February 1 started with a brisk 5 degrees in the morning and a high of 18 degrees. And an unexpected, unpredicted all-day snow flurry that made everything just a little slick. Just to make sure that we knew winter was really here.
February brings us noticeably longer days, and we are back in the magic 10-hours of daylight days (10 hours being the minimum that vegetable plants need to keep growing). And we are getting our January thaw in February, with 50 degree days on the 3rd and 4th. Sunshine and moderate temperatures make everyone, including the plants, a little happier around here.
And while it is windy, cold, snowy, or other weather quirks outside, we are able to harvest lots of greens inside. We are learning A LOT about hydroponic growing, and expect to continue learning the ins and outs of hydro growing for a few years. We have harvested most of the first seeding and a lot of the second planting, with the third round of harvesting coming up quickly. Some of the plants are “one and done”—lettuce and baby bok choy, for example. Baby bok choy has grown well and the harvest has been excellent. We have had the first salad mix cut and will soon cut the next batch. Other plants are “cut and come again”—arugula, spinach, kale, and chard, for example. We have already had three cuts of arugula, two cuts of spinach, and the first cuts of kale and chard. We are trying to track time from seed to harvest and the volume of harvest per channel. And we are observing fascinating differences in growth rate from January to February.
Our heated high tunnel with plants in the ground is performing as expected (already spent the time learning how to grow in this environment!). Kale, chard, Brussel sprouts, lettuces, scallions, mustard greens, and thyme have been growing reliably. Being able to cut baby chard regularly has been a hit with our customers. The lettuce is all done, just in time for the hydro lettuce to start. Brussel sprout plants look great, but will be coming out soon to make room for the tomato plants that are growing beautifully in the hydro house. The snap peas took a hit one very cold night (of course, THAT was the night the heater had a problem!), but somehow recovered enough to produce flowers this week. We will probably not harvest pea pods, but we can cut flowers for bouquets. Fresh flowers are an amazing treat in the winter—well, any time, but especially in the winter.
Outside, we can see pussy willows, daffodils, perennial flowers, and perennial shrubs starting to shake off their winter dormancy.
Meanwhile, the mapping out of March planting is about done. Herbs in tunnel 1, transplant kale and chard to tunnel 2, plant tomatoes in the high tunnel, scallions in tunnel 3. Thousands of lettuce plants in the hydro house.
The last week of February brought harvests of dill, bibb lettuce, baby bok choy, arugula, cilantro, leaf lettuce, kale, Chard, scallions, Brussel sprouts, beets, thyme, parsley. And the last week of February brought lots of planting—tomatoes, kale, chard, thyme, mint, oregano, sage, chives, parsley, cilantro, basil. And more lettuce.
The last day of February is brisk and sunny, a brief respite before the next cold front coming in a few days. Winter is not done with us yet, but we are happy to have lots of produce that we can harvest in spite of the cold. We are on the countdown to spring! Less than three weeks!