Its 2013! There is finally snow! We enjoyed some wonderful time with family and friends and are now settling back into the normal flow of life (well, the flow of winter life that is). The hoops are pretty much acting as glorified refrigerators at this point, protecting the little plants from the harsh winds and cold. I’m still harvesting once a week for the Ann Arbor Farmers market, but I fear I’m getting close to the maximum harvest until the plants begin to really grown again (in mid-Feb).
This is the first real winter we’ve grown crops in the hoop house. Last winter we had only our little 30’x48′ and it only had spinach in it. Now we have a 30’x96′ filled with salad, kale, chard, etc. I planted it too late in the fall and so the kale, chard, beets are all too small and are not giving their full potential. It was just too hard to pull out the tomatoes that were in the hoop at the time and plant the winter crops. In September its hard to imagine that the following Jan/Feb we will be needing those hardy crops nice and big and healthy…
One surprise we’ve had this winter in the hoops is the healthy aphid population (photo above). There are several reasons why they might be in there (I left mulch in the hoop where they like to winter, its warm in there and has good moisture, etc). From a few discussions I’ve had with other hoop house growers in the area, I’m not the only one with this issue. I’m trying to pick off infected leaves and make sure to clean up any plant residues and mulches where they can hang out. I’ve also sprayed neem (a plant derived oil) that is supposed to kill them but it must come in contact with their bodies and they live on the underside of the leaves. I plan to purchase lady bug larve as soon as its warm enough so that I can unleash those babies on the aphids (they eat up aphids pretty quickly!) I found one little lady beetle in one of the beds but she looked pretty lethargic in the cold….
One farmer told me a story about a gang of mice from a nearby field that decided over the course of two days to invade one of their hoop houses and completely devour an entire 144′ of beets and greens. They even ate the beets that were underground! I’m trying to imagine how many mice that would take. All we could think of to do was to keep a cat in there to kill them. There are only so many traps you can set! We’ve been lucky enough to have the occasional mouse and a few rabbits. The rabbits sneak under the bottom of the moveable hoop (it sits on a track) and have been working through the turnip greens. We just set a trap with apples tonight. Anyone looking for a new pet?
Most of my time these days is absorbed in planning and ordering. I told Andrew it felt like Christmas all over again as I opened up the huge boxes and checked off the seed order. All the possibilities! All the work ahead! This is the time of year to really dream big and prepare well so that when the craziness hits…we’ll be all the more ready for it!