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Rice Growing 101: Ready to transplant

The recent rain has helped to hydrate the paddy... but we have added a little water from the pond. Because we don't have water buffalo to churn the mud and drag a smoothing board, our small tractor with rototiller attached is being used to make the muddy slurry required to plant the paddy. The tricky part is getting the paddy level; moving the mud around to best do that. Shallow flooding helps us see which areas are too high and which are too low.

Next, we scatter the pellets of chicken litter to give the newly-transplanted rice seedlings an immediate boost. This is best done by hand the traditional way.

Rate: about 1/4 lb. to 100 sq. ft. (10x10 ft).

Last year, for the first time, we had quite a problem with a reedy weed that grew just fine in the deep water (most land weeds drown), and loved the fertility we had added. We had to hand-weed the paddy and disturbed many rice plants in the process because the weed lodged in the midst of rice seedling clumps. So now we are on the watch for whatever may be lurking on the sidelines and we try to remove seed heads (weed-whacking away from the paddies) before they have a chance to disperse into the water. Our paddy is surrounded by "wild" Oldfields, with many native wetland plants and European weeds that immigrated with the settlers.

Candidates for the noxious weed award in our paddies.

The first image is cattail. They're always trying to slip in, but are easy to pull when small. The second image is the fine-leaved junco-type weed that gave us so much grief and is preparing seed right now. The third image is a sedge, also seeding now, but not the worst culprit in the neighbourhood.

When we aren't sweating the nuisance-value, we can appreciate the beauty and diversity of growth in this disturbed wetland of ours. Look at all the colours in this patch on the road!

And then there's the joy of our native Blue flag iris, popping up all around.

OK. Back to the business of planting paddy rice. We lay out enough of a grid to help us plant in lines - one plant per square foot. The lines always get a bit wonky (you're working bent over without much distance perspective), but it's good to at least start with a grid to follow on two sides.

Once there is a line of seedlings to follow, the transplanting goes quickly. We started with small quantities of two new varieties at the S end of the East Paddy. They will be harvested separately.

We have divided this, the East Paddy, in half length-wise because we want to control what we plant in these in two sections. The whole paddy will be planted with Khudwani (a variety); the E side with seedlings grown in plug trays; the W side with seedlings grown in open flats (see discussion, Blog April 21, 2023). We will moniter the progress of the plants in the two sides, comparing for health in growth factors of colour, size (plant height and development of tillers), and, ultimately, productivity at harvest. We hope to learn which seeding method is best: plug tray or open trays.

This Khudwani East paddy will be planted in the next severwal days, with the help of a few friends/volunteers. The West paddy will be planted next Sunday, June 18th, starting at 10 a.m. Volunteers are welcome and their help appreciated (with a vegetarian lunch and free bag of organic rice grown last year - please RSVP so we know how many to expect). No experience is necessary, but minimum age is 16. Bring high rubber boots (we have some extra women's medium boots), gloves (water-proof, if you care about your nails!) and a sense of humour. Occasionally, one can tumble into the mud!

It's embarassing, but painless, and can be avoided by learning the "Paddy Twist" move to dislodge your feet from the suction of mud before shifting your weight!

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