Hoop House

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Growing in a hoop house is new to me, so I’m still learning.

Everything looks great, and it’s nice to work without having to slosh in the mud produced by 4.5 inches of rain this week.

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I’ve been dealing with the effects of two mistakes this week–one minor and easily remedied, the other more challenging.

The first was not realizing that pollinators hadn’t discovered the zucchini blooms. I’ve been lowering the side curtains and raising the garage door (when it wasn’t pouring down rain), and have just been assuming the bees were doing their work. But little shriveled up zukes prove that pollination didn’t occur, something I could easily verify by looking for bees in the morning and seeing none.

So lately I’ve added a new task to my regular morning chores–hand pollinating the zukes. This is done by removing a male flower and brushing the anther (the male squash part) against the stigma (the female squash part) inside the female flower. The pollen on the anther is sticky and comes off when touched. Normally it sticks to the legs of foraging bees, who pollinate the female flowers when walking around on them. Until the bees get to work, I’ll have to do it by hand.

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A male flower

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A female flower.  The females have little zukes beneath the flower, while the males have long stems and no fruit.

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This little zuke didn’t get pollinated. Bad farmer.

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Healthy and pollinated. Almost ready to pick.

The other problem is entirely my fault. I didn’t grade the pad when we built the hoop house, so the ground isn’t entirely level. I measured to confirm that it was within the allowed tolerances for the building, but didn’t consider that during heavy rains water would seep under the house as it slopes downhill. Consequently the northernmost row gets soaked from beneath during hard rains, producing lots of grass and weeds. I’m sure there is a solution to this, but I haven’t taken the time to work on it yet.

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The first row is soggy and grassy. We’re growing a bush Roma called Roma II–a flat and tasty green bean. Our favorite. We have some growing outside too.

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The October beans at the other end of the house look much better. Called October beans around here, this is a very old variety with several other names. Some may know them as Taylor beans, speckled bays, cranberry beans or “dwarf horticultural” beans.

In the hoop house this summer we’re growing 3 varieties of tomato, green beans, zucchini, delicata squash and October beans. I expect we’ll always grow some tomatoes in the house–the other items are experiments as we try to figure out what other veggies make the most sense in there.

Time now to pick for market. This week we’ll have onions, beets, lettuce, tatsoi, collards, kale, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, turnips and Swiss chard. It’s a great time of year.

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