Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Concepts for the Winter Harvest

Eliot Coleman Bio

On the verge of winter here in Eastern North America, author and Johnny's tools advisor Eliot Coleman shares his thoughts on trialing different concepts and technologies in unheated greenhouses over the coming winter production season .... 

by Eliot Coleman
One of the joys of farming for me is searching out better ideas. This is especially true for the winter production of cold-hardy crops in unheated greenhouses, a production system that we have been exploring for 35 years or so. We are always looking for new ways to keep the greenhouses warmer at night without spending money on heat. We will be trialing two promising products this winter.
SolaWrap
The first is SolaWrap, a greenhouse plastic that looks like bubble wrap, which has been in use for 30 years in Europe but has only just this year been released to the US market. We are most interested in its superior insulating quality, compared to sheet plastic, in order to keep heat in the greenhouse. It is -inch thick and has an R-value of 1.72, which is superior to the expensive triple–wall polycarbonate. We also appreciate that the material comes with a 10-year guaranteed lifespan.
But probably the most unique property of SolaWrap is the way it is put on the greenhouse. With sheet plastic, the growers and their crew will work frantically to cover the house with one huge piece. I say “frantically” because the process becomes extremely difficult if there is any wind at all.

SolaWrap Roll-up Curtain

SolaWrap, on the other hand, is modular. It is independently attached between each pair of ribs. SolaWrap is available in 4’, 5’, and 6’ widths, which you choose depending upon the rib spacing of your greenhouse. A cable is welded into each edge of the SolaWrap width. A hard plastic strip, with a slot along each side, is first tech-screwed onto the top of all the ribs. To start installing, the cables are inserted into the slots and the SolaWrap is pulled up and over the greenhouse, one pair of ribs at a time. The slots hold the cables so securely that people can stand on the plastic.
Water Wall
Our second trial this winter also involves an effort to store more of the sun’s daily heat in the greenhouse to keep it warmer at night. We will be using 12”-diameter, water-filled black plastic tubes as our heat storage medium.

Ginegar Water Wall

European greenhouse growers have employed this concept for many years by laying the tubes on the soil between the rows of crops, down the length of the greenhouse. That has been beneficial for two crops they commonly grow, tomatoes and cucumbers (two crops not on our unheated winter list); but using them that way would be impractical for our closely spaced spinach and salad crops.
However, the Israeli company Ginegar has developed a water tube designed to be held vertically in a simple wire mesh support. With the vertical configuration, a whole row of them, side-by-side, can stand out of the way against the north wall of the greenhouse. In a 50’ house that is about 2000 gallons of water.
Will the water-filled tubes freeze solid in the depths of our Maine winter? Would that be a disaster or just a temporary situation? Will we miss the ambient light that used to come from the north side of the greenhouse? Well, that is part of the adventure of exploring new ideas — you never know how things are going to turn out until you try.
Learn More

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cedar Ridge Resident Facility Garden

The Cedar Ridge Center, a Johnny’s customer located in Skowhegan, Maine, recently sent us the following review of their successful growing season. Cedar Ridge is a newly renovated, 74-bed facility offering full rehabilitation services, an enhanced meal plan, and 24-hour skilled nursing care.

        

The Cedar Ridge facility’s garden was a project that was started in the spring of 2013 with the assistance of Master Gardener Robert Turner, Johnny’s Selected Seeds Contact Center Specialist Erin Reardon, and the activity department at the Center. Seeds were purchased through Johnny’s in Winslow and started in the facility under grow lights.

   Last spring, the turf at the facility was taken up in 5 strips, 7 feet wide and 50 feet long. This year we added 3 more strips, for a total of 8. The turf was left between the rows so that our residents’ wheelchairs could access the entire garden. 

   Through the direction of Master Gardener Robert Turner the project was taken on with sustainability in mind. No fertilizers were used to amend the soil. The residents assisted with watering, potting seedlings and then, after harvest, they snapped beans, peeled vegetables, and have made pickles and squash pie. 


   Residents have enjoyed watching the garden grow and showing off their garden to family members. The garden for the past 3 months has produced 1,187.58 pounds of fresh produce! Our facility kitchen staff has taken great pride in preparing the backyard fresh vegetables and the residents compliment daily about how much they have enjoyed them. This is a project that speaks of the memories and tastes of home. We have raised broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, summer and winter squash, zucchini, Swiss chard, and lettuce and added raspberries, blueberries, and asparagus this season. 


    

Monday, October 6, 2014

Save 10% on Selected Season Extension Supplies

Protect your crops and extend your season early in the spring and late in the fall. Season extension methods allow you to not only extend your season, but increase your yield. 




Friday, October 3, 2014

Events, Conferences, & Tradeshows We're Attending

2014–2015 Schedule
We'll be continuing to update our 2014–2015 schedule at Johnnyseeds.com — check back at your convenience.

EventLocationDates
Hoes Down Harvest FestivalGuinda, CAOctober 4–5, 2014
European Seed Association (ESA) Annual MeetingLisbon, PortugalOctober 12–14, 2014
Sunbelt Agricultural ExpositionMoultrie, GAOctober 14–16, 2014
Mother Earth News Fair • TopekaTopeka, KSOctober 25–26, 2014
North Country (NH) Fruit & Vegetable SeminarWhitefield, NHOctober 29, 2014
Farmer to Farmer (Maine Organic Farmers 
& Gardeners)
Northport, MENovember 1, 2014
Growing Power Urban & Small Farms ConferenceMilwaukee, WINovember 7–9, 2014
Tilth Producers of Washington Annual ConferenceVancouver, WANovember 7–9, 2014
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Sustainable 
Agriculture Conference
Greenville, NCNovember 10–12, 2014
Asia & Pacific Seed Association (APSA) Asian 
Seed Congress
Macau, ChinaNovember 10–14, 2014
Pacific Northwest Vegetable Association (PNVA) 
Conference & Trade Show
Kennewick, WANovember 12–13, 2014
Mississippi Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association ConferenceJackson, MSTBD
Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional 
Network (ACORN)
Halifax, NS, CanadaNovember 12–14, 2014
National Young Farmers Conference at Stone BarnsPocantico Hills, NYDecember 03–05, 2014
Great Lakes Expo (GLEXPO)Grand Rapids, MIDecember 9–11, 2014
New England Vegetable & Berry Growers 
Association (NEV&BGA)
Manchester, NHTBD
State of Maine Agricultural Trades ShowAugusta, MEJanuary 13–15, 2015
Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, & 
Organic Conference (ISCAOC)
Springfield, ILJanuary 07–9, 2015
Great Plains Growers ConferenceSt Joseph, MOJanuary 08–10, 2015
Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable ConferenceSavannah, GAJanuary 08–11, 2015
Minnesota Organic ConferenceSt Cloud, MNJanuary 9–10, 2015
Northeast Organic Farming Association of 
Massachusetts (NOFA–MA) Winter Conference
Worcester, MAJanuary 10, 2015
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group 
(SSAWG) Conference
Little Rock, ARJanuary 14–17, 2015
Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association 
(OPGMA) Congress
Sandusky, OHJanuary 19–21, 2015
NYSVGA Empire State Producers Expo (New York 
State Vegetable Growers Association)
Syracuse, NYJanuary 20–22, 2015
Indiana Horticultural CongressIndianapolis, INJanuary 20–22, 2015
Vermont Vegetable & Berry Growers 
Association (VVBGA)
Fairlee, VTJanuary 21, 2015
Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm) ConferencePacific Grove, CAJanuary 21–24, 2015
Practical Farmers of IowaAmes, IAJanuary 23–24, 2015
Northeast Organic Farming Association of 
New York (NOFA–NY) Winter Conference
Saratoga Springs, NYJanuary 23–25, 2015
American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) Vegetable 
& Flower Seed Conference
Tampa, FLJanuary 24–27, 2014
Scotia Horticultural ConferenceGreenwich, NS, CanadaJanuary 26–27, 2015
Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable ConventionHershey, PAJanuary 27–29, 2015
Pacific Agriculture ShowAbbotsford, BC, CanadaJanuary 29–31, 2015
Guelph Organic ConferenceGuelph, ON, CanadaJanuary 29 – February 1, 2015
Texas Organic Farmers & Growers Association 
(TOFGA) Conference
San Antonio, TXJanuary 29 – February 01, 2015
Virginia Association for Biological Farming 
(VABF) Conference
Richmond, VAJanuary 30–31, 2015
Northeast Organic Farming Association of 
New Hampshire (NOFA–NH)
Concord, NHJanuary 31, 2015
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture 
(PASA) Farming for the Future Conference
State College, PAFebruary 04–07, 2015
Missouri Organic Association (MOA) ConferenceSpringfield, MOFebruary 05–07, 2015
OrganicologyPortland, ORFebruary 05–07, 2015
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association 
(OEFFA) Conference
Granville, OHFebruary 13–15, 2015
Northeast Organic Farming Association of 
Vermont (NOFA–VT)
Burlington, VTFebruary 14–15, 2015
Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Convention (OFVC)Niagara Falls, ON, CanadaFebruary 18–19, 2015
Farm to Table New Mexico Organic Farming 
Conference
Albuquerque, NMFebruary 20–21, 2015
Georgia Organics ConferenceAthens, GAFebruary 20–21, 2015
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education 
Service (MOSES) Conference
Lacrosse, WIFebruary 26–28, 2015
Oregon Small Farms ConferenceCorvallis, ORFebruary 28, 2015
Northeast Organic Farming Association of 
Connecticut (NOFA–CT) Winter Conference
Danbury, CTMarch 7, 2015
Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing 
Conference & Trade Show
Sturbridge, MATBD
Mother Earth News Fair • AshevilleAsheville, NCTBD
Nevada Indoor Agricultural Conference (AG • NV)Las Vegas, NVTBD
International Seed Federation (ISF) World 
Seed Congress
Krak√≥w, PolandMay 1–31, 2015
PNW Mother Earth News Fair (formerly in 
Puyallup, WA)
Albany, ORTBD

Friday, September 26, 2014

Winter Trials Summary: Lettuce, Greens, and Herbs

At the end of last year (2013) we conducted two winter trials on specific types of Lettuce, Greens, and Herbs at our Research Farm in Albion, Maine. Steve Rodrigue, the Johnny’s Product Technician who oversaw the trials, summarizes the process below:


The overwintering trials took place in two of our caterpillar tunnels at the Johnny’s Farm. The caterpillars we used were slightly different from those we offer via the catalog and online, because they have both end walls and side roll-up walls. With roll-up walls, we were able to ventilate much more throughout the trial - until the snow eventually prevented us from doing so. We had several small trials happening in the tunnels, which included  Salanova Lettuce, Baby Leaf Lettuce, Greens, Spinach, and Cilantro

   The Salanova performed very well and lasted into the New Year. For that trial, we had two different seeding dates at two weeks apart. The earlier seeding allowed for the plants to grow to a marketable size whereas the later seeding and transplanting did not mature before going into the Winter. This is another indication of how important it is to experimenting with several seeding dates.
   We had some issues with Bottom Rot with the Salanova, but we felt that was due to inadequate ventilation. Moving forward with our future overwintering trials, temperatures will be monitored several times throughout the day in order to best time the removal of the inner covers (agribon). Also, while the caterpillars did a fair job at protecting the crops through the harsh winter, we found them to be more of a challenge for adequate temperature regulation than a Hoophouse or High Tunnel. The short height and smaller volume of the Caterpillar Tunnel results in much larger fluctuations in temperatures, which means you have to do a lot more regulating of the temperatures.
  1. To learn more about our Research Department, head to the Johnny’s website 
  2. Explore information on our Breeding Department 
  3. Shop our Vegetable Seed line 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Banker Plants

Protected culture structures, such as hoophouses and greenhouses, are by nature limited in growing space. Many growers make the most of the available space by planting crops that have high returns; i.e., tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants. In a closed environment, it is also well worth it to put a little of the area aside for banker plants.

Any crop that provides a habitat for beneficial insects can be used as a banker plant. One of the greenhouses at Johnny’s research farm is dedicated to peppers and eggplants - both of which are susceptible to predation by aphids. In addition to the peppers and eggplants, space has been reserved for containers of oats which serve as banker plants by providing habitat for oat aphids. The oat aphids are released into the oats, which are then covered to allow the population of the pest to grow.

Why would someone release an aphid of any kind into their greenhouse and then build their population? The oat aphid is host specific to only oats; it won’t attack any other crop. At Johnny’s, once the oat aphid population has grown, Greenhouse Manager, Pam Carter, releases parasitic wasps that attack aphids of all kinds, including those that pose a danger to the peppers and eggplants. As a side benefit, the oats can also provide habitat for ladybugs, another beneficial insect and predator of aphids.

For those of you with concerns about the use of insecticides, banker plants are a practical alternative. In many cases the resulting natural controls by beneficial insects will reduce the need for insecticidal applications.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Beat the Heat - July 2014

The high temperatures we've been experiencing at the Research Farm in Albion, Maine have made for great conditions for our trial crops, but they've also challenged the Johnny’s staff to find ways to stay cool in the intense sun.

Here's a look at how we've tried to beat the heat recently:

Andrew and John Paul from the Johnny’s Research Department stay cool in their wide-brimmed hats, as they prune and trellis 2 successive rows of peppers. 

The other crops shown in the foreground of the greenhouse photo above, are eggplants. 

Jill is cultivating the soil at the edges of the plastic. 

The red umbrella was attached to the tractor using a factory kit with modifications.