Farmland, a documentary following six young farmers, premiered in North Carolina last week.Read more...
Saturday was cause for celebration as we planted our last field of tobacco. While it’s the end of our work in the greenhouses it’s just one part of a season that won’t end until October.
Valentine’s Day may mean hearts and flowers to many people but for tobacco farmers in North Carolina it means the time has come to seed greenhouses. This year we seeded three greenhouses on February 17. Before we (and by “we” I don’t mean me) could seed, the greenhouses had to be prepped.
We have 3 greenhouses where we raise the plants that will eventually be transplanted to the field. Here’s one of the greenhouses before…note the dirt floor. We lay plastic across the floor because tobacco plants are grown in trays floating in water.
Here's the greenhouse after it was filled. Sometimes we leave the hose running all night to get the beds full.
Seeding the trays
Once the greenhouses are ready it’s time to seed the trays. We raise our transplants (plants that will be replanted in the field) in styrofoam trays. These trays are used for several years, until they start to break down or crack.
We have a seeding machine so we don't have to put each seed into each cell. The trays are loaded on one end, then run under the green bin, which holds potting soil, and filled with a mix used specifically for tobacco. This isn't potting soil you buy at the local home improvement store. That's my husband with his back to the camera working with his uncle and dad. He and his dad own the farming operation.
After the trays are filled with soil they run under this piece that puts dents in the soil (that's the technical description) for the seed to go. My farmer constantly brushes this piece with a dry paintbrush to keep soil from bulding up it. That's the seed on the right. As the tray runs under the seeder, one seed is dropped in each cell. I don't know how it knows to drop in only one seed, but it does.
As you can see, the cells are not very big and the seed it TINY.
After the trays are seeded they are floated in the greenhouse. As you can see, it can be kind of tricky to keep the trays where you want them so PVC pipe comes in handy!
The plants will grow in the greenhouse over the next two months but we don’t just shut the door and come back 60 days later to happy plants. While in the greenhouse, plants will be fertilized and mowed.
Yes, I said mowed, as in cut just like you mow your lawn. This process may sound easy but it’s not. In fact, I am banned from mowing plants because of a few mishaps. Really, it could happen to anyone.
As you can see this is a complicated process so instead of one long post I think I’ll save the story about what I did to receive a lifetime greenhouse ban and why we mow plants at all. Check back next week to see the rest of this chapter from mowing to setting (planting in the field).
Any thoughts or questions – please leave them in the comments section. Thanks for checking in on our farms progress!