We are happy to say that although it is mid November we still have edible lettuce, spinach cilantro and a large variety of root vegetable. Leaving covers over low growing caterpillar tunnels has greatly extended our growing season this year.
When there is a nice day we just open the tunnels, harvest what we would like for the next couple days and give the row a sprinkle of water so the vegetables do not dry out.
In the end we had lettuce into February, carrots and beets in March and the spinach never died. It continues to grow! Even the cilantro roots are starting to grow again.
It just takes a little persistence to keep vegetables protected and lightly watered to have fresh veggies all winter!
We planted the root vegetables early, covered, and they are growing quickly. One of our challenges in previous years is growing enough carrots for the entire season’s demand. If we planted more than we did last year, by late season the carrots that were not pulled yet would be too big for our customers. Plus, we would run out of space in the root vegetable bed to grow the variety that people like.
Our new solution is succession planting. We tried this technique a little last year and it seemed to work. In succession planting we don’t plant everything at once. That way we have vegetables growing in different stages of maturity. We have enough of a growing season to have 3 phases of planting. By the end of the season the last carrots planted should come out the correct size.
There are actually 4 rows in our bed pictured. The first row to the left are radishes. They grow and sell quickly and don’t grow well in the heat so we usually don’t sell them later in the summer. The second row to the left are carrots. You will notice in the forefront there is nothing growing. I’m saving that space to plant carrots a little later in the year so they don’t grow too big. The third row is beets which grow almost perfectly against demand so I leave them as is. The far right row is turnips and parsnips. I split this row as these are not as popular as the others. If the turnips are selling out, which can happen, I re-seed a small section again to have more turnips later in the season for those customers.
As the radishes sell I’m replacing them with more carrot seeds. You can see that the radish tops are being replaced by carrot tops at the far left. My hope is to have enough carrots to sell and even possibly winter over under cover for just the family.
Looks like we will be having an early winter this year but we still have a lot of carrots and beets! It’s time to put row cover over the hoops for these root vegetables and see how long they will last.
We are trying two different approaches. The carrots on the right will just be covered with the fabric. The beets on the left are covered with hay AND the fabric to double insulate. Beets are more susceptible to the cold than carrots so we thought they may need extra help to keep from freezing.
We had great success last year when we winter covered for the first time. We only covered the carrots and they lasted until almost Thanksgiving! In addition to surviving the winter weather they also lasted into January after harvested and refrigerated.
Let’s see how long we can make the carrots and beets last this winter!
It didn’t take long to refresh the harvested garlic bed and prepare to plant it with a 2nd fall crop of carrots.
Earlier in the year we found that the carrots were overgrowing too fast and needed to plant more to have a continuous flow of perfect size carrots. Luckily you can plant carrots in secession a couple weeks apart from early spring to early fall since they are so cold hardy. Next year we will do exactly that. This year we decided to plant 2 crops far apart in time which didn’t work as well as we hoped.
We also put a cover over this row and kept it going into November for our customers! They last down to 28 degrees under the fabric. We didn’t hit a really hard freeze until almost Thanksgiving!
We continue to learn a little more with each issue that comes up on the farm. The following year is always a little better for the learnings.
Here is one of our fall orders just for the fun of it:
We immediately planted all the seeds once the beds were ready. We did not want to lose any time since we have such a short growing season. The picture shows a new tactic we’re taking to prevent the birds from eating the peas this year. We hooped some fencing over the planted area as a deterrent. It would require a desperate bird to work it’s way through the fence to even realize what type of plants they are. There is plenty of greener plants around to peak their interest. Spoiler alert….it worked!
Next, the lettuce seedlings came up quickly. Since we never use weed block fabric on the lettuce rows it’s also the beginning of weed pulling! Be honest. Take a look at this picture. Can you tell me which are weeds and which are the lettuce? No? And this is why the woman of the house is stuck weeding the lettuce and root vegetables until they are 2 inches tall!
Beets and carrots take longer to surface. We hand water the carrots in particular as soil dries quickly here, seeds are shallow and they seem to take forever to take a hold and leaf out. Unfortunately they initially look like blades of thin grass. Another reason the man of the house will never weed the carrots this young. Bean seeds come up quickly and we can use weed block since they grow farther apart. Luckily another reduction of manual labor. We try to minimize it as much as possible. In the next few weeks we will be able to bring out the transplants we have been growing inside. Until then we have hand watering and weeding to do!
It finally happened. Our first freeze was predicted and we had to harvest the rest of the fragile vegetables. Luckily there are a few vegetables that can handle a light freeze and one of them is carrots. We had 1-1/2 rows of carrots left that can withstand a drop in temperature down to 28 degrees if it’s not for too long.
We have never tried protective covering before so we took our first stab at a low tunnel. We invested in a pole bender, dug them into the ground and covered with a frost resistant agricultural fabric. It’s a little awkward setting it up but we found it successful all the way into November.
A longer ground frost was projected so we had to dig them all up and store for winter. Some were frozen but a lot of them went to the chickens. After seeing such great results we decided we will use low tunnels more next year not just to extend the life of the root vegetables in the fall but to hopefully allow us to plant tomatoes and peppers earlier with frost protection.
In a short season region anything we can do to extend our growing season to make our customers happier is worth the work.
We planted 3 rows of carrots this year because the customers couldn’t seem to get enough. Sweet and juicy, they are our favorite as well.
For some reason it seems to take carrots a lot longer to grow than any of than other vegetables. Beets take off and have no issues with the hot, dry weather. When carrot seeds are initially planted they require constant watering. The planting depth is so shallow they are constantly drying out in the hot sun. Since we use subsurface irrigation we have to hand water the carrots every morning and evening until the roots grow a couple inches down. It’s a time intensive process but well worth the effort.
This year we skipped all the long 8-10 inch carrot varieties because we lost so many the year before. With our clay soil it was difficult to to pull those carrots out without breaking them. We have been trying a number of different carrot varieties and this year we tried 3 different ones. The first variety was a new scarlet version from Europe and the other 2 were different Nantes which grow about 7-8 inches at it’s longest. The diameter of the carrot makes up for the length and it much easier to harvest.
We were sorely disappointed in the scarlet from Europe which looked more like a small turnip in shape. It was juicy, great for cooking and just as sweet as the others, but very unappealing in appearance. The other two did well. So well this year in fact even with all the sales we had more than enough.
The good carrots were still a little difficult to harvest due to the hard clay soil. We have to water the ground to get them out when the weather is dry. Next year we will stick with our Nantes varieties and try moving them to the new expanded plot we have been talking about which will include more sand than the existing plot.