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What’s growing now: a picture feature

10 Apr

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Little plants in February?

17 Feb

Despite the lack of blog posts, we have been doing stuff on our little greenhouse project. Not much, admittedly, but stuff nonetheless. For instance, during the long, slow season of winter, we discussed a long-term plan for the project and helped some middle schoolers get projects started inside for the spring.

And then there was yesterday. 39 degrees outside; 104 degrees inside. Yep, that’s right. A 65 degree temperature difference. We all rushed out to the greenhouse to bask in the heat, and then promptly opened all the doors up and ushered a cold breeze inside. Oh yeah, we also planted up 72 row feet in greens for our spring CSA program. It’s exciting to think that spring is finally here, in the greenhouse at least.

How to pick seeds for winter production

6 Jan

So you’ve decided that you want to grow some vegetables for winter production. You’ve decided vaguely what you’re going to grow (for example, a gourmet salad mix). What’s left now is choosing your varieties. Continue on for the rest of the article

Vegetables Can Freeze, part 3: Carrots & Radishes

5 Jan

Radish "D'Avignon". Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Here we are in the third installment of “Vegetables Can Freeze.” Today’s topic: radishes and carrots. Will they survive a brutal freeze? Can they take the extreme cold of our Minnesota winters? Will they emerge stronger from their experience?

Well, yes. That’s why we’re writing about them. Both of these root crops have the virtue of a short season and improved flavor when grown in the cold.

When you think about the perfect carrot, usually it’s pretty far from the versions you find at your local grocery store, no?

Radish "Tricolored Easter Egg." Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Tough, woody, and soapy tasting–these carrots are gross and very common. But where can you find a tender, sweet, crunchy carrot that is actually a bright orange?

Why, in an unheated high tunnel, of course! Each time a carrot root freezes, some of the starch that is a part of its makeup is converted to natural sugar. This is why parsnips should be left in the ground until after a freeze and why potatoes shouldn’t be stored in the shed over the winter.

Carrot "Mokum." Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds.

The same goes for radishes. Cold weather makes them crisp and sweet, which is especially great along with their spiciness.

So now I think that we’ve covered about enough on the vegetable thing, so the next “Vegetables Can Freeze” post will be about selecting seed for winter production.

2011, the year of (more) vegetables

5 Jan

Here we are, standing right at the beginning of the third calendar year of our project’s existence. We’ve come a pretty long way already, you know, having a greenhouse and all. So what can you all expect in the next year of the greenhouse project? We’ve come up with a short list.

1. Greenhouse Improvements (an automatic ventilation system)
2. Wind turbine (to power the inflation fan)
3. Grant application (to pay for the above two)
4. Our first harvest from our salad CSA, and
5. Our first fall planting (as opposed to a hasty winter experiment-type thing).

So now you have some sense of anticipation, hopefully, just like us. We hope that 2011 will be a productive and vegetable-filled year for everyone out there.

Vegetables can freeze, part 2: Asian greens

14 Dec

Mmmm...mizuna.

Well, folks, you really loved the first “Vegetables Can Freeze” post. Really loved. As in, in two weeks, it had more views than any other post!

So in response, we will now offer a brief overview of the crops we’ve decided to plant in our greenhouse, along with some basic information. And today’s post, as you may have guessed, is about Asian greens.

"Jimmy, you must eat all your komatsuna before you can leave the table."

The three varieties of Asian green that we will be planting in the greenhouse this winter are as follows: mizuna, bekana (a type of Chinese cabbage) , and komatsuna. First and foremost, we chose these seeds because of their cold-hardiness and quick growing time. They will all be harvested for baby greens in a salad mix. Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog reports that they will go from planting to harvest in 21 days for baby greens, although it will take longer if grown in winter harvests. They have a variety of textures and flavors, ranging from delicate and sweet to juicy and spicy.

As is true of any other salad green, they are sweeter and tenderer when harvested young. And as you may have remembered from the last “veggies can freeze” post, greens grown during the winter are sweeter and tenderer than their summer-grown counterparts.  So it all equals up to super tender, juicy, beautiful salad. In March. Start stocking up on your favorite dressing now!

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other informative stuff here!

The first real planting of the season

10 Dec

Half of our greenhouse is laid out in beds for winter/spring production.

So, today was a pretty big day for the greenhouse. We finished rototilling the east half, added fertilizer, patched the plastic (poly patch tape is a school’s best friend), laid out the growing beds, and even got around to the fun stuff: planting garlic.

We all smelled like gasoline from the tiller,

And you thought you had rock problems. These came out of 480 sqare feet of dirt.

but in the end, it was a great morning.

We planted two varieties of garlic, neither of which we know the name of. Our farmer-in-residence, Andrew, says that we’ll be growing it only until it resembles a green onion. This will keep its season short, and should go nicely with rest of our “salad CSA”.

Some of our broccoli plants are growing florets!

Up for next Friday’s work day is a planting of one of our Asian greens. They’re brassicas, so they’ll do especially well in the cold. We’ll also mulch the garlic bulbs, but only if the ground freezes over night. It may sound contradictory, but we want the bulbs to grow slowly.