As the new owners of Seeds from Italy, we have committed to growing every variety of seeds we sell. That’s a lot of plants, and it will probably take us several years to trial them all. Luckily, winter doesn’t stop us because we are able to grow year-round in our three unheated hoophouses. In our first winter of growing Franchi seeds, we have been harvesting a steady supply of delicious vegetables. Here are photos we took on Christmas Day 2011 after we picked from the hoophouse and field.
This is one of our three 20’ x 96’ unheated hoophouses. We planted cold-tolerant vegetables from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15. When the weather started getting really cold, in the low 20s, we covered the crops with a heavy spun-poly row cover. We had several nights where the low temperature was 12°F, but for the most part the weather was warmer than average. We also had a lot of sunshine, which is why even the late-planted vegetables grew well despite the short days of November and December.
We direct seeded Seeds from Italy’s Misticanza Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons salad mix) on Oct. 15. The mix contains various types of lettuce, chicory, and endive. We started cutting it 30 days later and this is how it looked at Christmas dinner (before we added the rest of the goodies).
We also had the round carrot Pariser Market, parsley Gigante di Napoli, the smooth leaf spinach Matador, radishes, and a few leaves of chicory Catalogna Brindisina (which we will stop picking so it can grow all winter and develop its thick, bulb-like stem).
If you would like to learn more about growing in hoophouses, we recommend these resources:
Hoophouse Handbook and Update bundle from Growing for Market provides a comprehensive overview of how to buy, build, and grow in unheated hoophouses.
Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. Farming in coastal Maine, Coleman uses many types of season extension structures including unheated hoophouses to grow year-round.
Hoop House How-To from the Kerr Center shows how to build a low-cost hoophouse.
Quick Hoops High Tunnel Bender Manual from Johnny’s Selected Seeds shows how to build a “caterpillar” style hoophouse. Johnny’s sells several pipe benders that you can use to make hoops in the correct shape from pipe you can buy at the local home improvement store.