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The Crop Report Week 37 | Tunnel Work

We are focusing on a few different areas of the farm this week as we transition out of summer and into the fast and furious fall workload. Between morning harvests and afternoon seeding and watering, we try to sneak in a few other projects. This week was all about houses. As I watch my personal home get upgraded, the same happens on the farm within the tunnels.  

We have been harvesting dahlias from our tunnel crop since early June and those poor plants look it. Because our field dahlias are now in full flush, we are cutting back the tunnel crop as they have lost the battle of life to powdery mildew disease (bummer). I still haven't decided if I want to dig out these tubers or let them stay in-ground another season.

The middle of tunnel six is currently our pride and joy; it’s the mum crop! We have two full 90-ft beds, plus a field row, about 40 crates, and a landscape planting. The crop went in over a month later than I would have liked, and while that might not seem like a lot of time, it was enough to make me worry. 

 Last week, I did a thorough walk-through of the mum crop to assess where we are. While they might not be shoulder height this year, their amazing growth has calmed my nerves. The plants seem to double in size each week, and crop height no longer has me biting my nails. We have been working hard to give the mums exactly what they need to help push them along.

Mums are known as heavy feeders, which means they respond well to added fertilization. We use a slow-release general-purpose granular fertilizer that breaks down each time we water the crop and provides a light feeding. I have also spent some time smelling like a dumpster while applying Neptune’s Harvest, a spray-on organic foliar fertilizer made of fish guts. The plants will become fat and happy even if I’m sweaty and stinky.

Fertilizing the rows means that any weeds are going to be fed and grow like crazy, too. Since we can’t have that, we recently tackled the final hard weeding of the crop and made sure that every hole in the row had nothing but mums growing in it. Sounds easy, but the dense mat of mum foliage can make it tricky to get them all. Weeding in a confined space is the perfect job for someone having a bad week or off day because you can take your aggression out on the weeds. When I’m OVER the pile of dishes in the sink or delays in orders coming into the farm and my mood starts wearing, I weed. Connecting with the soil and getting some sunshine helps turn attitudes around and clears the body as much as the flower beds. We have many places for folks to practice this physical release, so holler if you need a bed to weed!

Once the weeding was complete, we stretched netting over the beds to support the crop. We won’t be able to weed easily anymore, which is why it was important to do an in-depth round before the installation. Netting is not a fun part of flower farming and often results in a tangled mess, but it’s a necessary evil to prevent tall flowers from flopping over. We try different support methods on the farm but netting works best for the mums.

Our final bed spaces in Tunnel Six are being direct seeded with cool-season annuals and while we spend time tightening up the other bed rows, it will be easy for us to monitor these quickly sprouting babies. We are carefully walking each house to make plans for colder months to come. Do we have the wiggle wire to seal off the roll-up sides? Do we have an all-hands-on-deck day to pull down and store shade cloth? Are the mechanics of our structures in solid shape? These are questions we run through this time of year in preparation for the upcoming season.

We’re spending time repairing irrigation systems and the first crops have been planned for our new FedEx heated tunnel. There’s a lot of work to do to get the houses in tip-top shape, but it feels good to see the waves of growth and flowers run through them. Our farmers can’t wait to show you the rainbow of color we are growing!

- xoxo, Jess

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