The challenges and contentment of gardening big

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By Broccoli Billy

The fall season of 2008 proved to be my best season yet for vegetable production and sale. With even more land available I decided to expand to find out what my maximum ability, within reason, could do. The only machinery I use is a rototiller and the rest is accomplished with hand tools.

The 2008 season had twelve 100 foot rows of garden with full irrigation. This spring I am at present with eighteen 100 foot rows and am looking at 400 feet more to add. I have spent five straight days planting by hand 750 transplants and hundreds of direct seeds with about 300-400 transplants to go. I must say I do have my hands full. I am spraying and fertigating the initial plantings, thus losing time for further planting.

The greenhouse that I didn’t have last year is now demanding more of my time as I have to have it completely committed to production. What used to be relatively simple, now demands written schedules of planting and care. What is happening is that I am testing my skills at a level that I have never done before. I have never grown romaine lettuce before as it is much more difficult than leaf lettuce. My present success rate might approach 75 percent, which I feel is quite poor. Through research and experimentation this spring season I hope to do much better.

When planting a large garden one must expect a natural death rate not only in seeds but transplants as well. This situation leads to blank spots in the rows and less than maximum production. I grow more transplants than I need to compensate for this situation - supplements. Again, I lose planting time filling in the blank spots in rows that were planted two weeks ago.

My brain is telling me to keep planting while my back is telling me to stop! There is a silver lining to all of this. The new rows I plant are mostly varieties that I planted two to three weeks ago, thus giving me “successive planting.” Many varieties mature before the growing season ends, thus allowing me an extended harvest period! I am sure my rototiller will soon run out of gas and so will I.

To add diversion to distraction, there is a cotton tail rabbit going into my greenhouse. I am waiting to see if it can jump up onto the raised beds. A shotgun doesn’t apply here as I would shoot more plants than rabbit. Next thing I find out is my neighbor is bringing me six baby chicks to take care of. I guess I have to build a small above ground chicken coop as of my last instructions.

No matter what, I am still going to keep planting. I have this all figured out! By the time I am done with all this, it will be time to sell at the road side stand. Then soon it will be seed starting time for our cool season crops. If I really have a good sense of timing I will have chicken with my broccoli!

Enjoy your pak choi,

Broccoli Billy