First fall flat

I’ve started a batch of fall crop seeds. I’ll be growing these in a small greenhouse.

Flat in small greenhouse

Flat in small greenhouse.

I’ve abandoned, at least for now, the plug system I was trying out last winter. The plugs became not just expensive but also annoying. Although the plugs are said to be organic (I’m still a little skeptical), I don’t like the way they don’t decompose and integrate properly into the environment.

Instead, I’m planting in almost pure coir (I did mix in a small amount of planting soil). Coir is nice because it is slow to dry out, but it also drains well, so the seeds shouldn’t rot. I buy the coir in compressed blocks. They about triple in size when watered, which I currently do in a wheelbarrow. Then I transfer to buckets. One block creates about three buckets of ready-to-use coir.

Decompressing coir in wheelbarrow

Decompressing coir in wheelbarrow.

I’m planting in reusable two-inch containers.At that size, the kind of flat I’m using allows sixty-four containers, eight rows of eight. This is a good size for me as a small-scale gardener.

Also, because of my small scale, I can be liberal with seeds. So, since some of the seeds are old, I’ve planted quite densely. I can thin later, and many of the thinnings should be good in salads or sandwiches.

Left to right, what I am planting:

  • Babyleaf lettuce
    I had an amazing crop of Summer Crisp lettuce that was all eaten by a neighbor’s chickens. I think the babyleaf might be better suited to fall planting. It should be harvestable quickly as micro greens.
  • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
    My fenugreek seed is from Richter’s. This seed is a couple of years old, so we’ll see. Fenugreek has long been used in South Asian cooking and is popular in Europe as a folk medicine. It has a sweet smell and taste.
  • Shiso Britton (Perilla frutescens)
    I’m not sure Shiso will work as a fall planting, but I had a beautiful specimen that I lost over our Labor Day heat wave, when we had temporatures north of 105 and almost zero humidity. I should have moved it to what I call the Plant Hospital, which is a shady area that is damper than the rest of the garden. The shiso is from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Shiso is used in cooking in Japan (and in Korea, where it is called deulkkae, and elsewhere), but it’s also wonderfully ornamental, resembling coleus.
  • Komatsuna (Brassica rapa var. perviridis)
    Komatsuna is in the brassica family, most of which does well in our area as fall crops. Also known as Spinach Mustard, komatsuna is probably most closely related to turnips. My seeds are from Kitazawa Seed Co. According to Kitazawa, komatsuna “can be harvested at any stage and prepared like spinach in the early stages and more like cabbage as they mature. The flavor grows stronger and hotter the longer the leaves mature.”
  • Wan Shen (Brassica oleracea)
    Wan Shen is another brassica, also from Kitazawa. It’s also called Chinese Kaler or Chinese Broccoli, it is very popular in Chinese cooking. It’s good in stir-fries.
  • Ishikora Improved Bunching Onion (Alium fistulosum)
    A white-skinned onion up to two feet tall. Another seed from Kitizawa, which suggests using in soups, salads, and stir-fries.
  • Chinese Pak Choi (Brassica rapa Chinensis group)
    Pak Choi, or Bok Choi, is a kind of cabbage. I like the little ones best. Seed from Kitizawa.
  • Gai Choi (Brassica juncea)
    Also known as Chinese Mustard. Good as baby greens. If this does well I might try pickling some.

Stay tuned.