First Person

Wrist-deep in the earth: Notes from the farm

My legs ached, as well they should at the end of a marathon. In this case, it was the end of the spring planting and transplanting marathon.

There are actually a number of planting marathons each year on my brother Henry’s organic vegetable farm. The first takes place in the hoop house, where Henry starts tens of thousands of seeds of some 700 varieties. The next one takes place as he transplants the cool-weather starts (broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, fennel, all the alliums, and more) out of the hoop house and into the field. Around the same time, weather permitting, he direct-seeds the early-season crops—radish, spinach, cilantro, dill, and peas—in the field.

But the big planting and transplant­ing marathon comes when, during a short window, we must get all of the high-summer, late-summer, and autumn crops into the ground. Many of the seeds go into the planter hoppers behind the tractor, but others are planted by hand, seed by seed. We hand-seeded summer squashes, winter squashes, cucumbers, watermelons, muskmelons, sweet corn, popcorn, beans, and edamame. And with the tractor, we seeded new and succession plantings of beets, carrots, radish, arugula, lettuce, choi, mizuna, mustard, and turnip greens.