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The Days Are Getting Longer

Posted 2/11/2010 9:58am by David Zemelsky.

Now our days are longer than 10 hours.  This  means that the days are long enough to see real growth in existing plants that are in our High Tunnels(aka hoophouse).    The time that is below a 10 hour day is known as the Persephone Period, name because of the Greek myth about how plants  stopped  growing while Persephone was held captive in the underworld by Hades (see Wickipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persephone).  While it is not exactly true that all growth stops during this time period (October 13-January 29th),  it certainly slows to a trickle.

At this point in the year, we've harvested all of our greens and are already seeing a lot of regrowth.   This is a wonderful thing, as we've been enjoying supplying our restaurants and farmers markets all winter and now look forward to resuming shortly.  Our greens are always delicious, but the big attraction to winter greens is their sweetness.  This is largely because the cold weather causes the starches in the plant leafs to change into carbohydrates, a simple sugar.

This is also the time of year to be thinking about tomatoes.  Our first planting of tomatoes goes into the one High Tunnel that has a heat source around March 29th.   A tomato plant wants to be around 6-7 weeks old at the time of planting.  That means that we'll be starting tomatoes next week.  Hard to believe.  Very hard to believe.  But then again, growing helps one feel like Spring is right around the corner.  We'll be busy setting up grow lights in the basement this week.  Right on the heals of tomato planting will be onions, peppers,lettuce heads and herbs.  Growing in the basement goes on for a few more weeks and then we transfer everything to our nursery that is out in a hoop houses.  We have built a 10' x 20'  houses inside this hoop house and installed a small propane furnace.

Meanwhile, we'll be preparing new beds throughout the different hoop houses for spring greens.  These will be planted out with arugula, mixed lettuce, kale, spicey mustard greens, tatzoi, mizuna and pak choi.  Can't wait.  It is hard to beat the feeling of working in a hoop house on a cold, sunny winter day.  You don't need a coat and it feels like a day in May.  This is a great substitute for going to Florida in February.  Infact, one winter when we couldn't go anywhere, we satisfied or warm sun needs by bringing lawn furniture out to the hoop house and sprawled out in total luxury.

During the last warm spell when all the  snow melted, I had the opportunity to look under some of the outside rowcovers.  It was amazing to see live and tasty spinach growing there.  As soon as warm weather arrives, these plants should really start to take off.
We also have several low tunnels that are performing really well.  These are made from wirehoops that make a low arc over the greens bed.  Plastic is put over the hoops and weighed down with sandbags on the edges and corners.  We planted lettuce, chard, beets and carrots around the beginning of November.  At this point, everything is small in there.  With the return of the light and warmer weather, all of these greens will make great progress.  And interesting part of all this is that baby baby lettuce can survive the harsh temperatures, but larger leaves will turn to mush.  Like all our winter greens, they have an anti-freeze system of sorts whereby the water migrates out of the plant cell and concentrates deeper down in the leaf, lowering its freezing point.  This is how we are able to provide fresh greens to restaurants and farmers market all year round.Now our days are longer than 10 hours.  This  means that the days are long enough to see real growth in existing plants that are in our High Tunnels(aka hoophouse).    The time that is below a 10 hour day is known as the Persephone Period, name because of the Greek myth about how plants  stopped  growing while Persephone was held captive in the underworld by Hades (see Wickipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persephone).  While it is not exactly true that all growth stops during this time period (October 13-January 29th),  it certainly slows to a trickle.

At this point in the year, we've harvested all of our greens and are already seeing a lot of regrowth.   This is a wonderful thing, as we've been enjoying supplying our restaurants and farmers markets all winter and now look forward to resuming shortly.  Our greens are always delicious, but the big attraction to winter greens is their sweetness.  This is largely because the cold weather causes the starches in the plant leafs to change into carbohydrates, a simple sugar.

This is also the time of year to be thinking about tomatoes.  Our first planting of tomatoes goes into the one High Tunnel that has a heat source around March 29th.   A tomato plant wants to be around 6-7 weeks old at the time of planting.  That means that we'll be starting tomatoes next week.  Hard to believe.  Very hard to believe.  But then again, growing helps one feel like Spring is right around the corner.  We'll be busy setting up grow lights in the basement this week.  Right on the heals of tomato planting will be onions, peppers,lettuce heads and herbs.  Growing in the basement goes on for a few more weeks and then we transfer everything to our nursery that is out in a hoop houses.  We have built a 10' x 20'  houses inside this hoop house and installed a small propane furnace.

Meanwhile, we'll be preparing new beds throughout the different hoop houses for spring greens.  These will be planted out with arugula, mixed lettuce, kale, spicey mustard greens, tatzoi, mizuna and pak choi.  Can't wait.  It is hard to beat the feeling of working in a hoop house on a cold, sunny winter day.  You don't need a coat and it feels like a day in May.  This is a great substitute for going to Florida in February.  Infact, one winter when we couldn't go anywhere, we satisfied or warm sun needs by bringing lawn furniture out to the hoop house and sprawled out in total luxury.

During the last warm spell when all the  snow melted, I had the opportunity to look under some of the outside rowcovers.  It was amazing to see live and tasty spinach growing there.  As soon as warm weather arrives, these plants should really start to take off.
We also have several low tunnels that are performing really well.  These are made from wirehoops that make a low arc over the greens bed.  Plastic is put over the hoops and weighed down with sandbags on the edges and corners.  We planted lettuce, chard, beets and carrots around the beginning of November.  At this point, everything is small in there.  With the return of the light and warmer weather, all of these greens will make great progress.  And interesting part of all this is that baby baby lettuce can survive the harsh temperatures, but larger leaves will turn to mush.  Like all our winter greens, they have an anti-freeze system of sorts whereby the water migrates out of the plant cell and concentrates deeper down in the leaf, lowering its freezing point.  This is how we are able to provide fresh greens to restaurants and farmers market all year round.