Monday, November 12, 2012

(A Little More About) My Southern Ontario Winter Hoophouse.

Here's a repeat of a post I did about a year ago. Seems to still be pretty current!


Thursdays and Fridays are the busiest days for me here on my small Niagara farm.
And why? Well, the weekends are right around the corner, and those are the busiest times for restaurants, the ones I sell vegetables to anyway.
I'm happy to say that this continues to be the case year round.

This time of year the picking is time leaf at a time. Small leaves, medium leaves or big leaves.  Those really are the choices.

I have about thirty different varieties of greens planted in the hoop houses. I have many varieties of mustards, from the typical to the less common, and also collards, chards and some tasty chinese greens.
These crops will make it through the winter-the radishes and carrots should too.

I have 3 hoop houses in total. The two larger ones are about 84' long, and hold a whole lot of food.

When I plant them I have to prioritize. So sadly, this means pulling out summer crops that are still producing, like heirloom tomatoes, and getting the winter ones seeded.

I aim for having crops in by late September, with the goal being that the crops will mature by the first week of November or so, when the days become shorter, and growth slows.

This fall has been a good balmy one, and I lucked out. I did get things seeded a little later, but the growth has been very good. In fact last week I seeded more bok choy, and it was up yesterday. It will grow very slowly.

When it gets very cold, the growth pretty much halts. That's when the great cover up begins.
I'll fashion little hoops out of plastic coated wire, and lay my agricultural fabric completely over all my crops. My goal with the hoops is to keep the fabric from touching the crops directly. It will get damp from being in the humid hoophouse and freeze on the leaves, thus ruining some of them.

One of my hoophouses has a double layer of poly, with a blower, which fills the cavity between the two layers with air. Clearly, things do quite well in this hoophouse. The other hoophouse is a single poly, but it actually does very well too. There isn't a huge difference.

When the hard freezes come, the greens underneath the fabric will in fact freeze. But when I wait till the hoophouse heats up, usually mid-morning, the greens are fresh and as unfrozen as can be. And all that much sweeter for having been nicely frosted. Amazing, but true.

When I pick, I pick one leaf at a time, instead of cutting out the whole plant, because the leaves continue to produce. I just don't run out of produce, until the time when the days are longer and the signal is sent to the plants to send up their seed stalks...spring is here! The flowers of the winter crops as well as their tender seed pods are very tasty too, but then the time comes. Time to yank out the winter plants, or till them under and get the tomatoes planted and the greenhouse tables set up for the transplants.

Then back to the season of pests and watering and weeding.

Ah-yes. That's yet another appeal of winter growing, less garden work.

Sound like fun? It actually really is, and quite amazing. Good food, fresh food all winter long!


Sarah said...

Great information about winter greens! Thanks so much for your posts. I always look forward to hearing your stories and trying your recipes! I would love to have a farm like yours some day!

Linda said...

Thanks for reading Sarah-I appreciate it. And hope you get your farm. It's a good life.