Thursday, October 1, 2009

Product Spotlight - October 2009

'Tyee' spinach

Extend your season this fall, or get an earlier start next spring with a crop of succulent spinach. 'Tyee' is recommended for fall planting. In mild areas or in a hoophouse, individual leaves can be harvested beginning in about five weeks and continuing all winter. In cold areas, it can be grown outside under row cover and overwintered for an early spring harvest.

'Tyee', the standard overwintering variety, is savoyed with an upright growth habit that keeps leaves clean. It is the most bolt-resistant savoy type, so overwintered crops will last longer in spring before going to seed.

Spinach gets sweeter and crisper with cold temperatures, and demand will be strong, so plant accordingly.

'Napoli' and 'Nelson' carrots

'Napoli' and 'Nelson' are two carrot varieties that are popular for fall planting and harvest. Both are Early Nantes types, which means they are medium length and cylindrical, are 56-58 days to maturity, and better for fresh eating than storage. In his book The Winter Harvest Handbook, Eliot Coleman recommends both varieties for winter production. Here's the difference between them:

'Napoli' is the variety Coleman uses for his "candy carrots," which are winter-harvested carrots with an extraordinary sweetness. At his farm in Maine, he plants them in late July and early August, both in the field and in the unheated hoophouse. The field plantings are harvested in October and November, and the hoophouse plantings remain in the soil for harvest in December, January, and February.

'Napoli' is available as organic raw seed, organic seed with pelleting approved for organic use, nonorganic raw seed, as well as nonorganic seed with conventional pelleting.

'Nelson' is the preferred variety for overwintering. Coleman plants it in late December and it is ready for harvest May 10. Though not as sweet as the winter carrots, 'Nelson' is a good choice for early production.

'Nelson' is available as nonorganic raw seed, nonorganic seed with pelleting approved for organic use, as well as nonorganic seed with conventional pelleting.

Quick Hoops Bender

Johnny's is pleased to introduce the Quick Hoops Bender, a tool used to make hoops for low tunnels quickly and neatly. It is the result of a collaboration between Johnny's Selected Seeds, Lost Creek Greenhouse Systems, and Eliot Coleman, who advocates the use of Quick Hoops in his new book, The Winter Harvest Handbook. Coleman notes that three rows of Quick Hoops cover the same area as a 22 x 48 foot greenhouse, at 1/20th the cost. He uses Quick Hoops to overwinter onions, lettuce and spinach, which will be ready for harvest a month ahead of the earliest spring-sown crops.

Low tunnels are widely used on vegetable farms for a variety of reasons - they are covered with heavyweight row cover for frost protection, with lightweight row cover for insect protection, and with shade cloth to extend cool-loving crops into summer. Most growers have been using hoops of PVC conduit or coiled wire for their low tunnels. But those don't hold up well to wind and snow, so they aren't usually used to overwinter crops.

The Quick Hoops Bender, however, is designed to create hoops out of galvanized electrical conduit (EMT), which is much stronger and can take snow loads. These hoops can be pushed into the soil about 10 inches and covered with spun-bonded row cover in fall and then with greenhouse covering in winter. Both coverings are available in compatible sizes from Johnny's.

The Quick Hoops Bender can be used to bend galvanized electrical conduit from ½ inch to 1 inch, and even 1-3/8 inch galvanized fence pipe. For most applications, ½ inch conduit is recommended. It is available in 10-foot lengths at home improvement stores for about $2 each. The Bender should be attached to a strong surface, such as a workbench or picnic table. Conduit is then fed into a holding strap and the operator manually pulls the conduit into shape around the bender. A hoop takes about a minute to bend. Detailed instructions and a video are available at

The Quick Hoops Bender comes in two sizes: #9520 creates hoops that are 6 ft. wide and 3 ft. tall (before insertion into the ground), which can cover two 30-inch-wide beds with a footpath between them; #9377 creates hoops that are 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall (before insertion), wide enough to span a single 3-foot bed and tall enough to be used for most summer crops.

The Quick Hoops Bender is available now, at $69 for either size. In the next few months, Johnny's will introduce an optional trailer hitch mount for a farm vehicle, so the hoops can be bent right in the field where they will be used.


Anonymous said...

How do you water crops in low tunnels during winter when snow is on the ground and everything is frozen solid? i.e. how much water is needed during the winter?

Anonymous said...

After managing our vegetable gardens during this year's record "forever" heatwave in Central Texas, your cool weather crops displayed here are a very welcome sight! Even our Texas okra objected to this year's never-ending 100-degree or hotter days! Thank you for the detail in both the written word and your excellent photographs. Both are exceptional ... as is your entire website.
Bob Grafe
Guadalupe County Master Gardeners Association
Seguin, Texas

Brian said...

In mid winter, like you describe, water shouldn't be needed. The plants rae alive but not thriving therefor they're not using any moisture. Once growth resumes in the spring, watering as usual can commence.

Paul said...

I installed my hoops and row covers today! This jig works well!

Robert said...

I have a simular set-up but on a smaller scale. A 5 X 8 foot raised bed/Hoop House. I found that in the fall months up through December, I used just 10 gallons of water every two weeks. My winter growing ended about Christmas Day. I still have leek and onions that have by now went into hybernation until about February. I water by opening either end and using a watering can
Also the long side is on a hinge on the back side and can be folded back to expose the whole bed at one time if necessary. I am in South Central Kansas near Wichita.