High Tunnel Update

Now that it is May, I think an update on the high tunnel is in order. I could not be happier with it and am so glad we have it. We enjoyed fresh veggies from the tunnel all winter. Nothing grows in January and most of February due to lack of light, but we were still able to pick spinach and carrots. It’s amazing to me that the kale and spinach I seeded last August have fed us from September to now and are still going strong. The only crops that were sown in fall and did not winter over was the lettuce and broccoli. Here are some of the crops that have done particularly well:

Spinach–sown in August and picked through the winter, still going strong

Lacinato Kale—ditto

Arugula–I planted a fall bed, ripped it out in March because it got woody and seeded another patch

Swiss Chard–fall crop did great, died back almost completely in the harshest winter weather and then some came back–interestingly enough the plants that came back were the white veined ones

Claytonia–sown 12/31 and harvesting heavily for the past month, still going strong

Strawberries–transferred “the volunteers” from the main garden in September and we started harvesting this week! The bed outside is just starting to flower.

Cilantro–I’m have blogged about this previously. Cilantro overwintered and we were able to harvest in the fall and then again in late March. Now, I am starting to rip it out as int gets overgrown and am planting new plants outdoors.

Carrots–perhaps one of the best crops. I seeded them in August and more in late September. The August planting was perfectly timed. The carrots were sweet and beautiful. I was able to harvest through the winter and the ones we seeded on 12/31 are growing beautifully. The ones seeded on New Year’s Day are getting close to harvest.

Onions–we have been harvesting bunching onions through late fall and still are. The “Bridger” onions from Johnny’s Seeds sown last fall are already knob sized and will give us a nice crop of early storage onions.

Peas—the peas seeded on New Year’s Day are producing now.

Potatoes–I planted some fingerlings in very early March and they are big and beautiful. They look like outdoor plants do in late June. Flowers will be here shortly. Interested to see how quickly we can start harvesting. Between these and the beds of storage potatoes outside, we should have a nice staggered crop. Stay away potato beetles.

And more–we also have had numerous radish harvests, have beautiful cabbages and broccoli coming along, and are picking dandelion greens, raddhicio, and chicory as well.

Lettuces–stunning and almost no bugs. Sure seems to me that one of the greatest advantages to high tunnel growing is the early start you get when the insect pressure is very low or even non-existent.

The only true fail we have had is our plastic has been badly ripped on one side.  We did not do enough to secure the plastic that meets the ground on each long side. The crazy March winds tore it badly.  I took this kind of hard until I found out that one of my neighbors greenhouses had all the plastic torn off by straight line winds.  That was the night that the tornado hit about a 10 minute drive from here.  I now count us lucky that is all that happened.

This week we rolled both sides up and took the plastic of the ends.  We ran green fencing to keep the dogs out.  The summer crops started to go in about a month ago.  It is amazing.  Here are some photos I took yesterday:

Kale Chips — they really are good

Kale chips recipes pop up pretty frequently in my online reading. When you have an allergic kid, you are always looking for alternative snacks. So, this week, I finally got around to my inaugural batch. For some reason, I thought it would be time consuming, but it actually was a snap. And, believe it or not, they are quite good. My daughter’s favorite snack right now is toasted seaweed snacks and I am buying the health food store out of them nearly every week. I thought these would be right up her alley. They turned out so well, I took them them into school for my weekly garden classes. Out of 45 kids, I had only 5 that didn’t think they were awesome. In fact, I handed out the rest of them at the end of the day as the kids went outside. I sure hope some of them make them at home.

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Here is what I did:I used kitchen shears to cut the kale leaves into chunks and remove the tough central stalk. I put them in a bowl and drizzled on enough EVOO to coat, then I sprinkled with sea salt, lemon juice, and paprika. Once they are tossed in the oil and spices, spread them on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350. So easy! Keep in mind that you are really drying them out and they are going to shrink quite a bit. So don’t think it is too much kale.

I am going to experiment with spices and see if Swiss chard will work as well. This recipe idea is one I will use over and over and kale is in season right now. It’s available in big beautiful bunches at the farmer’s market.

Workday in the High Tunnel


Before the work begins

It may have snowed last night, but in the high tunnel it is spring.  The photo above is the “before” picture.  Thanks to being ear infection free and Lily being back in school after strep throat, I got a very needed work day.  For a glorious 2 hours I weeded, harvested, and planted in the high tunnel beds.  It is amazing to me everything that made it through the extreme cold of this winter.  Many of the seeds Lily and I planted on New Year’s Eve are coming up now.  The very late fall sowings of arugula are now taking off.

Below is a video tour of each bed mad after the big cleanup and planting is done.  The focus isn’t always great, but it gets the job done.


We are lucky here im Tippecanoe to have some winter “bonus” farmer’s markets.  Today was one of them, so I went down and saw some of my favorite local food producers.  My number 1 item on the list–kale.  I even e-mailed Ginny Markle and asked her to bring extra for me.  I have been quickly going  through my dehydrated stash and knew we could use a lot more.  It is the perfect “stealth” ingredient to add to most anything–just this week I added it to meatloaf and soup and last week to eggplant parmesan. 

Here are some photos of the mountain of kale I am dehydrating this weekend along with some honeycrisp apples and some baby carrots I got this morning. Kale is off the charts nutritious- a true superfood.  check it out for yourself:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kale