Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winter Market II: Lessons Learned, by Devorah Ketai

What a bounty of the most local goodness!
On a practical note, it's been interesting to see the pace at which plants grow, and how much we're able to produce and harvest week by week. Speed of growth during this period is greatly affected by sunlight hours and temperature. According to Eliot Coleman's The Winter Harvest Handbook, we are in the Persephone period, when sunlight is less than ten hours per day. [See here for the myth of the vegetation goddess, Persephone.] Plants grow extremely slowly during this period of time. With regard to temperature, while the plants benefit from a warm day, they are mostly affected by average temperatures. Hence, if the hoophouses reach 80 degrees during the day but drop to 30 degrees at night, they are only experiencing an average temperature of 55 degrees, meaning they won't grow as fast as one would think with 80-degree days!

Burgeoning arugula!
One helpful aspect of winter growing, though (as Eliot Coleman notes), is that once plants have established root systems, they'll grow back quickly after harvesting, even during this period of short days and cold temperatures. This explains why, even though I cut the arugula and braising mix for the first market, it's already almost fully grown for the second! I just seeded some new spinach, however, and what I have learned from Eliot Coleman is that it might take a long time to reach maturity, as it didn't have an established root system before the days shortened. My hope is that we have enough different kinds of plants, with already developed root systems, that we'll have plenty of food to last us through these winter months!

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