Market gardening - Do I need more light???

by Sherri

Topic: market gardening, seed starting

I am in the process of starting my seeds and they are currently in a poly greenhouse. The greenhouse is on a deck with straw on the floor and around the perimeter for extra warmth and it receives full sun from early morning to about 3pm (SE facing)

I am worried (first time with seeds) how I am going to tell if the seeds are healthy? Could you recommend a website or picture guide for different veg and what each "healthy" seedling looks like? I don't want to waste this precious time looking after sick seedlings that won't produce in the long run.

PS. Love the books. I just got your Pigs on Pasture book and loved the concise information.

Our 6 berkshire weaners will be here in 6 weeks and our 100 chicks next week. We are toying with the idea of 2 or 3 drop dairy bull calves for meat but lack the confidence to make that decision. You know the fear of "what if we can't sell the meat????" (Hey, wheres the grass fed beef book, alright I will be patient) I look forward to each of your web entries and will be following the microfarm project all year.

Thanks for all the great info in such neat little packages, farming books these days seem to mainly focus on the large farm with a lot of animals and it is nice how you focus on only what pertains to those of us who have smaller farms.

I would love your opinion on the beef calve idea?

Answer: Good questions, Sherri. When I'm using artificial light to start my seedlings, I put them on a timer for 16 hours on and 8 off. I alternate banks of lights to keep the heat level down in my plant starting room i.e. some lights are on 4am to 8pm, and some from 4pm to 8am. I use this schedule for my earliest seedlings, when light levels in the greenhouse are low i.e. less than 10 hours daylight.

If your plants are not getting enough light, they will be tall and 'leggy' rather than broader and sturdy. i would suggest that 10 hours is about the minimum for natural sunshine, for sturdy plants.

The nature of growth is dependent on temperature too. Plants will grow sturdy in a cool greenhouse, even if light is sub-optimal. They will grow a little slower but healthier. If you think light might be an issue, try keeping daytime temperature around 65f, and nighttime around 60f if you can.

One of my favorite books for plant growing and health information is The Complete Vegetable and Herb Gardener; there's a review of the book here

re raising dairy calves, it's a great idea to get wonderful grass-fed beef cheap. We used to raise a couple Jersey steers each year; we would get them cheap from a neighbouring farmer.

The calves did really well on milk from our goats; we would keep them 2 summers, and 'beef' them the second fall. Jersey beef is delicious; the cuts are smaller than a beef animal, but it is lean and tasty. You can also raise them on milk replacer from the feed store.

Be aware that Jersey steers can sometimes get a little aggressive as they get older. Handle with caution.

Thanks for the great questions,


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