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Life on the Farm


You’d think I’d have a better plan for transplanting tomatoes

By Dean Mullis
Dean Mullis
Dean Mullis writes from Laughing Owl Farm in Richfield.

Weekend before last, it was finally dry enough to work the soil in our garden, so I was trying to cram five days of farm work into Saturday and Sunday.

For the last two years, I have been experimenting with strip tillage for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, and cucumbers. What that involves is taking the outer tines off our 60-inch tractor-mounted tiller and only tilling a 20-inch-wide strip into an existing cover crop of rye/crimson clover/hairy vetch.

I did it last year at work and raised the best cucumber and squash crops I have ever grown, with much less labor.

But Sunday afternoon, I did not feel like spending 45 minutes taking the outer tines off our rotary tiller and asked Jenifer how many tomato transplants we needed to get in the ground before the big storms arrived Tuesday and Wednesday that were 100 percent going to dump 1-2 inches of rain on us (we got drizzle Tuesday night and that was all).

She said one flat of 36 plants. I said I would just take the mattock and pop out 36 holes and we would stick them in the ground. She was mistaken. She had three flats of 36 plants each so that was over 100 holes. I was a ditch digger and Jenifer was having to crumble the soil with her hands before she planted the tomatoes.

That was when she mentioned that we have been transplanting tomatoes for over 20 years and the mattock method was the most “stupid and idiotic” yet. Burned me a little because it was my idea, but after huffing and puffing, I had to agree with her.

I hate it when that happens. ...

Dean Mullis writes from Laughing Owl Farm in Richfield;
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