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What’s growing now: a picture feature

10 Apr

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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.

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!

5 ways to pay for a school greenhouse

9 Dec

The greenhouse under construction, October 2010.

We haven’t thought about paying for the structure of the greenhouse for a good three weeks, and it’s been a relief. The biggest stress in getting the greenhouse into the ground was finding out how to pay for it. So today, we’ll be sharing 5 ways to pay for your own cool project.

  1. Look for clean energy grants in your area. If your project will educate students about climate, organic food production, or energy production/conservation, local agencies would probably love to fund it.
  2. Look for local youth- or community-based grants. If students are interested in producing food or plants for sale, you could add small business grants for youth into your search.
  3. Consider selling advance shares of produce to parents. Calculate how much food/flowers/etc you can produce in your new greenhouse, and sell shares in advance to raise money. Google “Community Supported Agriculture” for more information.
  4. Ask your supplier for an educational discount. Some greenhouse kit companies will offer a 10% or greater discount for educational structures. The local Poly-Tex, Inc. gave us a generous discount.
  5. Hold a benefit event, or better yet, get someone else to. If students and families are excited about your project, see if they’d like to help. A benefit concert for the greenhouse raised $500 in donations; a bike-a-thon for the school’s solar panels made close to $2000 in $10 entrance fees.

Temperature Report: The greenhouse in November

3 Dec

The greenhouse is noticiably warmer inside, even minutes after the plastic is secured.

 

Highest a.m. temp: 66 F, 11 Nov.

Highest p.m. temp: 86 F, 10Nov.

Lowest a.m. temp: 23 F, 23 Nov.

Lowest p.m. temp: 56 F, 29 Nov.

Average a.m. temp: 44 F

Average p.m. temp: 56 F

Average overall: 49 F

 

 

Learn: How much does a greenhouse cost?

3 Dec

The greenhouse in the fair afternoon light.

“So, this project is cool and everything…but how much did it cost you?”

People ask us this question all the time. “All the time” meaning “every time we take anyone through the greenhouse or even mention it”. Heck, one of the most frequently used search terms for this blog is “greenhouse cost estimate”.

“How much does it cost” is a legitimate question, and one that needs answering. But if you’re reading this in hopes of putting up your own, remember…the factors for each project will be totally unique.

So here’s our little breakdown.

  • Structure: retail $3250; after education discount $2900. From Poly-Tex, Inc.
  • Conditional Use Permit and Variance: $1550, excluding refunded escrow. From City of Northfield
  • Building Permit: $160, from City of Northfield
  • Farmer-in-Residence: $4000; oversaw student labor in building the greenhouse, plus will help with planting, etc.
  • Various Components (door latches, extension cords, etc): $50, approximately.

So the total cost for putting¬† up our greenhouse was $8660, but keep in mind that this was paid for with $6000 worth of grants. We ended up having to only raise $2400 for the rest of the greenhouse, which isn’t bad at all.

So, how much do you think your greenhouse will cost?