It’s 2020! The blog has been quiet for almost half a year, and I apologize. But here’s to a new growing season, with a new website, new greenhouse, new high tunnel, and the same (although feeling renewed) farmers!
In this post I’d like to share the results of lots of hard work back in the fall, how our practices will change with a high tunnel, and what we are excited about for the 2020 season.
My singular obsession in the fall (that’s how it felt, at least), and a reason for the absence of blog activity, was the construction of a high tunnel in our crop field, the first very visible alteration to the lower section of the farm. At 30′ wide and 96′ long, it covers about 2600 square feet of soil surface, enough to grow the earliest and latest vegetables of the season, plus a small selection of summer vegetables that will do great in a hot environment.
It was a major undertaking, and we are eternally grateful to the many people who assisted, starting with unloading the 4500-pound delivery and ending with the final pieces lifted into place in November. Our farming neighbors, non-farming neighbors, relatives of neighbors, and many of our own relatives all showed up at various moments, providing a massive amount of help to the 2 of us. We absolutely could not have done this without them and they all deserve mouthwatering, juicy heirloom tomatoes in 2020!
A high tunnel does not have a floor: it covers the same soil that is found outside of it, but the soil inside is kept warmer and is not exposed to precipitation. This combination of conditions requires special care of the soil and crops in a high tunnel. Commonly, for example, certain nutrients can accumulate due to the lack of soaking rain and snowfall, which ordinarily leaches nutrients from the top soil. We will provide regular irrigation, given the lack of rainfall in the tunnel, and we will likely devise a way to collect rainfall, so that we are not only watering with our well water, which is very hard and over time would alter the soil pH.
And the benefits of a high tunnel? Lots. We intend to significantly extend the season, both into spring and fall, for cold-hardy crops including kale, carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce, arugula, and turnips. The high tunnel will provide protection in cold weather, preventing crops from being damaged by frost (at least until a really deep freeze). Between those periods, heat-loving crops like tomatoes, basil, and peppers will grow healthily in the abundant heat. They also benefit from protection from rainfall, a major cause of the spreading of disease in this sensitive crops.
Work has begun in the tunnel! The surrounding field is frozen solid with a snow and ice blanket, but the soil within is soft, workable, and warm. The high tunnel should significantly change our season compared to last year, with higher production from less space.
The small greenhouse, in its inaugural year, is already contributing to a less stressful and more productive very early season, accommodating far more trays than the old structure could. Our production of garden seedlings, for sale at farmers markets and at the farm, is more than doubled compared to last year, in large part because we now have more space and a much more reliable greenhouse.
So, what are we excited for in 2020? A lot. We will return to the Midtown Farmers Market at Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis. We intend (pending application) to also be at the Menomonie Farmers Market for the first time, helping to develop a stronger relationship with neighbors and customers who live very close to the farm. Our market stalls will be full of garden seedlings in May, including heirloom tomatoes, a variety of herbs, and some of our favorite pollinator-friendly perennial herbs and flowers. Finally, we hope to be present each moment of this season, taking the ups and downs in stride and not overworking ourselves (the hardest task of the year?).
We are excited to see you and hear from you in 2020! Thanks for reading.