As we see spring peeking it’s head around the corner, we are planting new crops in the ground. These are crops that are typically not germinated or even grown on frozen ground – mustard, kale, spinach, lettuce and onions of different varieties are provided with an early season through our two hoophouses, where the plants can get a head start and be at full maturity before the many pests of summer emerge. There would be no way otherwise to grow anything after the 12+ inches of snow that we got last week (hoophouses can be easily damaged by snow if they are not structurally prepared to take the load but we got lucky.)
Inside the hoophouse, which is heated by the sun alone, heat enters but cannot escape. This allows it to easily maintain higher-than-frozen temperatures. The farmer can thus work 365 days a year! (most farmers, however, would prefer to not do that.) In addition, crops can be micro-managed much easier through the protection from environmental factors that we deal with in NC like excessive rain, pest pressure, and erosion.
On Monday’s lab, we took a peek at our newly germinated plant babies and assessed what critters were hanging out in the hoop-houses. Some plants need to be replanted in order to get a larger scale of growth, others were planted too heavily and need to be thinned a little bit! overall though, we’ve got a lot of happy mouths to feed.
It is really something to be able to grow in the cold month of February – but lots of farmers are using greenhouses to extend their season, and pick what markets they want to tap into. For us in NC, it is vital to use season extension because we are so close to the cusp of being able to grow all year round like the tropics. It allows us to continue growing cool season crops but also to get delicious early summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants an early start.
Stay warm this February; afford your plants that luxury, as well!