February 27, 2012
It was 3 weeks ago today that about 17 of us went down to visit Celia Barrs and Woodland Gardens to learn everything we could about how she uses her greenhouses to maximize her production. There was a ton to learn here's a quick snapshot:
• Haygrove Tunnels - great for tractor work, summer house, not great for winter. 20x100 and 13ft high.
• Raised beds on the whole farm - she has heavy clay soils and she wants them to drain.
• High Tunnels - permanent beds, work by hand, never walk on the beds. Use organically approved compost (poultry based) and alfalfa meal for nutrients, feather meal on long crops like tomatoes. P is high so mainly applying N. Do cover crop but have to manage by handwork, and must take the heat so focus on buckwheat and millet. Replace plastic every 5 years on average due to loss in light transmission. Make sure water moves away from houses, the side beds will still stay wet, and in winter can slow growth down.
• Pest Control – aphids get out of hand when you don’t open your house a lot, or too high N. In general the more healthy your plant is the less susceptible to pests, but for things like tomato fruit worm we use Bt. We have vegetable weevils in the winter, goes after asian greens, carrots, arugula, spinach. For that we use Entrust which is Spinosad. Only have to spray once, tend to do later in the day b/c they do most feeding at night. Yellow margin leaf beetle, comes in May. Loves asian greens. Just stop growing them that late.
• Greenhouse Planting Cycle – direct seeded in the winter, carrots, beets, arugula, spinach using an Earthway seeder (except carrots by hand). We thin carrots to one inch, beets to 3” so they’ll grow uniformly. Carrots in winter take 3 months. Arugula 6 weeks, Bok choy 4 weeks, beets 2 to 2.5 months. Lettuce will be going outside really soon. Plant less and less in houses in mid-march and phase out to prepare for tomatoes. Lettuce can take a frost (especially with row cover when really young). Always use new drip on tomatoes to reduce soil-borne disease pressure. Sterilize other things with hydrogen peroxide dilution (3-4%). We plant small amounts all the time. Lettuce and carrots get planted every week. Beets and arugula every 2 weeks. Rotations, we’re often back to the same family within about a year. Very intensive. Carrots may go, lettuce, bok choy. We never go right into the same family. Tomatoes yield dramatically higher in the hoophouse than outside. Never do broccoli or cauliflower in a house (takes 3 months and too much space for too little yield).
• Flowers – Do cut flowers in summer outside. Only grow highest value in the greenhouses, redunculus and freesia.
• Income – She strives for $100 a month on a 45 foot bed. If carrots take 3 months (should yield $300). Labor is biggest cost, with 5-6 employees paid at $12 an hour. Uses Quickbooks to do all the invoiceing. We make the most money off of tomatoes, lettuce and arugula.
• Specific Crop Tips - I see a lot of people struggle with carrots (good tilth and even moisture during germination is key). I like arugual and lettuce outside starting in April. Keeping the rain off of tomatoes controls a lot of stuff (outside). Manage tomatoes in hoop houses. They’ll grow fast. Have trellising system figured out, you’ll want to prune cause you’ll have too much vegetative growth, want to have good airflow, and pollination is a factor too. We hand pollinate our tomatoes in the center of the houses. Beans are not a super high value crop. Pole beans yield better, and easier to harvest. People in Atlanta don’t like pole beans (but chef’s love ‘em). I do rattlesnake, and northeaster.
There was a whole lot more discussed....so Here’s a link to the full 1 hour and 45 minutes. Download it and listen on your i-pod if you do that kind of thing.
Apologies for the buzzing towards the end. If I was too far away the antenna microphone didn’t pick up.
Please make suggestions for farm tours you’d like to do in the future. They’re pretty fun right? Mark Tuesday, April 24th for our next Tour at Taylor Creek Farms.
One more plug. Take a look at the website and scroll down to this specific post with the Georgia Mountain Farm Tour outline. This will give you a pretty good idea of what this idea is about. I’m slowly starting to ask around who would like to participate and have their farm featured on this tour. Your ideas are highly encouraged. For instance there may be advantages to having 8-10 farms featured on Saturday and another 8-10 different farms featured on Sunday. That way you guys can actually visit each others farms. The bigger jump we have on some of this planning by our April meeting the better.
Soque Lover Gardens!