Monday, June 17, 2013

Early Season Carrots

If you have been a part of this CSA before, you know that the carrots you received in week #3 were the earliest carrots we’ve ever harvested. Carrots are typically a slow growing crop that need between 55 and 75 days to reach maturity. They might take even longer during the early spring and fall when the days are shorter. However, the carrots that were harvested two weeks ago were available early in the season because they were seeded in our hoop houses over the winter. A hoop house (or high tunnel) is like a greenhouse, in that it creates a warmer growing environment than what is occurring outside. The carrots you ate were seeded in February, under the protection of these plastic structures. In February seeds grow REALLY slowly, even in a hoop house. The heat of the sun is trapped in the plastic enclosure and warms the air and the soil, such that you can grow plants when you otherwise wouldn’t be able to grow them outside. This is called “season extension.” We have three hoop houses on our farm. The one by the driveway was recently built to replace the old one that was in the same location but falling down. This hoop house was made possible by a grant from the FFA (Future Farmers of America), and was constructed by shareholder Scott Blunk, with the help of Saul students. The big hoop house in the field was also funded by a grant and we hope to some day get electricity in that structure such that we can run heaters and fans and use it to start our seedlings.  The smallest of our hoop houses is also located in the field, near the bottom of the hill, and was donated by Penn State Extension. This hoop house was the first one constructed in Philadelphia with the help of Penn State Extension, and now they have erected over ten across the city, and have created a “High Tunnel Alliance” of urban farmers who use these structures. Your carrots came from the two hoop houses in the field. Hope you enjoyed them! Now we’ll have to be patient and wait until mid summer for our first planting of field carrots to be ready.

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