We spent Wednesday transplanting tomatoes.  Here comes the big number: 3,696 tomato plants got put into the ground.  That represents 28 different varieties of tomatoes.  A mix of big red slicers, roma tomatoes, small colorful ‘salad’ tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.  We also planted a couple thousand pepper plants.  The job was going to be continued today with the rest of the peppers, all of the eggplants, cantaloupe and watermelon, but the weather forecast is not in our favor.  Instead of going out into the fields with more plants, we are going out with fabric row cover to protect the tomato and pepper plants from frost.  We knew it was going to be cold tonight, but the prediction got even colder after we were finished planting.  Such is spring in Wisconsin and particularly in our low valley, where frost loves to settle.  The tomatoes in the hoophouses continue to be happy.  They are putting on their first flowers; those flowers will turn into fruit!  We will more easily be able to frost protect them by making sure the heaters kick on to keep the air temperature at about 40 degrees.

Then there are the strawberries which are flowering.  The first flowers turn into ‘king berries’, the largest berries the plant produces.  If we lose the first flowers, we lose the biggest berries.  So we will frost irrigate the strawberries.  Frost irrigation works by preventing the plant from a sudden thaw when the sunrise brings the temperature in the valley up too quickly.  The irrigation will be set to spray the berries, but a human will have to be watching the temperature and go out to turn on the sprinklers at just the right time (some wee hour of the morning) and make sure all is working as planned.  Jesse and David will be flipping a coin for that job!

Tonni, Weng and Ching planting tomato plants that have been placed onto the plastic mulch by the people riding on the water wheel transplanter.  The plastic mulch keeps the ground warm, weed free and moist.  An irrigation hose runs under the plastic.  The straw mulch between the beds keeps the weeds suppressed.

Tonni, Weng and Ching planting tomato plants that have been placed onto the plastic mulch by the people riding on the water wheel transplanter. The plastic mulch keeps the ground warm, weed free and moist. An irrigation hose runs under the plastic. The straw mulch between the beds keeps the weeds suppressed.

Paul and Elisabeth setting the plants out, playing close attention to varieties.  The big green wheel pokes a hole through the plastic and fills the hole with water.  There is a hose inside of the wheel that sends out a continual spray of water.  The water gets channeled into the holes. The yellow tanks are full of water.

Paul and Elisabeth setting the plants out, playing close attention to varieties. The big green wheel pokes a hole through the plastic and fills the hole with water. There is a hose inside of the wheel that sends out a continual spray of water. The water gets channeled into the holes. The yellow tanks are full of water.

Jesse setting up strawberry frost irrigation.  Better to be standing in the water  now than at 3:00 am!

Jesse setting up strawberry frost irrigation. Better to be standing in the water now than at 3:00 am!

Many people involved with the final spring share harvest in the hoophouse.  The crops being harvested are scallions, fennel, lettuce heads, escarole, dandelions, salad mix and saute mix.

Many people involved with the final spring share harvest in the hoophouse. The crops being harvested are scallions, fennel, lettuce heads, escarole, dandelions, salad mix and saute mix.

Barb