[From 10-May-2013] Couple hundred not-so-early early lettuce, toughing it out in the semi-sauna-like greenhouse, along with seedlings that should be out in the field soon. This year, we went from chilly late winter conditions to summer-ish heat, with absolutely no mild spring in between—one day to the next. Always exciting (never dull)!
Tiny farming: Greenhouse
[From 1-March-2013] Checking in on the winter greens mini-experiment. These guys have been through six weeks of up and down weather, balmy days well above zero (reaching 60-70°F/15-20°C on a sunny day in the hoophouse) , and many extreme freezing nights. So, how did it all do? The Bloomsdale spinach, uncovered (above), is fine, although after all that freezing and thawing, the taste and texture changes (good to eat, but probably wouldn’t sell). It wasn’t the plan, but this spinach can be trimmed back to see how new growth does in spring. The other beds, all brassicas (tatsoi, mizuna, arugula, mustards), left half uncovered, are completely toasted. Meanwhile, under a single layer of medium-weight row cover, arugula (below) is good, perky and quite tasty. Not the most extensive and scientific testing plan, but combined with the experience of harvesting through December and in mid-January, it’s a solid starting point for next winter’s goal of full-on, unheated winter greens production!
[From 1-Mar-2013] Checked out the greenhouse, haven’t been out to see it in a while. As usual, it’s there! I’m still always…pleased that it handles whatever weather comes at it, no problem. The first installation, it was in the middle of a 9-acre garden and hayfield, no nearby windbreaks, for five years unfazed, through real blizzards and windstorms that felled trees and took roofs off of houses. Reliable!
[From Nov. 25, 2011] Finally got around to at least getting the base of the hoophouse anchored. This whole decision of whether to build it now or wait till spring has been up in the air for a while. At least, with the 4×4 rough cut cedar beams that hold up the steel ribs positioned and the anchor posts set, it’ll be relatively easy to get the frame up and then skin it…whenever. Even on a warm day in February or March! Flexibility! Options! Or maybe just…putting it off. I do want to purchase new plastic—what’s on hand now is around five years old, gotten milky, past its prime… In any case, today, I pounded in six 3′ T-bars, three per 20′ side. That little screw is only for the moment, it will all get bolted together with metal strapping or brackets. I’ve done this before… :)
[Backpost for Dec-14-2009] Snow’s here—it’s definitely overwinter storage time! Winter storage is a little different every year, as needs, facilities, and plans change. This time around, a fair bit of gear is in the 20′x32′ (~6×10 m) hoophouse, with its full sun exposure and fairly extreme temperature spread (from double-digit subzero at night, to 80-100°F/25-38°C on a sunny day!). Sooo, you don’t want to be storing just anything in there. Anything that’s damaged by freezing isn’t a good idea. And plastics that aren’t UV-resistant will break down, fading and weakening (really, most plastics not meant for constant outdoor use should probably be kept out of the sun whenever possible). Here, it’s mostly wood—extra rough cut cedar from a project a couple of years back, tomato stakes, tables, farmers’ market display trays—which is OK, and I’ll get the plastic items under cover. Except for checking the snow load on the hoophouse after big storms, that’s all she wrote until early spring. The outdoor part of veggie farming in our growing zone will now take a bit of a snooze…
This is the spring of Finally… Today, we finally got the plastic on the hoophouse, can’t believe it’s been over a month since the frame went up! Anyhow, it’s done! A kinda huge turnout of people: Libby, Jordan, Andie, Tom, and Lynn (planting grain elsewhere during the hoophouse skinning). A bit of a breeze, but it didn’t get in the way. First, the ends went on, and then, the big job, which with a lot of hands is pretty simple. Started by pulling the plastic over* and loosely fastening it at one end (the many hands really help)…
Next, we slid it along. I’m on the ladder, putting UV-resistant greenhouse tape over the edges of the ribs where they join the ridge, so they don’t rub on the plastic (clearly, that’s a one-person job…could’ve been done ahead)…
Get to the other end, and fasten it! There’s still a fair bit of wood work to secure it all, and electricity and then the squirrel cage fan to install, to inflate the double layer of plastic, but the main job is basically DONE. One more thing on the new-tiny-farm start-up-from-nearly-scratch list, practically checked off! (I should move the jumbo rain gauge to a completely unsheltered spot…)
*It’s a lot easier to lay the plastic out lengthwise beside the frame, then pull it over from both ends in one shot. We did it this way because there was only one tall stepladder, and to avoid catching the breeze on the full length of the plastic as it went up—a completely calm day is best, but with a lot of people, you can handle a little wind. (Photos 1 and 2 by Andie)