Extending a Great Growing Season
By this time, most farms have finished their seeding and planting in the fields and are focusing on large fall harvests and preparing the fields for the transition to winter. As more and more people demand and crave local food year round, many farms – like us – have taken on the challenge of trying to extend our New England growing season as much as possible.
This year, we’re experimenting with what are called “low-tunnels” or “hoop-houses.” They are an inexpensive, relatively simple way to protect crops from the inevitable October frosts, or to overwinter crops so they have a head start come spring. We’ll be doing both, constructing four 50′ low tunnels over vegetable beds at our Blue Hill Avenue site. We’ve recently seeded baby kales, spinach, turnips, and some other cold-loving greens to compose a winter salad mix for our restaurant and grocery customers. Soon, we’ll seed more radish, baby arugula, and romaine lettuces, too. As for spring, we’ll plant Rainbow Chard and some spinaches we hope to see pop up while we work the fields in mid-March and April.
As we experiment with these season extension systems, we’re thinking of how to replicate them across the city at future urban farm sites. The longer we can grow, the more we can provide the best, healthiest, and most local food to Boston communities, perhaps even as we watch the snowfalls of winter come and go. We’re relieved the fall has offered us a break from weeds, our newest site finished and in good shape, and plenty of rain; it gives us the pleasure and space to experiment with new and exciting ways of growing delicious food.