Sunday, October 22, 2017

Eden in 2017

We try to take pictures of most, if not all, of our plots/fields (whatever you want to call them) at least once a month for our own records.  Sometimes, we share them as part of blog posts throughout the season.  Or, if the picture is particularly nice, it might show up in a presentation.  Every year, I tell myself that I'll make a post or two that shows everyone the progression of a particular field or crop through the season.  This assumes two things.  First, I make the time to do the post.  Second, that I actually have a decent set of pictures to begin with.  For some reason, there is always a month where I just don't get a picture of one field or another.

This year, it looks like we have enough to do a time lapse on Eden, the smaller and older high tunnel building on our farm.  We put Eden up in 2010 and put new plastic on it in 2016.  It's been the subject of several blog posts in the past, in case you were wondering. 
Blank slate in April
Often, we will over-Winter crops in the high tunnel.  Things like spinach, lettuce and kale.  Sometimes it works out well.  Sometimes it does not.  With the addition of Valhalla (our newer high tunnel), we were able to schedule the overwintered crops in that building so we could start Summer crops sooner in Eden this year.

Plants are in and already in need of a May weeding.
Of course, the best laid plans often go awry when Mother Nature is involved.  We had an early Spring with far less sun than usual (despite how nice the pictures above look).  So, things didn't bust out of the gate as we expected them to.  Even so, we got the tomatoes and peppers in much earlier than we have in prior years.  We're won't be entirely sure if we benefited from that or not until we do our analysis for the year.  My gut tells me that it was a bit of a wash this time around.  Call it a proof of concept year?
June saw some rapid growth.  Nice lettuce next to the tomatoes!
As you may already know, we do not like to plant any of our fields in just one crop.  We believe diversity is the best kind of insurance and the best way to inexpensively control pests and diseases.  The picture above shows tomatoes on the left with lettuce next to it.  The bigger leafed plants in the middle right are golden beets and carrots are next door to those.  Not pictured above are melons, beans, peppers, herbs and cherry tomatoes... oh, and a little swiss chard as an experiment.

Looking very good in early July!
The picture above is how we ideally see our high tunnels in our minds eye.  The weeds are under control.  The plants are a beautiful shade of green and it is obvious that they are all healthy at this point.  Well, the lettuce that remains is bolting - but that's to be expected.  We had harvested all but a few plants which went to the turkeys soon after this picture was taken.

There are a few issues.  The beans are trying to take over the peppers because they are SOOOO happy.  The tomatoes have reached the top of their trellising, so we were going to need to add more height to it soon.  And, the melons didn't have a particularly good year in Eden this year.  We tried to start them too early.  We'll know better for next year - we just shouldn't push them too hard early.
Early August - what happened?
Heavy rains in late July, combined with the harvest of the beets left us with a high tunnel that was decidedly less happy than it had been.  The beans are gone, boiled away by excessive water and heat well before we got our normal production out of them.  The carrots were harvested as well, but fully half of them rotted away at the water table line.  The good news?  We had already harvested the first flush (and then some) from the beans, we weren't shut out on the carrots and the rest of the crops were fine after things dried out some.

At this point, I stopped taking pictures every month.  The tomatoes on the right (cherry tomatoes) are now touching the top of the high tunnel and the tomatoes on the left of the picture are a good three foot (or more) taller.  It is late October, so they are showing signs of finishing, despite a very large number of fruit still on the vines.  The peppers have held their own this year, which is good considering the poor performance of the field peppers.  The golden beets were tasty and of good size.  The melons were a bit sparse, but well received.  Happily the melons in Valhalla picked up the slack this year. 

Very soon, we will move Eden to its other position so it can cover some lettuce, chard, kale, pok choi, spinach, tatsoi, komatsuna and other goodies for Winter or early Spring harvest.  The tomatoes that look like they will still ripen will get harvested and brought in and the vines will be taken down.  We'll clean off the peppers and harvest the chard.  We've had better years in Eden than this, but it surely hasn't been a horrible season by any measure with nearly 1300 pounds of produce in this 30 foot by 72 foot building.

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