Finally. The cold weather has subsided… but that doesn’t leave us without troubles. It seems as though the “April Showers” have now arrived instead of the Flowers commonly associated with May and its warmth. The local farmers are one or two weeks behind on planting, and hopefully we will be blessed with a warmer fall to make up the difference.
We accomplished a lot here at Red Barn Acres Farm, including getting about 200 onions in the ground a few weeks ago. I planted about 130 tomatoes in the south hoop house the last week of April, and they are doing well.
Another 100 or so went into the north hoop house along with cucumbers, 140 pepper plants (including Jalapenos, Bell Peppers of different colors, Ghost Peppers, and Carolina Reapers), luffah, and a couple specialty vining plants that produce small fruit that can be classified as either a melon or a cucumber. I am excited for these!
The north hoop house tilled up wonderfully and was planted the next day. The smell of freshly tilled soil is one of my favorite smells in the spring. I love feeling it in between my fingers.
I planted peppers in the rows that run along the sides, as peppers won’t get as tall as anything that vines or even tomatoes.
The cool part about covered culture growing is that you can literally cram as many plants as you want inside. I planted my pepper plants in a criss-cross pattern, 6 inches apart. They’ll use each other as support as they grow. I was able to plant my tomato plants 8 to 10 inches part, since in hoop house growing, most of the leaves are trimmed off below fruit bearing stems.
The vining plants will grow on the cattle-panels shown in the photo above, but I will hang a vegetable netting from the top beam when the plants are ready for it.
The tomatoes in the south hoop house were trellised. The system I chose to do was using Twine and tomahooks hung from wire from the ceiling. As the tomato vines grow, you twist them around the twine. I took landscape staples and tied the twine to them, then stuck them in the ground so they were nice and tight. This also helps keep the tomato vines from laying on the ground, where disease spreads. It also keeps them upright and it is far more easier to see the fruit and suckers, or any trouble that may need correction.
The tomato plant above is a Dester beef steak variety. I have never grown them before but am anxious to see how they do for me! They are a pink fruited variety, and come from an Amish lady in Missouri who lives only a few miles away from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. The fruit of the Dester plant can reach up to a pound and a half in weight. I am hoping they turn out to be a wonderful canning tomato.
Shade cloth was added to the top of each hoop house. This will help keep the heat of the sun from overheating the hoop house. I decided to put it on a couple of weeks early because the sun was actually bleaching and burning some of my tomato plants. Not to mention, it is a little easier on the eyes to have a little shade while working inside. Shade cloth also helps keep temperatures down in the middle of the summer. Believe it or not, even on a 35 degree day, the hoop houses approach 85 degrees in full sun. Shade Cloth also helps keep fruits from burning up in the sun.
My daughter and I planted a bunch of bee friendly perennial flower plants on the south side of the south hoop house.
Things seem to be going well and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store for us!