welcome winter

The first snow of the year seems early….

Sad remains of the forgotten sunflowers overlook the cows while they eat.

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A  blanket of snow on the roof of the high tunnel hushes and shades the garden.

 

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The lettuce, cabbage and brocoli are toughing it out.

 

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Little Mae braves the frigid air.

 

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Oh, winter….how nice to see you.  How long will you be staying?

power up!

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WE HAVE POWER!

Electricity has arrived at the high tunnel. This will open up the world of additional ventilation, heat supplementation, lights and the ability to power a small blower fan for an additional layer of plastic.

Oh, the possibilities!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

october garden

Being our first fall garden in the high tunnel, we didn’t really know what to expect.   This fall is just one big experiment to see how far into the winter this plastic structure can carry us.  We are excited about the prospect of fresh tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, swiss chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts.  The garden is warm, watered and producing like crazy.   We are so happy with our high tunnel.

toasty warm in the high tunnel on a brisk october morning

toasty warm in the high tunnel on a brisk october morning

 

yellow bell peppers

yellow bell peppers

 

tomatoes still ripening

tomatoes still ripening

 

cabbage

cabbage

 

kale that needs to be thinned

kale that needs to be thinned

 

 

hungarian yellow peppers

hungarian yellow peppers

 

broccoli

broccoli

 

so much green growth this time of year is just amazing

so much green growth this time of year is just amazing

 

the best part of gardening is having a helper

the best part of gardening is having a helper

get your hands dirty

The other night I talked with a friend who lives near the coast and as she was rattling off tales of frolicking on the beach that weekend, I was mulling over the 200 brocoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage we planted that same day.

 

newly planted brocoli

newly planted broclii

 

It was hot, muggy, hard, and dirty work. And even though my back was stuck in the half bent position and killing me, I couldn’t have been happier.

 

we pulled up tomatoes, tilled and planted fall crops

we pulled up tomatoes, tilled and planted fall crops

 

When I mentioned the brocoli to my friend, she immediately made a mental comparison and said…..”you lose!”.

 

fall crop rows

look at that gorgeous soil and healthy plants

 

In her eyes, her beach day had kicked my garden afternoon right in the ass.

I couldn’t help but chuckle over the lifestyle difference. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I won. That doesn’t mean she lost. But we won for sure.

The opportunity to grow your own produce is a win every time.

Everyone of us could benefit from little more time with our hands in the soil.

Go get dirty!

end of the summer garden update

So….whatever happened with the garden you ask?

It is still churning out more produce than we know what do with and keeping us running to the farmers market twice a week.  We have reached that time of year when the focus is just on harvest and the weeds can have their way. This means it all looks far less than perfect but I find it to be the most beautiful time of year in the garden.

Zucchini and cucumber are done.  Green beans still coming.  Tomatoes of all kinds still growing.  Pumpkins, gourds and watermelons everywhere.

 

pole bean teepee

pole bean teepee

 

grape tomatoes that are out of control

grape tomatoes that are out of control

 

thank goodness we have such good help

thank goodness we have such good help

 

lots of little pumpkins and gourds

lots of little pumpkins and gourds.

 

overgrown tomatoes in the high tunnel

overgrown tomatoes in the high tunnel

 

sunflowers are winding down

sunflowers are winding down

 

Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage will all be ready to plant in the next couple of weeks.  Plants are about 6 inches tall in the basement already.  We plan on also putting out lettuce, kale, and spinach.  This is all really an experiment to see how far into the fall/winter we can utilize the high tunnel.  I am hoping that fresh lettuce in December will be a reality.

Our plans to ramp up production for next year are in full swing.  Thanks to getting our feet wet this summer with the farmers market, we are better prepared to plan for next year.

We are super pleased with the high tunnel but we have also learned a lot about what not to do….Sometimes that is even more important.

Each year we will learn a little more and adjust as we go.

 

maybe we are merchants after all

We did it.

We started those plants from seed last winter.

We planted those tiny plants in April and prayed that at least one would survive.

We pruned and trellised and then trellised some more.

We harvested our first ripe tomatoes and cucumbers.

We journeyed to our first farmers market this weekend and sold it all………………………………….

the only ripe tomatoes for sale were very popular

the only tomatoes at the market and they sold out in thirty minutes

mae's first of many farmer's markets

Mae’s first of many farmers markets

What a sigh of relief.  This has been such a great experience.  Growing the produce is only the first hurtle and I am ecstatic that we cleared the next hurdle and made it to market!!!!!!!!

so, I took the afternoon off…

and raced home to the garden……

Since I have missed some of the planting due to nap time, I was anxious to get my hands dirty.  I was in desperate need of fresh air to clear out the office clutter…..

YaYa, Papa and I planted to the sound and smell of the rain.

First we carved out a little space for the peppers between the tomatoes and spinach.

Then added some compost and stretched out the drip tape.

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Hooked up the drip tape to the main irrigation line.

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We stretch and stapled down the plastic and then planted all 36 pepper plants (8 varieties) that I picked up at the local garden center for about twenty dollars.

Red, Green and Yellow Bell, Hungarian Yellow, Habanero, Jalapeno, Cayenne, and Anaheim.

We are well on our way to lots of salsa.

If only I could spend every afternoon listening to the rain in the high tunnel with my folks…….

 

Linked up to Country Linked for the Country Fair Blog Party.

prune it up

I need to scramble around and find that ole bucket list of mine…It is time to mark off pruning and trellising tomatoes in a high tunnel.

All of our previous gardens have been planted and left to do their thing until harvest.  Other than watering and weeding, we didn’t get involved in any pruning. Until now, that is.

While Papa and Eddie worked on the trellis system, and Yaya played with Mae Mae, I started in on the pruning.  I had a few Utube videos under my belt but no experience.

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overgrown tomatoes

The plants had gotten a little ahead of us and started to bush out near the bottom.

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before pruning

The first to go was the suckers.  That is the small branch that grows in the the neck of the main stem and a branch.

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pinching off a sucker

Once I pulled those off, I followed the main stem (the one with the flower) and removed all other branches off of the main line below the flower.

Pruning will need to be done every week or so to  focus the plants nutrients and growth to the main productive fruit setting portion of the plant.

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after pruning

Pruning made such a big difference in cleaning up the high tunnel and allowing us to move onto the next step of trellising.

A high tunnel offers so many advantages but one of the biggies is the ability to trellis plants right up to the ceiling.  A vertically trellised tomato plant will have less disease and produce more fruit that is easily accessible. Have you ever tried to wrestle a overgrown tomato plant to get to the tomatoes on the interior?  It can be a bit of a jungle and trellising all but eliminates that.

To start, we installed a wire system that runs the length of the high tunnel over each row and attached to the end walls. We used hi-tensile electric fence wire and fence strainers to tighten the wire.

 

attaching the wire to the end walls

attaching the wire to the end walls

Once the wire was up, we could begin to place the drop string to each plant.  We just tied a knot at the wire and cut the string at ground level.

attaching the string to the wire

attaching the string to the wire

Each string was attached to the base of the tomato plant with a vine clip.

attaching a vine clip to the plant

attaching a vine clip to the plant

A vine clip holds securely to the string so that it can’t slip up the string and stays in place.

vine clip

vine clip

Depending on the height of the plant, we used two or three clips….As the plant grows, more will be needed.

trellised row

trellised rows

The high tunnel will be a walls of tomatoes by the end of the summer!

 

It was a barn raising…. of sorts

Eddie and I spent last weekend pitching in with other friends to help out a neighbor.  Her contractor left her high and dry with a partially finished high tunnel.

Here is a shot of our starting point at 9 am.

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Curtain walls were up but not finished.   End walls were framed but not finished.  No plastic over the top.

We got the curtain wall up in a flash and started in on the end walls.  You have no idea how thankful I am that the walls were already framed.

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Once the end wall plastic was stretched up and draped over inside the high tunnel, we rolled out the plastic for the roof.
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Trimmed the excess….
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Attached the plastic with wiggle wire to one side to prepare for pulling the plastic over the top……
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Attached our softballs, and pulled the plastic over…….
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Stretched it tight and put in the wiggle wire to hold it in place……..
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We had such a gracious host who spoiled us rotten with yummy goodies like homemade bread, salsa and chips and home-brewed beer. She managed to keep us fed, watered and pitch in. What a lady!

Headed back to work after lunch to finish up the cabling of the curtain walls and door installation.  It was a hot exhausting day but it was spent in good company with good food.  What more could you ask for?

Here is the final product at 6pm.  That victory beer never tasted so good.

 

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Ready, set, plant!

 

 

Christening the High Tunnel

We are planted!  Only about a month behind but we made it.  Not too bad for high tunnel newbies.

When I left off we had just completed filling the high tunnel with additional top soil.

 

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Filling the high tunnel with topsoil

 

The next step was to form seven raised beds.  Commercial operations have very expensive equipment that forms the row, lays the irrigation and plastic mulch all in one pass down the field.  Here in the Ozarks we have to improvise.

First off, we used our large 16ft finish disc and make a few passes to loosen up the soil that had dried out and had about turned to concrete.  There was no room for error as we risked slicing open a sidewall with the edge of the disk.  The entire structure is only 32 feet wide, so maneuvering a 16ft wide disk was tricky.  Papa did an excellent job and the high tunnel was unscathed.

 

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Finish disk squeezed into the high tunnel

 

This is where the improvising really starts.  Spacing is critical when using equipment to form a new row.  It is critical to take into account the tire width of your tractor so that you don’t run right over the top of the row you just made, while attempting to form the next row…….Did that make any sense?

Our tractor tire width is much too large to deal with 4 foot spacings between the rows.  So, the very rough slapstick method we used involved the ATV.

Eddie hatched the idea to hang the potato plow from the back of the ATV, while Papa road on the plow for down pressure, and I sat on the front of the ATV to provide extra weight for traction.  Yep, my bum helped the ATV gain traction.  My initial claim that I didn’t weigh enough was shot down quickly…

 

Pototo Plow Sking

Potato Plow Skiing

 

Two passes with the potato plow gave us a swath of soil that could then be worked into a raised bed.  Out came the rakes.

 

Raking the Rasied Beds.

Raking the Raised Beds.

 

All four of us pitched in on the raking and Mae Mae supervised.

 

Sunglasses in the High Tunnel

Sunglasses in the High Tunnel

 

She even got in on some of the watering action.

 

Watering down the rows

Watering down the rows

 

At this point, we took a lunch break and Mae and I headed to the house for a nap.  We missed out on the irrigation and plastic mulch installation so I only have the completed pictures.

 

Irrigation Header Row

Irrigation Header Row

 

The irrigation header row runs the width of the high tunnel and the drip tape runs the length of the row.  We purchased an irrigation kit that was large enough to cover the entire square footage.  We have one more row to go in the picture below.

 

Completed Plastic and Irrigation Install.

Almost Completed Plastic and Irrigation Install.

 

This rounded out a full Saturday and we picked up at noon on Sunday.

Time for planting!  In all, we raised 234 tomato plants and 54 cucumbers from seed.  I am proud of our first plants from seed experiment.  I am inspired to raise all sorts of plants from seed next year.

 

Tomatoes and Cucumbers Raised from Seed.

Tomatoes and Cucumbers Raised from Seed.

 

Planting involved slicing a small hole in the plastic every 24 inches and inserting the plant along the drip tape.

 

First Tomato Plants in the Ground.

First Tomato Plants in the Ground.

 

First Completed Row for Tomatoes

First Completed Row for Tomatoes

 

The small strip between the rows and the exterior walls has lettuce, spinach and onions that we planted last weekend.

 

Lettuce has Germinated.

Lettuce has Germinated.

 

Green Onions Freshly Planted

Green Onions Freshly Planted

 

Even though watering and weeding should be a breeze, we have pruning and trellising ahead.

So much to learn.

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