath the large hardwood trees that grow native on the farm. Think about it – these trees have grown successfully for generations in the same conditions our garden will face. They drop leaves every year which contain the minerals the trees have taken up from deep within the soil. These leaves decompose and form a rich home for various fungi, soil microbes, worms, etc. Mixing a little of this soil into our seed start mix adds these minerals and other wonders of the soil to our garden. Over the years, our garden soil should become more like the surrounding forest – which has grown fine, withstood pests, and stayed healthy for centuries with no one intervening.
Now we’re ready to plant. Here are the first seeds just arrived for 2016. Other varieties are on the way.