Keeping the Trains Running on Time

This week I’ve been hard at work on my greenhouse schedule — a long spreadsheet that will tell me how much of what to plant when so that there will be plenty of food in the CSA shares come summertime. And none too soon: the first date on the schedule is February 29, where I see I need to be seeding leeks, onions, and shallots. We’ll see if that happens or not. A couple of varieties are backordered from the supplier, so I’ll just have to seed those whenever they arrive.

I’ve become rather fond of spreadsheets, believe it or not. I find them soothing, especially the way they take large, unruly bodies of information and sort them out into usable parcels. I’ve set up the greenhouse schedule to automatically calculate things like the number of seeds I will need (including extra to account for germination failure) and how many pots they will require. And when it comes time for transplanting, it will remind me how many beds with how many rows at what plant spacing I will need, all calculated automatically. All I have to do is enter what kind of yields I want, and the spreadsheet does the rest. Pretty slick.

I use the same template each season, so my work is limited to tweaking what exists rather than creating everything from scratch. This year, for example, I moved my brussels sprouts and fall broccoli plantings two weeks earlier, because I felt they came in too late last year, and I struck my summer broccoli from the line-up entirely. Broccoli grown in the summer is just too bitter for my taste, and I try not to make the members eat something I won’t.

I also switched up my lettuce varieties. The trick to having lettuce reliably all season — or for all but the hottest part of the season — is variety selection. Some do well seeded when it’s cool for harvesting during warmer weather, others tolerate being seeded when it’s warmer for harvesting when it’s hotter, and so on. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a whole ready-made line-up for farmers to use, and that’s what I decided to follow this year. If they’ve already done all the work, why duplicate it?

Once I’m satisfied with the schedule, I’ll review the seeds I have on hand to make sure I have everything I need, and quickly order any shortfalls or oversights. Then everything will be ready to go.