Thursday, December 18, 2008

Local Food: Winter Advice from Growers

by Maggie Montgomery

Last year, as part of our local food diet, Dennis and I built a tomato house out of 16’ cattle panels covered with plastic. It was part “hoop house,” but not as tall and wide as a real hoop house, and part “chicken coop,” based on a design of Jane Grimsbo Jewett’s (but lacking the chickens, of course). We grew a bumper crop of tomatoes in there, without the blight we normally get in the garden.

We wondered what to grow there in Year Two. Would it be safe to grow tomatoes again, or should we rotate the crop? Dennis was also interested in trying to grow early greens, and possibly some melons.

Two KAXE members offered some advice that I will pass along:

Jeanine said she grows 6 or 8 hills of melons in her “hoop house.” She recommends heavy mulching and these varieties:

Minnesota Midget cantaloupe
French Orange French cantaloupes from Nichols Garden Nursery in Oregon
Edonis French cantaloupes from Johnny’s
Watermelon: Sugar Baby, Starlight, Small Russian

Joel Rosen suggested growing cucumbers, melons, basil, pole beans and eggplant. He also said we could probably grow tomatoes there again if we want to!

He told us lettuce and other greens would take almost twice as long to mature if transplanted early into the tomato house, and this might delay planting the tomatoes afterward. He suggested planting Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan), broccoli rabe (or rapini), mustard greens, baby bok choy and tatsoi.

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