Is winter over yet?

Posted April 9, 2018

The 2018 farming season is just on the horizon.

  IMG_20170927_074819867_HDR.jpg

This will be our fifth season growing fresh produce. Our first crop is a partial hold over from the 2017 season. We were able to put up a second high tunnel in October and attempt a winter crop of lettuce. Anyone that knows anything about an Aurora winter knows two things, there will be snow…and it will be cold.

IMG_20170829_091111247_HDR.jpg

 IMG_20170829_150256597.jpg  IMG_20170829_150316185_HDR.jpg

IMG_20171010_142014574.jpg

 

Our new high tunnel is a huge improvement over our first. High tunnel two has a double layer of plastic with an air cushion in the ceiling to help hold in heat much better. It also has solid ends with sliding doors. Inside the tunnel, we use hoops with row covers to further protect tender plants. Our lowest temperature was -16° which lasted for several days.

 IMG_20171106_141752799.jpg IMG_20171112_111911696.jpg

The winter lettuce experiment taught us several lessons:

  1. Don’t underestimate tiny lettuce plugs, dynamite really does come in small packages. Two days after we transplanted the lettuce plugs, the temperature plunged to 17° during the second week of November.
  2. Even though lettuce can freeze and thaw, it can be difficult to get a day warm enough during the winter for the lettuce to thaw so that it can be harvested.
  3. Again, don’t underestimate lettuce even if it looks dead.  Leave it alone and let the sun convince it to stand tall.
  4. Row cover works! Trying to determine when to cover the lettuce and when it could be safely uncovered for a few days at a time was a challenge. Sometimes the decision to cover was solely based on watching Survivor.  How many Survivor contestants were voted off the island with an idol in their pocket? Why take the chance with the temperatures when the row cover is laying nearby?
  5. Winter lettuce in Aurora can take six months from transplant to harvest.

 IMG_20180111_133427345.jpg IMG_20180318_114139935.jpg

                                              Before                                                                    After

With the use of temperature sensors and wireless technology we are now able to monitor several locations. Just this week the temperature outside was 23°, inside of high tunnel two it was 29 ° while under the row cover it was a balmy 40°--- almost a 20° difference. The technology we are using also sends us text, email, and app alerts when the high tunnel temperature drops or rises above preset temperatures. All this helps us make informed decisions to help optimize growing conditions when we can.

With all of that said, against the odds, we were successful in growing a winter crop of lettuce that is some of the best tasting lettuce we’ve ever had. We began harvesting the end of March and hope to have it all out by mid-April, just in time to plant again.

 20171117_115740.jpg 20171117_115913.jpg

 

2017 also included transplanting a new crop of strawberries. This was another first for us, we transplanted them in August instead of May and used plugs instead of bareroot.

 

 IMG_20170815_211023680.jpg

Strawberry plugs.jpg

Strawberry plugs 2.jpg

IMG_20170816_131909605.jpg IMG_20170816_131853030.jpg IMG_20170816_131920365.jpg

20170816_192122.jpg 20170817_151809.jpg

20171128_150655.jpg 20180331_142828.jpg

 

It was a healthy-looking crop when we covered them for the winter and it will soon be time to uncover them to let the growing begin. We look forward to the upcoming U-Pick operation in June.

 20180331_142901.jpg

Spring is coming!

Our Junior Farmer Richard is looking forward to summer and work on the farm, mostly the kind that involves tractors. Less so the kind that requires him to pick up the remnants of the lettuce we harvest out of the field.

 20180402_165447.jpg 20180402_165450.jpg

Our other two Junior Farmers, Addison and Colin will be joining us later for summer camp. We always enjoy having them on the farm.

 DSCN1853.JPG

Vested Heirs Farm continues our efforts with the Preston Growers Co-Op as we use the power of our fellow farmers and their growing abilities to offer larger quantities to interested buyers. There is a comfort in joining forces with other farms to fill the increasing hunger for locally grown produce.

 preston growers logo.JPG

 lettuce.jpg

Winter is in its last throes even though as this is being published there is snow on the ground and we are expecting more. The weather man says not to expect it to go away until May. Every day there is more day light later into the evening. Throughout winter, we try and rest to gather our strength for the coming year. The further we get into spring and summer; our down time will be greatly reduced as the season ramps up. It will mean more long days and dinner often at later times while we try to harvest produce for our orders.

It's always a time of great anticipation as we prep for the new growing season. We've pared down considerably from our first year growing fresh produce when we had almost forty crops. We've learned that to be sustainable, we have to grow what we know we can sell and do so profitably. Expansion will continue as our schedules allow it by moving forward with slow growth to ensure that sustainability. We cut our labor efforts with new technology as we continue to grow.

Now if we can only get some warmer temperatures and drier conditions so we can get into the fields to plow, till and lay plastic. If all that happens, the season will truly be underway.

 IMG_20170927_074853958_HDR.jpg

Just think, in just two short months you can come pick your very own fresh strawberries.  We look forward to seeing you.

 

Comments

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.