Sweet tomatoes and tender basil served at DaLou's Bistro on an appetizer salad alongside local sprouts and smoked fish.
We began June by planting our final seeds and sprouts. Admittedly June is quite late to be planting seeds in a high tunnel, but we couldn’t find time in May. In the first couple weeks we rushed to catch up on everything that needed to be done. We pruned and trellised the tomatoes, weeded the beds, and continued to call businesses. Around a week into June it became apparent that many of our beans and cucumber seeds haven't sprouted. After some investigation and research we came to the conclusion that cutworms were the culprit. To fight this we put out cornmeal which supposedly kills cutworms. Then we replanted the beans and hoped that the meal would work. In the following weeks we have had mixed results the beans have grown back better, but it seems that not all of the cutworms have died. Meanwhile the basil, tomatoes, and cucumbers were doing excellent. On June 19th we harvested our first crop of basil for Dalous we barely made the 6 lbs, but were very pleased when we did. Dalou’s has been great to work with, and hopefully we will be able to maintain our relationship throughout the summer. In the final weeks of June the first tomatoes sprang up. There are now both green cherry tomatoes and slicer tomatoes on several plants. In the following month we are estimated to harvest our first crop of tomatoes, beans, and hopefully peppers. We are also scheduled to tour the Northland College gardening system. It will be interesting to see how the plants grow with the increasing heat and to find some inspiration from other people’s farms.
In the week leading up to the first meeting Lily, Seth, and I (Caroline Ray) began to weed our assigned beds and rows to prepare them for planting. At the end of May we began by transplanting the basil, peppers, and the tomatoes.
At the same time we also set up the watering system and set up the timer. So far it has worked well, except for a few leaks which we have had to fix. One time an end piece popped off, and sprayed water which aided in the flooding of one of the pathways. We fixed the cap to stop the water and we have laid down hay to soak up some of the moisture.
The next week we planted all of our seeds; watermelon, cantaloupe, beans, basil, and cucumbers. While doing this we saw some cute cats.
The basil had grown enough that it was ready to pick, so we plucked the tops off and sold ½ lb to a para-educator. While I was picking it the whole high-tunnel smelt like basil, and it was wonderful. If the basil crop continues to grow at this rate we will be ready to sell to businesses by July. We also made calls to businesses, and our first one was a success; we sold all of our bean crop to Spirit Creek Farm. Next we called a bunch of restaurants most of which nobody answered, so we left some messages. We are hoping to sell most of our tomatoes to Dalou’s Bistro and The Fat Radish. A few places did answer and appeared interested, and we have received a few call backs. The future looks hopeful. It has been surprisingly fun to speak and work with businesses. I’ve also enjoyed negotiating prices, planning the high-tunnel, and recording data. I thought that I wouldn’t like the entrepreneur side of Agripreneurs so, it’s exciting to see that I love it! - Caroline Ray
The Washburn Agripreneur program participated in our first farmers market for the year of 2016 on July 20th. We had an excellent variety for this time of year thanks to support from Washburn Elementary School garden. Our best sales were cucumbers and beans, almost selling out.
-- Washburn Agripreneur Student
Trellising cucumbers in the Washburn school high tunnel.
Agripreneur students have been busy growing their high tunnel crops this summer, but they've also taken the time to attend some field trips. They've traveled to three local farms so far - Wild Hollow Farm located just south of Ashland, River Road Farm in Marengo, and Great Oak Farm in Mason.
Thank you to Jason, Todd, and Chris for spending part of the day with our students!
Above, Jason talks about his high tunnel growing practices at Wild Hollow Farm, and Todd explains the importance of living soil at River Road Farm.
Above, Chris explains his growing practices for both high tunnel and field crops at Great Oak Farm.
With the change of seasons comes a change of programming in the Bayfield and Washburn school high tunnels.
During the school year, Farm-to-School programs and classroom teachers utilize their school's high tunnel for various lessons that can involve soil testing, garden design, and - of course - growing food. During the summer, however, students and teachers are gone for summer vacation, which could leave the high tunnels unused at their most productive time. The Agripreneur Program has been created to fill this gap.
The Agripreneur Program is a summer growing program that hires two high school students to grow food in their school's high tunnel with the assistance of a school liaison. The food grown over the summer is then sold back to the school's food service program, community members, local restaurants, or through farmer's markets.
Students from both Washburn and Bayfield schools are participating this year - check out their pictures below!
As part of this program, the Agripreneur students will be writing monthly blog posts to update the community on their progress. Be sure to check back here throughout the summer to learn about what's going on in these high tunnels!
- Lilly Soshnik-Tanquist
2016 Agripreneur Program Coordinator
"The battens serve to confine the edges of the tarpaulings to close down to the sides of the hatches"
William Falconer's An Universal Dictionary of the Marine, 1769
It's that time once again folks. The days grow ever shorter and the average temps rise less and less each day. In response we must do our best to utilize what warmth we can gain from the sun and store it in the soil inside the tunnels. I just wiggle wired the sides of each of my tunnels shut as of yesterday, October 15th. At this point in the season I would like to think we will not have many more days above 70 degrees, sadly enough.
Remember! Do not forget to unplug the controller for the sidewall motors after doing this!! You shouldn't have to worry about opening the sides again until late March/early April. I do think it is good to leave the peak vents operational however. I allow my tunnels to get up into the upper 80's during this time of year. It only serves to bank warmth in the soil in order to fend off the nighttime low temps. I would, therefore, recommend setting the peak vent thermostat at between 80 and 85 degrees.
One more thing. Watch the amount of irrigating you are doing right now. Whatever moisture you add to the soil now will be there until Spring. Soo...it might be good to cease watering very soon as to avoid mid-winter mildew issues.
Ready your row covers for the winter months! You should be ready to cover the inside in November.
Please share your progress with the rest of the group whenever you get a chance so we can all learn together. Happy high tunneling!
Hopefully most of you have been picking some of the very first tomatoes of the season. We just started picking our tomatoes here at River Road Farm last week. I wanted to go over a few harvesting and packing pointers for you.
Once tomatoes start to ripen it will become an exponential process. Our first harvest was 20lbs, our second over 40lbs, our third was close to 100lbs, and by the height of the harvest bell curve we will be pulling out 300lbs or more every two days. Granted, the school high tunnels have only half the amount of tomato plants in each high tunnel. The point is, you will need to be ready to pick every two to three days and have somewhere to go with those maters each time.
When picking the individual fruit be sure to gently twist and/or bend while pulling in a way that will not knock the other fruit of the truss. If you will be selling at farmers market or a retail store where presentation is a factor, make sure to use a bypass pruners and cut the tomatoes off the truss in order to leave the top on the fruit. Place the tomatoes into a shallow container no more than three layers deep depending on the size and weight of the fruit. Tomatoes are soft and crush easily and will lose their shape under pressure. Try picking them just before they are totally red-ripe so that they have a little bit of firmness. Do not let them get over ripe or they will be mushy! When adding a second layer into the harvest container watch out for the pointy tops of the first layer so they do not poke into the bottom the second layer. I usually pick right into the box they will be sold from in order to minimize handling.
Happy picking and good luck keeping up!
Hopefully some you have had a chance to order seeds for spring planting. If you haven't done so as of yet, it makes sense to order the seeds for this upcoming fall as well. That's if you already have an idea of what you want to follow those tomatoes when they come out of the ground. The main thing in the short term is to be ready to plant in about two weeks.
In the handout that was sent around for spring crop suggestions, I picked easy to establish, direct seeded, short day varieties to try. The main factor to consider is that we ideally want those crops to be harvestable around May 15th when the summer tomato crop will be ready to go in. However, because the tomatoes are transplanted and tall, it will be possible to inter-plant them; meaning you can plop the toms right in amongst what is already growing there. The same can be said for over-wintered spinach. You have the option of planting something tall like peas right down the same bed as the spinach is growing in. The three crops that I proposed for this spring were radishes, salad mix, and peas. Radishes and salad mix are pretty straight forward and simple to establish. But, peas will need a trellis to climb.
Trellising for peas can be as simple as some 4ft. long wooden sticks driven into the dirt and twine strung from stake to stake. I prefer to use 4ft. metal fence posts and chicken wire. It is easy to erect, sturdy, and can be re-used year after year. Because they will be grown in a greenhouse environment, the peas will most likely grow much faster and taller than outside. Another consideration would be to send down a plastic snow fence or deer fence type of product from the frame of the high tunnel. How you attach it and over all height will be a factor for finding the right product in that case.
Hopefully the ground will not be frozen and ready to plant peas in around March 15th. You will definitely want to keep row cover on them as much as possible to protect them from night time frosts. Even after erecting the trellis, you can still drape the fabric over the top to create a tent. As for the radishes and salad mix, I would wait until the last week of March or first week of April to sow those seeds. If your over-wintered spinach is doing good, you can harvest that two to three times and can stay in the ground until tomato time if you want.
Happy planting and don't hesitate to ask for help!
In my last post I stressed the need to ventilate your high tunnel and pull back any interior covers on warm and/or sunny days. This is also a great time to do some spring cleaning. Since you will have the plants exposed take this opportunity to remove any dead and frost damaged plant matter. In my tunnels I had lettuce heads, salad mix, mustards and spinach that were mature and harvested by December 31st. There were also two beds of spinach that were left mature and were harvested on January 23rd. All of these beds have greater or lesser amounts of left-over plant matter that will need to be removed before new growth begins this month. By doing so we are trying to eliminate the host material for diseases to form and proliferate. There were even fully mature plants of spinach that I cut back just for safety sake. What you will want to do is cut back the plants to 1 inch from the soil surface, place plant matter into a bin, and place in compost pile or remove from the high tunnel entirely. Even lettuce plants most of the time will make a comeback with some spring growth. If there are beds that you know you will be transitioning to another crop, you can just work the plants back into the soil, unless of course there is disease present, then you will need to remove plants and sterilize the bed surface before tillage.
On the other hand, if you have baby plants like spinach or mache that were planted specifically to over -winter, and they are looking lively and disease free, you can just let them do their thing. You should start seeing significant growth on these plants in the coming weeks. If the soil isn’t too frozen this is also a great time to do some weeding around these plants. You can also consider tilling and direct seeding a new crop (salad mix, spinach, kale, chard, turnips, arugula) that will be harvested before May 15th.
Spring is right around the corner!
Agripreneur Students (2016 posts)
High Tunnel Blog