Getting the seeds in straight

June 6, 2010

As you approach Crosby from the east on Hwy 15 you can’t help but notice the precision lines drawn with corn in the huge expanse of land to your right.  The whole field is as straight as a die, quite a piece of work.

I tracked Bob Chant down and asked who was the craftsman on the corn planter.

“Burt Mattice does our seeding for us.  He sights on a tree and drives straight for it.  Then he follows a line the guide on the seeder makes. We have used that 1948 John Deere to do 480 acres of seeding so far this year.  I think it’s important that we farmers take pride in our work, and sometimes the old equipment is what you need to do the best job.”

I put up a bit of film on You Tube of Burt in action.

I hope neither Bob nor Burt gets a look at our garden before I can trim the rows up with the tiller.  This year I suggested that Roz plant the root crops in the grooves left by the disk.  They were generally running the right direction, and this saved a lot of tedious measurement and stringing of twine from stakes and such.

Our young friend Roz is a much better seeder than I.  Addicted to tools, I can’t resist using this wheel-on-a-stick arrangement my dad tried once and discarded many years ago.  It consists of a small aluminum wheel with a box attached with adjustable holes from which the seeds drop as it rotates.  Most of my planting efforts result in a dense tangle of growth in the first three feet of the row, then nothing.  To compensate I usually start another packet of something at the other end of the row and run back. Squash and melons go in the middle of the garden where there is ample space to spread because of the absence of other seed.

Surprisingly enough, when I look back at photos of gardens past, it seems as though things grow quite well with this system.  For a few years the mild winters allowed volunteer growth of tomatoes so dense that they choked the other weeds out.  For the indolent gardener the cherry tomato is definitely the weed of choice.  Who can fault lush tomatoes growing all over the place?

Anyway, Roz is keen and inexhaustible.  She carefully planted individual carrots and beets, using up an amazing amount of garden space with two packets of seeds.

The goal this year is to have orderly rows which can be cultivated well into the season with the 1979 Troy-Bilt ‘Horse’ I found near Peterborough.  It’s a smoke-belching monster, but man, can it till!  The operator’s manual for the “Horse” runs to 180 pages, including a 40-page section on how to grow a garden.  The Garden Way Corporation of Troy, New York at that time took the job seriously.  It’s hard to imagine this kind of effort put into a product for sale in a box store today.

The sweet corn in the lower garden refused to sprout this year until I followed Peter Myers’s suggestion and stomped the seeds down into the dry, fluffy soil so that capillary action could draw moisture up from below and allow the corn to germinate.  Maybe those two rains helped, as well.  The late corn is now well ahead of the early corn.

My big task this summer is mowing around 8000 new seedlings.  Jane McCann’s crew popped the pine, tamarack, white oak, shagbark hickory and yellow birch in with a mechanical planter in a single day of work.  Another contractor had sprayed herbicide last fall to prepare the rows for the seedlings.  Leeds Stewardship Coordinator Martin Streit arranged this project through the Ontario Government’s 50 Million Trees Program, one of Mr. McGuinty’s green initiatives.  The program runs for another twelve years, offering installed seedlings to landowners at very advantageous prices.

Donna O’Connor dropped by with a half-bag of white spruce and a few blight-resistant butternuts left over from another Leeds Stewardship project.  These 200 trees took me four days to plant with a shovel, though they are all growing nicely now.

I have gotten a lot better with my electric sprayer after a losing some little walnut trees to overspray mishaps last year.  Mom or Bet now drives the Ranger and I walk along beside with the wand in one hand and a plastic deflector in the other.

Saturday evening on the way in from a fishing trip I discovered the downside of a spring of landscaping and mowing with a tractor. As I approached my slip in Newboro an untidy patch of weeds lurked in my way.  Without much thought I swung the stern of the Springbok in to chew the weeds up and blow them out into the bay.  “Clunk.”  Just a little clunk, nothing like the “SMASH! SMASH! SMASH!” which comes when I whack a rock with the blade of the bush hog, but it was sufficient.  That little deadhead ripped a chunk out of my prop, so I had to haul the boat out for repairs.  I must remember in the future not to confuse an outboard motor with a bush hog.


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