We have cleared out our winter crops and we are into our mid summer plantings of tender greens and herbs.
Crops that we grow in the winter and spring like kale, collards and broccoli taste more bitter and sulfurous in the summer heat because they are defending against insects and disease and also using those compounds to deal with the stresses of heat and sunlight. Instead of trying to get a harvest from summer-stressed crops, we plant them in late summer so the crops can get close to mature by the time it starts freezing. This timing is crucial to having fresh greens to harvest in Idaho from November to March.
In the summer, we plant many successions of dill, cilantro, mustards, cress, arugula and lettuces to produce a consistent fresh supply to our customers. This means 2 to 3 plantings per month from May to September. The size of the bed planted varies with the hours of sunlight in the day. The longer the day the smaller and more frequently we plant beds of a certain crop.
We have around four different beds of each variety of herb and lettuce in any given week. One bed has fresh seedlings, one bed is being harvested, one bed is starting to flower and finished with harvesting and one bed is being turned over and prepared for planting again -a bed for each stage of life.
If we aren’t planting a certain crop one week, we will be planting it within the next two weeks.
Here’s the succession of a bed, for example:
We start with an overgrown bed of lettuce for example. It is just starting to flower, there are many weeds growing, the bed is knee high with green leafed plants, and it all gets chopped up and tilled into the soil to feed the microbes.
After tilling we do a rough leveling of the soil and then water it for a few days to germinate weeds and digest all the plant matter. When the weeds have sprouted, we hoop hoe the bed to incorporate the new weed seedlings then we level it again, mark the lines and plant the seeds. The bed is wet enough to germinate after 3 days of watering (both intentional seeds and weeds). Then the race to harvest begins.
We are doing lots of seeding, watching seedlings, pulling weeds and harvesting greens all summer long. Summertime blue skies and hot days here in the hills around the Treasure Valley sure make these greenhouse grow greens and herbs fast!