Thursday, November 21, 2013

Season Extension at Greed Edge Gardens

"I feel better about the cost of organic food already," said a fellow participant as we toured Green Edge Gardens. We were attending the High Tunnel Workshop which was a partnership between both Rural Action and Green Edge Gardens. The focus was on the concept of "season creation" and included class time and a site visit to the organic farm. (You can read more about Season Creation in the book created by the two by contacting either Green Edge or Rural Action; there is not a direct link to the book.)

I cluelessly thought a high tunnel was a hoop blanket rig that covered plants to extend the growing season into the winter. However, a high tunnel is ninety-six feet long by thirty feet wide structure that can be used to create a whole new growing season which happens to be Green Edge Gardens' specialty. They grow organic vegetables in winter using high tunnels with a few special blankets which allows them to farm year round. They worked with the Ohio University Mechanical Engineering department to devise a more efficient system to cover and uncover their crops (kudos for community collaboration). 

Farmer talk in addition to sustainability, living wage, and decisions that factor into bottom lines included words like airflow, sunlight, plastic micron thickness, and crop layout strategy. Radiant water heats up the seed shack, the term seed barn may have been used, which is where seeds are started though some seeds are direct sow into the ground in the high tunnels. NOAA weather predictions (they aren't the first farmers to mention NOAA to me) determine harvest days as they have to deliver the goods every Wednesday to their CSA customers. Construction terminology like wiggle wire, tennis balls, and off gassing strategy for plastic was banded about with references to structures and learning on the farm moments. The farmer even offered ten thousand dollars to anyone who could solve one of his problems which I failed to note. I was too busy trying to get my brain around how to build a high tunnel in my city lot (not) and comprehending how one person could cover and uncover all of the plants with the rigging devised.

Walking the grounds, seeing how one organic farm works within the parameters of its particular location in terms of sun, water, and temperature changes, and understanding how this farm developed a niche market by using high tunnels to grow vegetables in winter was fascinating. Join a CSA, support organic farmers, support Rural Action and other like minded community organizations, and support farmers markets-- they all support efforts that makes the earth a better place.

Clay soil plagues farmers and gardens alike in this area of Ohio. I went through three plantings in one bed trying to get something to grow despite adding sand, manure, and composted leaves. Something finally grew, only to be killed by an early October frost. This soil tip came from Farmer Kip. Cover the clay with an inch of #9 S Torpedo fill which is a tiny gravel-- it only needs to be done once-- and mix it into the clay to some degree. Over time the clay and fill will mix together more. Top this with 2-inches of peat moss, manure, compost, etc. The torpedo fill is the lynch pin for breaking up the clay which is just too finely smooched together. Then each year in the fall add peat moss, manure, and/or compost to keep nurturing the soil along.

My sincere appreciation to Kip and Becky Rondy for opening their farm to the participants from Rural Action and to Rural Action for putting these kinds of events together. 

The brains that run the world tomorrow are the mouths we feed today.

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