Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hoophouse Work Day

Our first member work day was a blast. We met some of our new members, fed worms to chickens, and accomplished a lot!

These are the plants we put in the ground last Sunday.

Seda hanging out with the pepper, tomato, and basil plants that are waiting to be
planted. We didn't put those eggplants in the center of the photo in yet because
they didn't appreciate the chill. They will be planted soon.

We finally met our goal of getting hoophouse tomato plants planted on May 1st! If the sun cooperates we could theoretically have our first cherry tomatoes by the Fourth of July. (For those readers that are not from the Upper Peninsula that would be more or less miraculous) I'm betting that it will take a bit longer than that, but we have a fighting chance.

Lots of members working away with Scott in the background yapping.
He saw the photos I took of the workday and asked "Did I do any work at all?"
He did. He turned all the beds we planted. I guess doing the hardest
work means taking more breaks.

We plant our tomatoes around two foot wide cages. We plant five plants around each cage, then tie the plants to the cages as they get taller (we use old T-shirts as ties). The cages are filled with straw and compost as the plants grow. The compost provides a slow fertilizer and the plants will root in the cages, making them very sturdy. Then, when we pull the plants, we get to knock all the compost into the beds. The initial cost of the fencing to make the cages is a little hefty, but it's a great system and the cages last many years.

All tucked into their cozy beds.

The nights following our work day dipped just below freezing - putting our newly transplanted starts in danger. Scott came up with the clever solution of laying the cages sideways in the paths and spreading row cover over the beds. We ran a propane heater (you can see the tank to the left) under the row cover for a bit of extra heat. After three freezing nights the plants still look great. In fact, they have put on a bit of size, especially the peppers.

Thanks again to everyone who made it to the farm. What a perfect way to kick off the season!


  1. Good luck with the start of the season. Looking forward to your recipes this summer ;)

  2. hi. i just found your blog and i was wondering if you guys had any member openings left for this season. if you have any open space please let me know. my e-mail is

  3. Great post! I love your tomato 'trellis' plan. I want to do some kind of hoop house for chickens in the winter, and to keep the garden weed free and get me a jump on the growing season, but have struggled with how to handle the bedding in the hoop house. Several of these would work great!!