Trials in the Hoop House

This year we’ve returned to semi-production as we learn what does well, and how to grow things in the new hoop house.

Basil, Mizuna, Tomatoes, and Soybeans are a few of the things we’re trying out in the hoop house this year.

Some things are doing amazingly well. The first bed of Kale that was seeded in early February is still going strong, and tasting great even now on the edge of July. Mizuna, Arugula, and Spinach (in that order) decided it was too hot and started to set seed, although a second sewing of Mizuna has done remarkably well in spite of some flea beetle damage and the heat. Another trial sewing of Spinach (blooms dale long standing) is in progress to see if we can keep it from going to seed immediately as the outdoor planting did. I’m totally excited about seeing how the ‘lower and lean’ tomato trellis technique goes for our indeterminate varieties, as well as figuring out the optimal pruning method for the determinates.

For fertility, we’re exclusively top dressing the beds with finished compost (1/6 biochar, 1/3 spent brewery grain the rest horse manure with a few wood chips thrown in for good measure). Following Charles Dowding’s no-till advice, I’m not adding concentrated amendments, just allowing the critters to do the work as they process the fresh compost and work it into the soil.

I’ve had some spotty germination challenges, which I believe are a mixture of poor seeding (the Jang seeder is going to be my yule tide gift this year) and inadequate watering during the first critical time of germination, otherwise, No complaints what-so-ever.

Having a focused area to maintain and care for outside of the greater farm has made me realize that attempting to do too much has been a huge challenge for me. Smaller, but better maintained land area is far more pleasurable, and so far productive, than a large area you can’t keep up with. As a result, there’s a lot of flowering cover crop at the farm right now, and the bees are just fine with this change in management strategy!

One delightful win for adding diversity rather than eliminating it, we seemingly have Basil downy mildew fully under control using Joseph Salvatori of the Garden Tea Company’s ( ) advice of letting a pint of milk sit open for 24 hours with a table spoon of yoghurt in it, then diluting 1:1 with filtered/spring/well water and spraying on the underside and top of the leaves. No fungicides to kill anything, just more good bacteria and nutrients to protect against pathogens. And it works incredibly well.

If you have groundhogs and wonder if you should ‘do something’ to protect your hoop house…wonder no longer.