January 20, 2011
As soon as we start driving our routes in the spring our customers ask us when we’ll have roselilies. They’re that popular and have become a signature crop for us. They’re basically a type of oriental lily, but with multiple layers of petals, and without stamens and pistils (i.e. no pollen!).
Best of all, they’re pretty easy to grow. The first two Roselily varieties became available in 2011, and since then more and better varieties have been introduced. The bulbs are available from only a few brokers worldwide; we get ours from Zabo Plant.
High tunnel production systems offer several obvious advantages over open-field production. They also present unique nutrient management challenges. Primary advantages include greater control of nutrients and water, enhanced heat gain, additional growing degree days, and extension of the growing season both earlier and later in the year.
Prairie Garden Farm has been growing cut flowers for florists and studio designers since 2010. As we’re on an exposed hillside in west-central Minnesota, we’re dependent on protected culture to grow quality flowers. This article describes our approach – planning, financial, and operational details - that helps us make the most of our structures.
I’d like first to describe our environment and business model briefly, so you can determine how much is congruent with your operation. It’s a good idea to have that understanding whenever seeking (or giving!) advice – there’s a lot of variation in where and how we all operate, so that what works well for one farm could be disastrous for another.
High tunnels have played a crucial role in season extension for market growers, with popularity increasing over the last decade to meet demand for locally grown produce year round (or close to it). Once built, the high tunnel becomes some of the most valuable real estate on the farm and many growers are able to produce exceptional yields in the first few years. After several seasons, yields begin to decline and many growers struggle to maintain productivity.
High tunnels are valuable real estate on a farm, but growing under cover long-term can result in nutrient imbalances and pH changes in the soil that impact yields. Phosphorus, calcium and magnesium build up over time and interfere with other nutrient uptake. High pH irrigation water and fertilizers cause soil pH to rise, limiting micronutrient availability.
One of the best reasons to grow tomatoes in a hoophouse or greenhouse is to improve fruit quality. There are a lot of ways that fruit quality can be improved just by going under cover. You can keep off rain, which can cause checking or spots. You can keep the foliage dry, wet foliage being one of the necessary conditions for many of the worst tomato diseases (late blight, I’m looking in your direction). But controlling the amount of water the plant gets is an easy way to improve fruit quality.
Copyright Tomatero Publications Inc. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be copied in any manner for use other than by the subscriber without permission from the publisher.