After three weeks away from Eden Hall, the Graduate Assistants/Associates have returned to a completely different farm. A light fluffy blanket of snow and single digit temperatures have replaced the mild sunny days of late fall.
Our work is mostly confined to the controlled growing environments (the greenhouse, hoop house, and solar high tunnel), where we have been continuously seeding and planting winter greens. Kale, Swiss chard, tot soi, and claytonia have been among the favorites from the solar high tunnel. The hoop house also contains a variety of winter greens, including endive, mizuna, and spinach. Each was planted twice so that we could perform an experiment with Biplantol solution. Biplantol is an organic solution that was developed by horticulturalists to strengthen plants and soil (bioplantimport.com). We thought that we might see improved growth in the beds that received biplantol, but so far we have not been able to ascertain a difference.
Temperatures in the solar high tunnel, greenhouse, and hoop house can get up into the 70s and 80s during a sunny winter day, but at night the temperatures plummet back down to freezing. In an attempt to keep the plants from freezing at night, we have been covering them with sheets of plastic and Agribond draped over plastic hoops. Each time we enter one of the controlled growing environment structures, we remove our own layers, hats and gloves and then proceed to uncover the greens. We check for healthy growth rates, scout for pests, and remove any weeds that may be competing for resources. When we are ready to head back out into the winter chill, we bundles ourselves up and then tuck in the greens, wishing them a good nights sleep.
As delicious as greens are (we have been enjoying raw tot soi by the handful), we have begun to dream of ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and hot peppers. These plants are not hardy enough to be grown in the solar high tunnel or the hoop house during the winter, so we must wait until summer before we can dive into a crispy salad that consists of more than just lettuce. January is when the greens are tended with care, while thoughts of juicy summer vegetables (cukes! corn! okra!) swirl around in our heads and keep us moving through the thick winter sludge. Plans for the spring are most definitely stewing. Stay tuned for details.