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Showing posts with label Greenhouse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greenhouse. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our Personal Food Security

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Personal food security can come in many shapes. It may be a pantry of stored goods if you don't have land, or it may be a relationship with a farmer in the form of a CSA or local farmers market. Because we do have land, our personal form of food security takes shape in our livestock and our gardens. For this post though, I'm just going to talk about our vegetable gardening and specifically what season extension means to us.


We have several lines of defense that we employ in our garden, mainly an unheated greenhouse and variety selection for cold hardiness. Although our last three springs have been very cool and wet, that is still really the norm for our rain forest area. Our ground is rarely dry enough to work until late April at best, and sometimes into May. Our maritime climate is mild, but damp and cool, making it hard to even bring some common warm weather crops to ripeness in a normal summer. That's just the way it is. Instead of bemoaning the fact about the weather or wet soil conditions it's much more uplifting to just adapt and get on with gardening.


No, a greenhouse and row covers are not natural, but they are really a pretty passive way to make an end run around weather and pest conditions, and they allow me to stay home and grow food for most of the year, instead of driving 15 miles to the nearest store to buy "fresh" from California food. Or even sillier in my case, driving 25 miles to buy fresh from Oregon vegetables that have traveled 85 miles and been grown in the pretty much the same conditions that I can duplicate right here with a hoophouse and some row cover. I prefer to stay home and grow my food.

Hakurei turnips under row cover.

Inexpensive row cover can help you avoid using pesticides and really make a difference on the success of many crops. If you're careful, the row cover can be re-used many times.

Five Color Silverbeet.

Our experiment last winter was to take the cover off the greenhouse to avoid any snow events, and to expose the soil to the vagaries of the winter weather. To that end we planted cold hardy (in our area) crops that we hoped would take us through the winter and into spring. The stalwarts turned out to be Swiss Chard, various Kales, and Bok Choy. When it was time to plant for spring though, we had to make the decision of what to keep on and what to kill out. We harvested 10 pounds of kale greens and fed the rest of the kale to the laying hens, and decided to dig up the chard plants and replant them after working the soil, we did that with our strawberry bed as well. The chard plants have been providing us with some greens while we wait for our new plantings to grow to harvest stage.

Red Long of Tropea onion.

When I look at our greenhouse, I see a garden, not long rows of any one thing, but a climate I can manage while I wait for our outside gardens to be ready for planting. One half is devoted to beds of many different things, and the other half is reserved for our warm weather crops that will be planted when the weather moderates a little.


Tristar everbearing strawberries.


Mustard bed.

Soon our greens will be ready to harvest and will make a welcome addition to the nettles and dandelions we have been able to gather.


That's just a peek into our part of our food security, what type of methods to you use to bring food to your pantry and table?

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Many Uses of a Hoophouse

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Justifying the purchase of a hoophouse can be hard to do if we think of this useful structure as just a place to grow warm weather crops.

That's a good use for sure, and in our cool, maritime climate, a hoophouse is insurance of a pepper and tomato crop. But building a hoophouse isn't cheap. Our 20' x 20' hoophouses came in at about $500.00 not including labor to build. That price included metal legs and bows, hardware, and greenhouse plastic. We used scrap lumber for end wall and door framing and if you had access to cheap lumber you could also build a frame from lumber instead of the metal bow system we used.


Actually we built hoophouses this size specifically for brooding chicks for our egg business. And I have to say a light and airy chick brooder is the way to go. Natural light encourages the chicks activity in the early days. We provide heat lamps but most days the lights are off only being used at night. Not using the lights so much is a cost savings, and a huge improvement over our earliest efforts at brooding chicks in a dark area with the only light being provided by heat lamps.


What is good for the chick - a light, warm draft-free environment is also a good place to start plants. To utilize more of our space we have our plant starts above the chicks suspended on temporary shelves. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that is true in this case. Once mice discovered how cozy the hoophouse was with a ready made larder, (chick food) they moved in as well, and discovered a liking for pepper and spinach seeds :(

It's hard to pin down the single best use of our hoophouse, all are important in our food raising plans. The more ways we can utilize this space throughout the year, the faster we get to the payoff of the original expense.

Time line for our small hoophouse:

January - nighttime sheep housing during inclement weather.

February - ditto.

March - begin starting plants with supplemental heat and covering as needed.

April - continue plant starts, and prepare for chicks.

May - finish brooding chicks on deep bedding, continue succession seeding.

June - move chicks outside to pasture, remove deep bedding, prepare for planting warm weather crops inside.

July - warm weather crops.

August - ditto.

September - harvest crops.

October - remove plants and rest space.

November - rest.

December - nighttime sheep housing in inclement weather.

Of course each situation will be different, and more uses could be found:

1) Such as winter time housing for rabbits, chickens, sheep or goats on a deep bedding system. In spring when animals are moved to pasture the bedding material could be removed and utilized for garden areas, still leaving enough residual to grow a summer crop of ??? Larger hoophouses make excellent winter time housing for hogs in high rainfall or cold areas.

2) A place for rapid growing succession crops such as mesclun or braising greens.

3) A place to raise broiler chickens off-season if you have a year-round market for your birds.

4) Hen house, provides natural light during the winter, and with shade cloth provides summer time housing.

Keeping all this in mind, planning a gap of at least 90 days from fresh manure to harvest of any vegetables to avoid any possible contamination of edibles, the possibilities are almost endless, with just our "ideas" to hold us back. Hoophouses can marry the idea of livestock and vegetables on a farm in a way our ancestors wouldn't have thought possible.