We've been asking this question or a variation of it quite often these past few weeks as we continue planting vegetables here at Thiessen Farms.
The answer is perhaps not as obvious as it would seem.
We seeded our first vegetables - snow peas - on the 25th of April. (We finally started picking these snow peas this past Friday). Since then we have been seeding, planting or transplanting every week. Sometimes it's just a few rows of beets, carrots, lettuce or spinach ... seeded for our CSA.
Other vegetables are a larger task. We put in about 1700 tomato plants (90+ varieties), 400 eggplant (23 kinds), 1200 squash & pumpkins (34 kinds), 200 hot peppers (23 kinds), 350 sweet peppers (only 4 varieties). All of these are seeded in the greenhouse in 4" pots and transplanted outside by hand. We measure out the rows, rototill the ground, punch planting holes with a 4" pipe, and carefully transplant each seedling from it's pot to the soil by hand. Then each plant is fertilized & watered to give it a good start.
It's a lot of work, but we do it this labour intensive way because we like the results - full rows of good, sturdy plants that produce quality vegetables. There is also a feeling of satisfaction & accomplishment that comes from handling each seed & plant and putting it into the soil with your hands.
But measuring out the rows & stretching out a string to ensure a straight line can take a lot of extra time & effort. Often this spring we seemed to be hurrying to get things planted between the rains. We found ourselves eyeballing it, estimating, and guessing, rather than measuring. Some rows ended up being straighter than others.
But of course a crooked row of vegetables grows as well as a straight row!
Where it matters is cultivating with the tractor. A straight row is a definite plus, making cultivation much easier & more effective. Crooked rows mean missed weeds & missing vegetable plants!
Here's the view from our tractor when cultivating.
The completed row (there are 9 of them, each 400' long).
Straight enough to cultivate, and in a few weeks when the squash
send out their vines, we won't even know where the row is.
Wide rows of peas are carefully measured & seeded.
But when they mature the wind blows them around
and the row ends up very crooked!
Here are 2 rows of tomatoes planted in a somewhat straight line.
Then we mulch them with hay.
Finally we stake & tie each plant to a bamboo stake.
Now they look really great - and really straight.
But as they grow and get all bushy, it won't matter anyways.
One spot where I insist on rows being almost perfect is in the CSA garden near our house & barns. We see it whenever we are outside & I don't want to see crooked, sloppy rows.
One final picture - the end of a long, tiring day.
What can I say?
Following the straight & narrow - a challenge in life ... and on the farm.