Tag Archives: mache

mache seeding

i’ve written about mache before, and i’m a big fan of it.  i’ve not often seen it for sale here – even in the farmers market, though in europe i’ve seen it at all the farmers markets.  it grows really well in cold weather and it is the earliest crops i plant.  i’m not really sure why it’s not more popular, it grow like a weed (which it is) and tastes great in a salad.

this past sunday we had a little bit of a warm streak, and it seemed like the perfect weather for sowing some early mache in our cold frame.  ma and i both had a great time getting a little dirty.  thanks to ma for taking photos and having a good time with me.

the beat up old cold frame

this cold frame has never really worked well for us – it was just too small, but it’s something i can play with until we build a new one.  one nice thing about this cold frame is that it’s small enough that we can just pick it up and move it, prep the soil under it, and drop it back down on top.

loosening the soil

first step was to take the cold frame up and loosen the soil using a spading fork and remove the roots from old lettuce plants.

loosening the soil with the claw tool

next step is to break up the clods with the claw tool.

raking the seed bed smooth

next step is to rake the bed nice and smooth.  this is much more important when you are using a seeder such as the 6 row seeder that we use at work, than just doing by hand, but it is nice to have it smooth so water is constant.

seeding the mache

without a hand seeder, i usually just make a very hard crease on the seed packet to make the seeds have to line up single file.  also i don’t know if you can tell in this photo but rather than tap the packet i actually tap the back of my thumb with my other hand.  that’s why my other hand is blurry.  when it’s cold like this i tend to seed a little heavy to take into account low germination.  this is small seed, so i seed them in a very shallow furrow.

tamping soil with the back of the claw

i use the back of the claw tool to tamp the soil down.  you want it pretty firm so that you have good soil contact with seeds.  but you don’t want them to be too deep.

watering the seeds

watering this time of year can be kind of tricky, if it’s gonna be really cold it means that the seeds could freeze if it gets cold, but i decided that they needed moisture and so i went ahead and watered them.  watering does of course help the seeds break dormancy, but it also helps pack the soil around the seeds.

putting the row cover on top

then we put the cold frame back on, made sure that there were no gaps between the cold frame and the soil and added the row cover and closed the cold frame and called it good.  i checked on it a week later and no sprouting yet.  but soon.


my fukuoka garden

if i had to strip my book shelf down to one gardening/farming book – and i should hope i’m never forced to do this, the one book that would remain after much pleading for one or two more selection would be masanobu fukuoka‘s one straw revolution, not just cause it’s fun to say his name or that it sounds slightly dirty.

less a book on farming than a zen meditation, i’ve read it 3 or 4 times, and still have yet to absorb many of the subtle details.  the method he employes for growing veggies is to scatter seeds in between his orchard and on the margins of his rice and barley crops. he then comes back and forages for the vegetables, when he wants to harvest something.  many crops are allowed to go to seed and these are then scattered about.   is annual vegetable production at least as currently done compatible with a natural way of farming?  certainly my study of permaculture and the like has cast a strong feeling of doubt.  it has had me relishing the odd volunteer tomato and pumpkin all the more.

while installing row cover in the high tunnel, i found myself crawling on my hands and knees, closer to the soil in the high tunnel than i had been in some time.  small weeds were somewhat prolific, and then taking a closer look they didn’t look so much like weeds i was accustomed to seeing in the high tunnel.



looking closer i realized that the tiny weeds i was seeing all over the place was this plant.



good old mache; among the hardiest of the winter greens to grow and sprout, able to withstand weeks on end of below freezing weather, and still deliver a sweet, tender, tasty, highly prized salad green.  ironically enough i was just lamenting the fact that i had failed to get winter greens planted in time to sprout and deliver a good crop this winter.

i had let mache go to seed in the summer with the intent of harvesting the seed, but by the time we got around to saving seed the seed pods were shattering.  when we went to harvest it the seed scattered everywhere.  i’d forgotten about this, but it seems my forgetfulness and my tardiness in harvesting seeds is in my favor.  now i have a nice crop of mache seeded, and well established, without even trying.  i think fukuoka would be pleased.

the winter garden


the winter garden

ma has been busy preparing the winter garden for the last couple of weeks.  Under straw mulch 7 different varieties of garlic have been planted.  in a cold frame winter hardy greens such as mache have been planted. we have plenty of kale that should keep us in greens for another month and a half or so, then I usually lightly drape row cover over it for the harshest part of winter.  come next spring it puts on brand new spring growth.  This kale in the early spring is some of my favorite, sweet, tender and very much needed after a long winter.  it doesn’t last long though, pretty soon it starts to set seed after which the taste begins to decline.

new for this year is the use of quick hoops.  in august ma planted onions and leeks, which are looking pretty good.  They are planted in two 30 inch wide beds with a 12 inch wide walk way between.  then 10 foot lengths of electrical conduit are pushed into the ground, making a hoop that covers both beds.  then row cover is attached over the top.  as the weather gets worse we will cover the whole thing in plastic for the winter, and then reverse the process when it warms up.  if everything goes right, and we will have the first onions and leeks in the motor city.

the idea of the quick hoops is pretty new to me.  i’d seen low tunnels of this sort, and had used some, but is by far the simplest and cheapest way i’ve seen.  this all comes from eliot coleman and his great books “the winter harvest handbook” i got it last spring when it came out, and then he came to the farm to give a presentation.  he made everything seem so simple that we couldn’t help but try.  i’m installing some quick hoops at work this week, but i’m a little concerned about how rocky the soil is, making installation a chore.