The rice seedlings have been growing steadily in their confined tanks. They are getting more hungry for real soil nutrients and yellowing a bit. We counter this with a weekly dose of fish fertilizer (3 tablespoons to 1 gallon of water). The mixture is introduced directly into the water of the tanks where it disperses.
We are getting a bit of a weed load in the plug and seedling trays because we are using a combination of sterile seed starting mix and our own finished compost, which always produces some very familiar weeds. The trays must be kept weeded so the rice seedlings have no competition. We want the seedlings to be as large as possible. This year we are expecially concentrating on producing well-rooted transplants.
Transplanting into the paddies
The plan is to plant out the first week in June. The paddies have been prepared with tilling-in of the stubble from last year's crop. The next tilling will include chicken manure pellets to be turned directly into the soil.
We are already concerned about having adequate water this summer. The small pond, dedicated to flooding the rice paddies (and always adequate to the task in past years), is already down a foot (30 cm.) and that's just from evaporation during the virtually rainless month of May.
With every rice-growing season, we try to improve some aspects of the process and the product. This year, to address the challenge of increasing summer droughts, we will be periodically drying down part of the paddies to see how much it impacts (1) rice production (by seed weight), and (2) weed load (when paddies aren't flooded, weeds can really grow), and to (3) select the plants that seem to produce well even when grown dry and collect their seed separately. By replanting this seed and again selecting for good production under duress, we can move the genetics toward drought tolerance, a trait which will likely become very important for successful crops in the future.
We are looking for volunteers to help with the planting in early June. With many hands, it makes light work! Only a couple of hours, then lunch, and a free bag of rice (from last year's crop) for every volunteer. Rice growing is really a community effort! Let us know if you want to join us.