Thursday, July 29, 2010

Product Spotlight August 2010

Direct-seeded herbs

Dill is one of the most versatile herbs.
It can be use for both cooking and bouquets.
It's not too late to direct seed herbs for fall! These annuals will be ready for harvest within 60 days and will benefit from the cooling temperatures of autumn:

Cilantro is the perfect accompaniment to late summer's eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers, to enjoy in Mexican, Indian, and Asian dishes. It tends to bolt in the heat of summer, but if you plant the slow-bolting variety Santo now, you'll have a good leaf harvest in 50-55 days.

Dill is useful for cooking in the leaf stage, or you can let it flower and use the pretty yellow umbels in bouquets. The best variety for flowers is Vierling. For high leaf yields in a small space, try the dwarf variety Fernleaf.

Leaf fennel makes a superb addition to salad mix when you cut it at the baby stage. Or, let it grow to full size and harvest the ferny, anise-flavored leaves.

Parsley takes about 75 days to maturity, but it's fairly cold-tolerant and can be grown during the fall in a hoophouse or under row cover.

Candy carrots
Napoli carrots are so
sweet, they're like candy!

Napoli carrot is a special Early Nantes variety renowned for its sweetness in cold weather. Napoli is ready for harvest in about 58 days, but it can be left in the ground to get sweeter as the weather gets cooler. In the South, carrots can be grown outdoors for winter harvest. In the North, Napoli is the perfect carrot for hoophouse production. Eliot Coleman, author of The Winter Harvest Handbook, plants them in late summer in an unheated hoophouse and seeds a sufficient quantity that he can harvest them all winter. Eliot calls them "candy carrots" and delights in the fact that children love these delicious winter carrots.

Napoli grows up to 7" long. It has smooth, blunt roots and strong tops. It's available as organic or nonorganic seed, and can also be ordered with conventional pelleting or pelleting approved for organic production.

Fall spinach

Spinach does best
in cooler temperatures.
Spinach is an important crop to plant in the next couple of months. In the field, it will flourish in the cooler days of autumn and will even withstand some freezing weather. In the hoophouse, it can be kept growing all winter if it's protected with row cover held above it on hoops. It's also a great crop to seed in fall and overwinter under Quick Hoops™ for early spring harvest.

The main obstacle for the fall spinach grower is getting seed to germinate in hot weather. If the soil is above 85F/29.4C, germination will be spotty at best. Before planting, cool the soil by watering it and covering it with shade cloth for a week. Or, if you are planting on a small scale, soak the seeds in water overnight, then drain well and put them in the refrigerator for a week. When the seeds sprout, they can be planted carefully.

Space is the best variety for fall planting because it is the most cold-tolerant and will continue to produce after first frost. For overwintering, try seeding Tyee in September for spring harvest.


Mache can be grown all winter.
The mild, sweet, nutty flavor and tender leaves of mache, also known as corn salad, makes it a perfect substitute for lettuce in late fall and winter. The small rosettes of dark green leaves are ready in 50 days. It can be grown all winter under Quick Hoops™ or in a hoophouse. It also can be grown in a planting tray in a cold greenhouse. Because it can tolerate cold, you can harvest it as needed throughout the winter. Be sure to plant enough for a long season of tender salads!

Quick Hoops™

4-foot Quick Hoops™ bender
Low tunnels made from electrical conduit bent with our new Quick Hoops™ Bender can extend the season this fall and next spring. The hoops can be covered with shade cloth to cool the soil for starting fall crops. Then the shade cloth can be replaced with row cover for frost protection in fall. Add a layer of greenhouse poly when the weather gets cold and you can keep many crops growing well into winter.

Last winter, we used Quick Hoops™ at Johnny's Research Farm in Albion, Maine to trial varieties and planting dates. For example, we started some lettuce in the greenhouse in September and transplanted into the Quick Hoops™ in October. Those plants grew a few inches and then became dormant until early spring. We direct seeded another round of lettuce in November, and those seeds didn't germinate until spring but were ready for harvest much earlier than spring-planted lettuce. You can read more and see photos on Johnny's Facebook page.

We'll be continuing our trials this fall and winter with the goal of identifying the best varieties for Quick Hoops™ production. You can expect to hear much more about this research in the future. In the meantime, we encourage you to experiment with these easy and inexpensive low tunnels to find the best timing for your own fall, winter, and early spring crops.

1 comment:

icebear said...

Thanks for the tip, i was just lamenting the fact that i forgot to plant dill earlier this spring. I'll try and get some in. My cilantro bolted already, so its good to know i can replant that also.