The Greenhouses of Eden Hall Farm

I want to take a second to highlight the structures that have made our first year of full season extension here at Eden Hall Farm possible. We were able to grow this full past year, thanks to the foundation and support of our four greenhouses. They have weathered wind and rain and withstood the test of time.

Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes and can range from fairly inexpensive to highly designed structures. The goal and use of a greenhouse for season extension is multi-fold.

The benefits include:

  • Providing extended growing seasons
  • Protecting crops from damaging weather
  • Providing more optimal conditions for a better quality and higher yield harvest
  • Protecting against disease, insects and predators
  • Providing extended work to laborers
  • Providing extended marketing season to growers

On our farm, we have four different types of greenhouses.

The first greenhouse is our heated glass greenhouse. This greenhouse is used by students for class work and experiments, but is also vital to our farm-to-institution functioning. We used the glass greenhouse warmth this past winter to start and grow seeds and its adjoining building as our harvest wash room.

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The second greenhouse is our Solar High Tunnel. This greenhouse is heated by solar energy and has been used the most throughout this past winter to grow our hardy greens, such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard, tatsoi, Red Sail and Rhazes lettuce and is also home to our beets, peppers, and carrots. The Solar High Tunnel is equipped with sliding seeding tables that now hold several trays and gutters of new seedlings. It is also now home to our baby Praying Mantises.

The third greenhouse is our Moveable High Tunnel. This greenhouse is currently growing only kale and Swiss chard, but is being prepped to start production for upcoming summer plans. What is unique about this greenhouse is the ability to slide the entire structure on a set of runners to cover a completely new plot of soil. This is useful for crop rotation and soil preservation.

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The fourth greenhouse is our Hoop House. This simple structure is one of the more inexpensive designs, but still provides all of the benefits of season extension listed above. This hoop house was not used through this past winter, but has plans to be tilled and prepared for our new ginger crop.

The diversity at Eden Hall Farm does not stop at its crops (both plants and humans!), but includes its structures as well!

Orange, Pink and Red bunches of beets

 

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“I believe I can fly!”

Our Solar High Tunnel has approximately 50 new tenants who made their debut to this world Sunday (under the watchful guardianship of Tony’s son), and were released into the “wild” of our Eden Hall High Tunnel yesterday.

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Praying Mantises are utilized as a means of organic pest management. They dine both day and night on many tasty insects. When young, the Mantises eat soft bodied insects like aphids, leafhoppers, mosquitos, and caterpillars, and graduate to larger grasshoppers, crickets and beetles as they age. They are beneficial to the greenhouse as their prey often find prey in our tasty crops.

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Our team of baby Mantises was released directly onto our growing Red Sail lettuce, Kale, Swiss Chard, Tatsoi and Spinach.

We hope to observe as they grow and thrive in this environment, though it will be somewhat of an experiment to see how many stay, and how many travel elsewhere once the temperatures rise and the High Tunnel walls start to open and close.

How did Praying Mantises get their name?

(According to Rodale’s Organic Life):

“When lying in ambush for prey, all mantises strike the same ‘prayerful’ posture of folded front legs held tight to the body. They use their back and middle legs to grasp a twig or stem. When an insect comes into reach, the mantis strikes out, impales, and holds the prey with its spiny, or toothed, front legs. The strike occurs in the blink of an eye. A Carolina mantis can actually strike twice before a housefly can open its wings to attempt an escape.”

After their ceremonial send-off by R. Kelly, we moved along in the Solar High Tunnel to seed some Claytonia micro greens and a few experimental pepper seeds.

 

A shockingly peppery day. . .

Today’s chilly temps and gray sky didn’t stop movement at the farm.

We’re “shocking” our shiitake mushroom logs with a cold water plunge to encourage them to fruit.

The logs will remain submerged until tomorrow.

After shocking the logs, we moved to the solar high tunnel to prep a bed for newly transplanted pepper plants.

Just the thought of fresh peppers and mushrooms is enough to make our mouths water!

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Dirt to Diner . . .

Spring is the season. As students make their way back to class after break, they find themselves digging through the chaos that are the last weeks of the semester. But the sun is out and the greens are making their way to students’ plates to motivate both their taste buds and their intellectual savvy.

The morning rain didn’t stop the afternoon sun from shining on us as we started our harvest. We pulled lettuce and harvested mizuna, kale and swiss chard from the solar high tunnel. These greens have thrived through the winter with the time, energy and tending from our crew.

They traveled from dirt…

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Through a wash…

…and a spin

And straight into the hands of our Eden Hall Kitchen Chefs!

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And more greens are on their way to the Shadyside Campus!

-Sometimes the right food takes an equal amount of effort, and today was no different.-

Moving to new ground!

The moveable high tunnel has made its way to new ground! And after today, that new ground has been transformed into 12 “raised” beds, all ready for the quarter test!

The job required a bit more math and geometry than we had anticipated, but it was a welcome change from a class day filled with literary review and heated debate. It’s always nice to compliment a morning of words and research with an afternoon of soil and manual labor.

Stay tuned to find out what chosen crops get to start filling out the moveable high tunnel!

Sunny with a high of…85!

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Spring temperatures and sunshine greeted us outside, while inside the Solar High Tunnel it was a balmy 85! The temperatures this winter have certainly kept us on our toes…but our High Tunnel greens have been anything but phased.

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The spinach continues to make its way upwards… though who needs to be coaxed on sunny days like today?

Unfortunately, our carrot soldiers are past the point of coaxing. They didn’t make the cut, so their bed was turned over to create vacancy for an upcoming mystery crop… stay tuned!

Close up and personal with some maturing Kale and Swiss Chard

 

Jessica Lieb

Winter Greens

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It was a short day on the farm today, but not one without progress! As the growing greens continue to hibernate under cover, new seedlings were given a fighting chance as they were transplanted into the ground.

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Two rows of Mizuna and two rows of Red Sail Lettuce round out the rows in the Solar High Tunnel. All beds are full and snug with winter greens!

At the end of the SHT, our direct seeded Spinach is starting to peek out of the earth as a few carrot soldiers can be seen sprouting just rows away!

More seedlings (peppers included!) are cozily growing in the greenhouse, waiting their turn to be transplanted- – stay tuned!

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P.S. Let’s hope our Eden Hall carrot soldiers turn out better than my first attempt (above) at growing carrots in my own little urban garden two summers ago…