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The Crop Report | The Perils of Greenhouse Plastic

Flower farming can be risky business. The very product we produce is completely dependent on Mother Nature and all of her unknowns. That fear alone keeps a lot of folks from this profession, but for those of us who choose to gamble with the mother herself, we become worn to the threats of risk. We have to work to find mental space to let that shit go.

This week we got a nice strong reminder of how quickly things can go pear-shaped. We had some unseasonably strong winds and Sunday evening when I did my evening close-up routine I found high tunnel 4 looking more like a kite than a hoop house. 70 feet of plastic aggressively flapping in the wind.

Upon first sight, I ran into the house to check the ranunculus and eucalyptus inside. The crops inside were fine but the creaking of the metal structure as the wind pulled against it by using the plastic quickly made me realize how unsafe being inside was. Houses can always be replaced - people cannot. 

With a twenty-foot buffer to safely inspect from a distance I deemed the house and crops would be fine but new plastic would be imperative. So Monday morning started with me calling our favorite greenhouse building crew with our emergency request. The window to cover was slim as another storm was quickly approaching but this time bringing snow.

What’s a farmer to do? The solution is simple but not easy. Let it go. Sometimes you make great plans but sometimes you just can’t control all the variables and have to decide what is actually worth stressing over. We quickly realized we weren’t going to beat the snow and behind that the plunging temps.

The two crops in the house are ranunculus and eucalyptus. The ranunculus are still months out from blooming and with a nice blanket of leaves and frost cloth, the plants felt well protected to let them be exposed to the snow. 

While the eucalyptus is also covered in leaves and frost cloth, the temperatures pose a challenge to the survival of this crop. So we are all breathing a big sigh of relief at the surplus that is happily being overwintered in the heated FedEx house.

Greenhouse plastic is sold a few different ways and you always get what you pay for. The best on the market is known as four-year film and is what most growers use. This is different than what you find at the hardware store. While the thickness might be the same (the standard is 6mil) the plastic at the hardware store referred to as “copoly” will break down in less than a year.

Because greenhouse plastic is made to last four years a lot of farmers (and I can be looped into this category) pinch pennies and push to get an extra year or two out of the film. This house was next in our rotation to receive new plastic. The plastic was 6 years old and in true wear and tear split at the top spine of the house.

The plastic probably won’t be fixed until end of the week. But it could have been so much worse. The flowers will be fine, the hightunnel will get a tuneup and our farm got a little extra practice in rolling with the punches.

XOXO, Jess

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