Hoophouses

Marlin L Burkholder gleneco1 at juno.com
Thu Dec 6 03:25:47 EST 2001




On Fri, 30 Nov 2001 20:46:30 -0600 "wiediger" <wiediger at msn.com> writes:
> There is so much that you can do with a hoophouse.  We farm in SC 
> Kentucky,
> zone 6b, and can grow a huge variety of produce in them all winter 
> long.
> Then we use them for an early tomato crop. 
>
About a month ago I posted about my first experience growing tomatoes in
a small hoophouse which I had just finished building in the spring. 
Despite the fact that I had to site the structure on some of the
shallowest topsoil on the whole farm, I didn't get the tomatoes in til it
was almost time to plant the the field crop, and the cheap homemade side
curtains were failing as the first frost in early October turned out to
be a hard freeze (low 20s), I was amazed at their performance.  Even
after a 50% defoliation of those tomatoes on Oct 8th, I sold over $300
worth of tomatoes from that 14' x 24' structure until mid November.  Even
as I tore the plants out they were still loaded with golfball size
tomatoes.  Now we are having daytime highs in the 70s and nighttime lows
in the 40s and 50s.  If I could have protected those tomatoes from about
three nights of freezing temperatures, I could still be producing
tomatoes!  Go figure.

The biggest misadventure with this project for the whole summer was when
a few cecrophia moths flew in and seeded the place with tomato hornworms.
 In two weeks time I was regularly hand picking 10 - 20 per day, more
than I've seen in all my years of gardening experience.  Finally I gave
in and dusted it down with DiPel.  A week later I had an invasion of
tomato fruitworms which necessitated another application.  Fortunately no
one asked me about the mysterious white powder still clinging to some of
those tomatoes on my farmers' market stand in mid October.  :>)Despite
the fact that those tomatoes were being nearly completely defoliated near
the tops for a good week by the horn worms, they still hit the top of the
9' tall top and counting what later bent down and tried to grow upward
again I can easily estimate 10'-12' growth on those crazy plants.  I
watered sparingly and had next to no sign of blight and little cracking. 
Now I have the whole thing planted full of winter hardy salad greens.

Now for the questions for the experts:
I plan to go back in there with tomatoes in early April at the latest. 
How soon can I expect to get in trouble growing tomatoes in the same spot
year after year?  How much will trying to get all the old residue out
(including the roots) help?  What kind of rotation plan would I need
(using additional hoophouses) if I wish to continue growing hoophouse
tomatoes?

I can already tell you that a 14'x24' space for double digging using the
Jeavens French intensive model is big enough for me.  I spent at least
three days digging in that sucker and breaking up hard clay clods. (both
in the Spring and Fall) Of course I hope the soil texture will improve as
time goes along.

Time to sign off and get to bed.

Marlin Burkholder
Virginia



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