A New, Movable Greenhouse: Completed Spring 2016!
In advance of the 2016 growing season we will be constructing a Rolling Thunder greenhouse at the farm. The idea behind this rolling structure, is that a grower can extend the season of crops in 2 separate plots of ground over the course of the season. On our farm, this would mean getting tomatoes in the ground earlier than usual (the beginning of May), and keeping them healthy longer. Over the last 5 years of growing, we have found that our greenhouse tomatoes suffer far less from disease and weather then our un-covered field crop. We will still plant some tomatoes out in the open (we grow a lot of tomatoes!), but the amount of plants under cover will be larger with this sizable structure.
Meanwhile, as the tomatoes are thriving in their protected environment, we will be planting a crop of fall greens in an identical footprint in front of the tomato house. When the tomatoes finish up in the fall, we roll the whole greenhouse, on a set of tracks, over the maturing greens to keep them growing well into the winter.
Overall, these improvements to the health and longevity of our tomato crop (one of the most profitable and popular crops any vegetable farm produces), and the longer fresh greens season into winter, means a more financially viable farm business for us at Sweet Acre, and more food for the community. (images from Rimolgreenhouses.com)
For 4 of our 5 seasons farming, we have washed and packed your vegetables in the wide-open sun, rain, & wind. We have stainless steel sinks and counters for processing vegetables for market and CSA days. In the worst case scenario this can mean standing in the pouring rain, ankle deep in mud, with hands so cold and devoid of dexterity that they might as well be billy clubs trying to put a rubber band around a bunch of carrots. Admittedly, it’s not always that bad, but the idea of never suffering through outdoor Fall vegetable washing again is pretty exciting.
Our wash station building would be a simple structure: cedar posts and pine beams cut from trees on our property, a metal roof overhead and gravel underfoot. Next year we might even add some walls!
Part of the reason we love our farm is because of the natural water that abounds on and around it: We have a pond from which we irrigate when conditions get dry, one of our property lines is the Bartlett Brook, and natural springs are found throughout the neighborhood.
The one downside we have found to all this water is that our field receives an overwhelming amount of Spring runoff every year, to the point that there is a sizeable area of standing water in one corner of our field that can last well into April. Standing water is not even remotely conducive to cultivation or planting, so we have to delay growing in that ¼ acre area until conditions dry out. Considering that our entire field is 1.5 acres, that’s a lot of land to be waiting on! And as (uncertified) organic growers, the rotation of crops each year is vitally important to the health of our vegetables. It is one of the key ways in which we stay ahead of devastating pest and disease problems without depending on chemical pesticides or fungicides.
Before the ground freezes and the snow falls this winter, we plan to install a tile drain around this front corner of the field to improve conditions for next Spring. This involves digging a long trench into which perforated PVC pipe will be laid, wrapped in landscaping fabric and back-filled with gravel. The pipe will collect the ground water in spring and move it, underground, around our field instead of through it. Once this drainage is in place, we’ll be able to plant earlier in the season, expand our field slightly, and rotate families of vegetables more easily from year to year.
Now that we are proud tractor owners, we need to put up a shed to keep the weather off this newest investment on the farm. Our 1970 Ford 1600 will be the key to a productive season next year – getting our field into cover crop this Fall, and into earlier crops next Spring. It will save our backs from having to shovel and cart compost, hay, rocks, and firewood around the property. It will help us eliminate the plague of quack grass that has slowed our production this year. It deserves to be protected from the rain and snow! We’ll be putting up a similar, but smaller structure to our wash station: Cedar posts and pine beams, metal sheet roofing, and “walls” made of leftover greenhouse plastic.