I hope your February is off to a great start! It has been going well here, too, aside from the astronomical amounts of snow we have gotten over the last 2 weeks or so. OK, so maybe it’s not astronomical, but there are at least 15 inches of fluffy white stuff on the ground. And it’s kind of thrown a wrench in my plans!
However, I’ve kept myself busy doing other things. I’ve started seedlings in the house, and they are literally taking over it! We are preparing for the weekend of April 14 & 15, as that is Michigan State University’s recommended date for planting tomatoes and peppers in hoop houses.
I use a certified organic potting mix called Pro-Mix that has been sterilized and treated to prevent disease and pests like fungus gnats. If you’ve never dealt with fungus gnats, BE GLAD! We had an infestation a few years ago, and it was terrible. We found out that they came from the untreated potting mix I had been using.
Peppers and Tomatoes are two of my favorites to start. The hotter the pepper, the more picky the seed seems to be when it comes to germination recommendations. Pepper and Eggplant seeds like a temperature between 80 and 85F to germinate. This is where a heating mat comes in handy! My heating mat allows me 4 trays of seedlings at a time.
Jalapenos are one of our favorite peppers, so we usually grow a bunch of them, some early, some big for stuffing, some for drying, some really hot ones… I also try to stagger the seeding times (successions) so we always have different plants at different maturity rates. We also planted some fun heirloom types, Ghost Peppers, Scotch Bonnets, Carolina Reapers, Poblano, and the good and trusty bell peppers (in all colors, of course!).
As for tomatoes, I am OBSESSED with all the different kinds and the different colors! I am sure I’ll have a whole post soon about all the different varieties I chose. For now, the only kind I have started are Hybrids (crosses) that are resistant to diseases, as I don’t want any disease (I know this is sometimes inevitable to avoid) in my hoop houses. I also chose tomato varieties that hold up to high heat, close and cramped quarters, and that keep producing all season long (indeterminate). I chose a paste tomato, beef steak, slicer, saladette and a cherry variety for planting in the hoop houses.
During the January Thaw, we had a few days of above 50F temperatures. We made the most of it and finally attached the sidewall covering to the metal piping in order to have roll up sides. We also attached strapping, using what my husband calls “mule tape”. It is a high test strand woven nylon rope that handles up to 1200 lbs. They use it as his work to pull cables and fibers through conduit in the ground. Sometimes, they have small pieces that can’t be used any longer, or there’s a tiny bit of damage to a strand in the middle of the rope. So, instead of throwing it away, it gets re-purposed, and I save some cash. The strapping helps keep the sidewall in place when it is windy and helps keep it in line when it is being rolled up.
I have also been working on removing any and all weeds and sod from the interior of the hoop houses. It is nice to be out there in a freezing cold day, and the temperature inside is above 50F! One day it was close to 75 and I was working in a tank top and sweating! The box you see in the middle has a hose reel inside of it that I received as a gift at Christmas, I have my Temp Stick on top of it. The Temp Stick talks to my phone and updates the temperature inside.
I was so thrilled to see worms pop up out of the soil when I was working inside. We still need to install drainage tile around the hoop houses to take the excess water away from the insides. One of the benefits of growing in a protected culture environment is that we control the moisture, and to do that we need to remove excess water.
And then it snowed, A LOT! So now our plans are on the back burner. Hopefully for not too much longer!
The goats enjoyed the warm days we had at the end of January, and of course they are not thrilled with the snow that’s on the ground now!