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    in Ten Easy Years

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 • Aloe - a magical plant
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 • Dried Culinary Herbs
 • Maple Syrup
 • Maple Syrup, p.2
 • Sugarin' Is Like Ice Fishin'
 • Our New Sugarhouse
 • Tomato Seedlings
 • Tomato Seeds We Offer
 • Tomato Seed Production
 • Paste Tomatoes
 • About Garlic
 • Garlic for Sale
 • Garlic Year Round
 • Mulching Garlic
 • Growing Rounds from Bulbils
 • Whole Bulbil Cluster Method
 • Planting Garlic

 • Using Mulches
 • Combatting Quackgrass
    with Mulch

 • We Want Your Leaves!
 • In Praise of Chips

 • Buying in Bulk for
    Storage, Canning & Freezing

 • Winter Storage Tips
 • How to Freeze Our Veggies
 • Building Techniques
 • Our Outbuildings
 • Evolution of the Farm Table
 • The Story of Our Cooler
 • Prepping Veggies for Market
 • Crop Rotations
 • Drip Irrigation
 • Low Pressure Water
 • Planting with Spreadsheets
 • Greenhouse Vegetable

 • Let-tuce Begin
 • Recipe Favorites
 • Our "Remay Roller"
 • Gardening Class Notes
 • Your Most Expensive Crop

 • Being Green
 • Digging Potatoes by Hand
 • Farmers' Markets in 2012
 • History of Pittsfield
 • Hybrids or Open Pollinated?
 • Making Websites
 • Open Source Software

    Our Retirement Plan
 • How Should a Farmer Retire?
 • Impediments to the want-to-be     farmer
 • Reducing the Value
    of the Land

 • Who Will Farm Here When
    We're Gone?

 • Apprentice Terms and Stages
 • From Apprentices to Partners
 • Transferring Farm Ownership

…and now for something completely different…

At dawn
Canoe bow waves are quickly lost
    on the shoreside
But go on out of sight
    on the lake side.


The constant swish-swish of skis
    On a day long ski.
The constant swish-swish of wiper blades
    On a day long drive.


My dog, trotting barefoot
Steps on a garden slug
And thinks
Nothing of it.


Word spreads quickly
as I approach the pond.
All becomes quiet.


Hidden in the vines
a large warted cucumber
jumps out of reach.
A toad!


Delicate puffs
of marshmallow snow
carefully perched
on a branch,
await the trigger of my hat
to melt their way down my back.

Deep in the tomato jungle
Fruits of yellow, purple and red
Tell of their readiness
To go to market.

Sugarin' Chores
Snowflakes hurry through my flashlight beam,
As my boots knead new snow with spring mud,
On my nightly Hajj to keep the boil alive,
For as long as possible until the dawn,
To match the power of the flowing sap,
With my meager evaporator and will.
The prize at the finish line are jars of syrup
And Spring.


Planting Planner
by Tom Roberts, November 2009

Either a spreadsheet or database can be used to help with the hundreds of annual planting calculations required on the small farm. I find using spreadsheets more straightforward, but much of the spreadsheet data can be converted to database format fairly easily if needed. Below is a description of the system we developed in early 2009 after years of false starts.

[Snakeroot Organic Farm]
on the Snakeroot Road in Pittsfield, Maine
27 Organic Farm Road, Pittsfield ME 04967
ph (207) 487-5056
Gardeners to the public since 1995.

Click on spreadsheets to enlarge

The basic purposes of using a spreadsheet to do our planting calculations is twofold. One of course is to do all the repetitive math quickly and accurately. The other is to avoid having to re-enter the same vegetable and field data over and over again. We have designed a system of spreadsheets that does both.

Our system uses two categories of spreadsheets, one Master Data Spreadsheet and many Planting Spreadsheets, one for each planting. Of course several plantings can occupy separate sections of a single Planting Spreadsheet so that all of the succession cucumber plantings are together, for example, as in the sheet on the right.

This is the Planting Sheet we used for our cucumber plantings in 2009. It is full of internal formulas and references to a Master Data Sheet. It is color coded to indicate various aspects of the sheet. The yellow cells are the only areas where the user is to enter data. Everything else is either column headings or calculations. The cells that are grey with yellow borders are calculated cell which can be changed by the user to other values, which overwrites the calculated values. This is for those instances when we wish to do things, for whatever reason, differently that we usually do for this one planting. Such changes affect this planting sheet only; the Master Data Sheet remains unchanged.

The first thing we created was a Master Data Spreadsheet (at right) which includes all of our basic farming data. One section of the Master Data sheet lists our field names, along with the number of beds for each field and the length of each field. In this section we also included our greenhouses. Another section lists all of the transplantable veggies we grow, the number of weeks each needs to grow before planting out, the number of rows planted on a bed, the in-row plant spacing, and the cell size used for the transplants. Everything on the Master Data Spreadsheet can be changed at any time, but any changes will affect all of the individual Planting Spreadsheets.

A very important thing to note is the need to normalize your naming system for both the fields and veggies, so that they are always referred to in exactly the same way. This is key to allowing the whole system to work. So decide on "cukes" or "cucumbers", "WSq" or "Winter Squash", "Upper Garden B" or "UG-B" and so on. We generally opt for the shortest unambiguous names, the ones we already use in our notes anyway.

Now for a detailed explanation of a planting sheet and how it works. Remember, we are only entering info in the yellow cells. The title of this sheet, Early Cukes '09 is anything we want to call it. Nothing is done with this cell, it's only a description for us to easly identify the sheet. Just above that is cuke which gets looked up in the Master Data Sheet, and 18-May-09 which is when we want to plant this crop in the garden. Next to that is the "start date" which is calculated as being three weeks before the stated planting date. Next to that we include the "grow weeks" pulled from the Master Data Sheet as a double check. Below that is UG-A (Upper Garden part A) wehre we want the cukes to be planted. Once a field is entered, the Planting Sheet referrences the Master Data Sheet and enters the number of beds in that field, the length of the beds, the total bed length, and the total area of that field. Under that field info is a row of crop info, and we have decided to plant three beds of early cukes. The total bed length, etc., is then calculated for those three beds. Also, at the bottom of the sheet under "beds to go" (cell B22) is entered a "3". This gets recalculated down to a "0" as we enter the number of beds we want to plant, as it has here. When we entered cuke in the crop code, several other things were automatically filled in as well: the plant spacing (feet apart), the cell size, and the rows per bed. Also, the # 38 Trays is changed to reflect the actual size of the trays we use for cukes.

Now comes the point where we enter the varieties and the number of beds we wish to plant of each. The Variety column can contain anything, as no calculations are done with these entries. They are automatically copied to the second Variety column next to the number of trays to be planted for easier reference. As soon as a number is entered under Beds several things happen. Vertically, it is added to the total number of Beds so far and subracted from the total number of Beds to go. Horizontally, it calculates how many row Feet we are planning to plant (based on number of beds times number of rows per bed), how many Plants that will require (based on the plant spacing), how many Trays that will require of the size we use for cukes, how many trays we should actually plant (Plant Trays = # 38 Trays rounded up) and finally how much Surplus that will mean. Since trays often won't germinate 100%, some surplus is always a good idea. Also, under Filled we get a percentage of the beds we wish to plant which are now comitted. If the Filled amount goes over 100%, the Filled changes to "Overfilled" and the cell turns red.

At this time we have three types of Planting Spreadsheets. One is for our "regular transplants", as in the above example, and is used for chard, kale, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, slicers, picklers, summer and winter squash, melons, basil, Brussels sprouts, celery, and celeriac, which we all handle pretty much the same. The second is for potatoes (new, regular, fingerling), and the third is for the onion family (leeks, onions, shallots). Each of the three types has a slightly different layout designed specifically for how we plant that crop. Since we plant the onion family in rows in starter trays, so we have come up with a ballpark figure for how m any bed feet a tray of onions or shallots will plant. For leeks, at only two rows per bed, a tray will go twice as far. you can see our potato and onion data on our Master Data Sheet.

What these spreadsheets don't do: They don't tell us how much seed to order and they don't yet handle direct-seeded crops. We found that most of our complicated arithmetic was for transplanted crops, so that is where we began.

27 Organic Farm Road, Pittsfield Maine 04967
owned and operated by
Tom Roberts & Lois Labbe
Tom: Tom@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5417
Lois: Lois@snakeroot.net (cell) 207-416-5418

Gardening for the public since 1995.

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