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Hoophouse and Quick Hoops™ crops
With an unheated hoophouse or Quick Hoops™ covered with greenhouse poly, you can have fresh produce to sell until Thanksgiving and beyond. Choose vegetables that are cold-tolerant, and remember to add about 14 days to the days to maturity printed in the catalog to account for slower growth as the days get shorter. Here are our picks for sweet, crisp, fall and winter vegetables.
The success of the fall garden depends on two key factors: Getting those cool-loving plants to germinate and grow during the hot days of late summer; Protecting them from occasional light frosts in fall for a long season of harvest.
When daylength is less than 10 hours, as it is during the depths of winter in much of North America, most plants stop growing because of the lack of light. But in early to mid February, the days are long enough again for plant growth to resume. If you have a heated greenhouse or an unheated hoophouse, you can get an extra-early start to your season. Here are some ideas for plants to start now through April.
To get right to the point, one of my goals as a farmer, and as a person who wants to do something useful with her life, is to make the local, sustainably produced food that we all sell normal. By that, I mean available where the vast majority of Americans shop: grocery stores. As I see it, polished, professional products and service that sells itself is the most direct way to that goal.
Another clear goal of ours is to meet our income targets while preserving free time for other pursuits. To this end, I’ll explain what we’re doing at Moose Meadow Farm in North Idaho to professionalize our farm business, and how that helped us to more than double our gross income from year one to year two while working about the same hours. I’m going to argue that in this day and age, a polished image, top-notch service, and highest quality produce will help sell local farm products and help us all achieve our goals.
Our main reason for wanting a hoophouse was to have a good supply of winter cooking greens and salads, with some root crops and alliums for variety. Naturally, we found good uses for the protected growing space in spring and summer too. In order to get the most food from the space, our winter hoophouse crops are a mixture of direct sowings and transplants brought in from outside (in the fall), or grown inside and transplanted during the winter. We don't want to pull our summer crops any sooner than we have to, but this has to be balanced by planting the winter crops in good time so they'll grow big enough before they slow down or stop growing at all. I wrote about Hoophouse crops for winter harvest in the August 2010 issue of Growing for Market. That's a while ago and we have been merrily planting and harvesting ever since. This time I am going to focus on planning for desired harvest dates.
Last month I wrote about hot weather cooking greens, and as I said then, cooking greens and salad greens are not two distinct categories, as many crops can be used both ways. Summer cooking greens which can be used at a young stage for salads include chard, Malabar spinach, Egyptian spinach, vegetable amaranth (especially the varieties All Red and Bliton) and Aztec spinach (Huauzontle). Some of the salad crops in this article can also be grown to full size or adolescent size and used as cooking greens. Some salad greens are grown and used alone, some do best as part of a baby salad mix, and others are more of a garnish. Of those used alone, most are Asian greens, particularly Tokyo Bekana and Maruba Santoh, although some people make a salad dish with purslane, dressing and garnishes.
Heirloom tomatoes are a popular crop for many growers, bringing both a price premium and droves of customers in search of old-fashioned tomato flavor. Heirloom tomatoes can be tricky, though, requiring more labor and producing lower yields than modern tomato varieties.
Desperate for something green after a long, gloomy winter? Hungry for something fresh and home-grown? You don't have to wait for the outdoor gardening season; now is the perfect time to grow a crop of micro mix for sale or your own table.
In the April issue of Growing for Market, we published an excerpt from Eliot Coleman’s new book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, in which he promotes low tunnels as an inexpensive alternative to high tunnels/hoophouses. Coleman says that high tunnels make sense for the crops that you have to tend to or harvest during the winter, such as greens, leeks and carrots. But for those that will be planted in fall and then left alone until spring, low tunnels are much more economical -- 5 percent of the cost of the same area under high tunnel.
The autumnal equinox has passed, the days are quickly getting shorter, and the change of seasons is upon us. It's time to wrap up the current season's unfinished business and start planning for next season.
Eliot Coleman's new book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, proves that he continues to experiment and innovate - and that he is meeting with considerable success, with gross revenue of $80,000 per acre on his coastal Maine farm.
If you've grown or thought about growing pumpkins, winter squashes, and gourds, you have likely noticed the large number of varieties that are available. Johnny's offers a diverse selection of cucurbits, some strictly ornamental, some strictly edible, and many that serve both purposes -- in all, more than 60 varieties. With so many to select from, you may be wondering how best to make your choice.
Here are some facts about lettuce that may surprise you: It is the most valuable vegetable crop in the United States, with sales of $2.2 billion in 2010. (Fresh tomatoes were a distant second at $1.4 billion.) Lettuce alone accounts for 19% of all fresh vegetable sales in the U.S. Iceberg lettuce is still the dominant type, accounting for 53% of total lettuce value, but its popularity has been dropping, while head and romaine lettuces have been increasing steadily and salad mixes have been skyrocketing in popularity.
Across most of North America, December is down time for market farmers. Days will keep getting shorter until the winter solstice on Dec. 21 and, in most places, it’s too cold for much of anything to grow. Greenhouse growers, though, are gearing up this month. It’s time to start tomato, lettuce, and pepper seeds for transplanting into a heated greenhouse, followed shortly after by transplant production for the unheated greenhouse. If working in the greenhouse sounds like therapy for the mid-winter blues — not to mention a way to make some cash earlier next year — then read on to learn more about how greenhouse growing might fit into your business plan.
As farmers markets extend their seasons and the demand for local food goes year-round, many growers are creating value-added products to take advantage of the new marketing opportunities. The term “value-added products” encompasses a wide array of farm products, from specialty foods to non-food items such as straw bales and wreaths. In this issue of the JSS Advantage, we’ll focus on creating value-added food products as a way of diversifying your farm’s offerings, extending your selling season, and improving your bottom line. First, identify potential products. They should be food items that you know and love, because your enthusiasm will be crucial to your marketing success in the future.
Winter growing is one of the biggest trends in market farming. Farmers markets are staying open longer, many are going year-round, and winter CSA shares are growing in popularity. Even supermarkets are learning that “locally grown” programs aren’t limited to summer months.