Early Spring Marketing Using Unheated High Tunnels

Courtesy of Adithya Ramachandran, Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens, Dundurn SK

Most farmers underperform at early spring markets. SPIN-Farming is based on generating strong cash flow by targeting $1,000 weekly sales – in late April or early May – regardless of your growing zone. To do that you need to ignore conventional gardening practices, and get into production early, in volume. Adithya Ramachandran’s Kaleidoscope Vegetable Gardens, is in zone 3. Here is what he went to market with May 7.

SF photo fb early spring market Adi

Adi is using unheated high tunnels..and improving his production strategy all the time. Read below.

This spring has been an interesting learning experience. There are some things I would do different next year, including increasing my staggering time for radishes, and a greater focus on beets, green garlic and kohlrabi to target late spring sales.

Something else that I would like to try out next spring is an early planting of broad beans for bean production. I noticed that the ones I seeded in March were flowering now. However I tilled them all under because they were planted densely for shoot production (I didn’t get around to harvesting them all), and they wouldn’t have done well.

I also plan to diversify my spring sales next year with tulips.

Find out how backyard farmers get off to strong spring production and sales in early spring in the SPIN online support group. Receive free trial membership with the purchase of any SPIN guide. 

Newbie SOS: How can I get an early start on the season?

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK

There are many options for season extension, but if you are just starting out in farming keep it simple. Don’t bother with it. Take, for instance,  this situation.

I have 4 – 8×4 raised (18″ high) beds here at home that I can easily cover with hoops and plastic (and will probably add more). I’m thinking I should get them covered to warm and use to start carrots for early baby carrots perhaps? Or cucumbers? Or what is best use of them?

I would not recommend covering them. It’s an unnecessary hassle. I am not a big user of season extension structures. Structures are an expense and add to your workload because you have to trouble shoot them. Your beds should warm up quicker than soil, and as soon as you can turn them over with a spade, I would put in two 18 inch wide SPIN beds, and plant onion sets and garlic. These can be planted early, and do not need to be covered.

Onions would be harvestable late May for use as scallion, and then beds can be replanted to warm weather crops, such as cucumbers, which would not need to be covered that time of the year. Garlic can be planted closely, to be used as green garlic. Once harvested, say by mid June, they can be replanted to something like tomatoes.

SPIN photo book Wally watering

 

My backyard in the city gives me the micro climate advantage so I can work beds in early springtime and get to market with crops like green onion and garlic before lots of other farmers. I use greenhouses to start transplants, but I don’t bother with season extension structures to produce my crops.  

Warming Up Soil

Courtesy of Ed G., Davis CA:
Clear plastic directly on the soil is the fastest way to warm soil to get a jump on the season.  Drier soil will be warmer so the plastic will help keep added rain from preventing warm up. The natural heat lower in the earth will combine with any solar radiation you get (even on moderately cloudy days) and be trapped by the plastic. There is no a benefit from using black plastic unless you know you will have direct sunlight … and if you do, you probably don’t have a cold soil issue