Planting winter hoophouse crops

Our first hoophouse radishes germinated three days after sowing. We sowed Cherry Belle and White Icicle. We would have sowed Easter Egg if we’d had enough seed left after the outdoor fall sowings.
Photo Pam Dawling

We’ve already prepared our first bed in the hoophouse and sowed our first few crops (spinach, radishes, scallions, tatsoi, Bulls Blood beets and cress). We spread the bed prep out over 5 days and the sowings over 2 days. I’ve written lots about our fall hoophouse planting, so I’ll give you links, mention a few updates and stick to photos otherwise.

Mid-October photo of September-sown tatsoi and August-sown Tokyo bekana. Fast-growing crops make good use of small windows of time.
Photo Pam Dawling
  • Hoophouse Winter Schedule Tweaks and Improvements (pack more crops in, get higher yields, reduce or spread the workload). One change we made was to sow some early catch crops in areas that weren’t needed for all-winter crops until later. We mostly used tatsoi and Tokyo bekana, both fast–growing leafy greens. We intended to grow some early beets too, but the seed didn’t germinate. A new crop last winter was cress, Creasy Greens Upland Cress and Belle Isle Upland Cress from Southern Exposure. They take 50 days to maturity (in spring). We had two good intentions we did not manage to follow through on. One was to let some of the cress flower, to feed beneficial insects. And I think we got too impatient. The other was to notice which one of the two kinds we prefer and just grow that one. We didn’t manage to keep good enough records on that, so this winter we are obliged to repeat the experiment, with more good intentions!
Belle Isle Upland Cress from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  • Using all the space in the winter hoophouse (filler crops for random spaces, fast-growing catch crops, radish sowing dates for seamless harvests.)
  • Fall hoophouse bed prep and shadecloth removal (packing away the giant piece of shadecloth until May, spreading compost, broadforking and raking the beds, direct sowing the first bed, sowing seeds in an outdoor nursery bed to transplant into the hoophouse a few weeks later). This post includes a step-by-step guide to hoophouse fall bed prep. Our soil is improving each year, becoming easier to broadfork and rake. That counters the aging process of our human bodies! One change we made last year was to measure and pin down the drip tapes 12” (30 cm) apart, and use the drip tape as a guide to making furrows (drills). This is easier than using the row marker rake, as we used to do.

    Our hoophouse with shadecloth for growing summer crops. Photo Pam Dawling. We have now sewed the two pieces together, to avoid the gaping hot spot in the middle!
  • Hoophouse fall bed prep (includes an appreciation of spiders and a video of spider “ballooning”)
  • Sowing hoophouse winter crops (more details on bed prep tools and techniques, including the row marker rake if you want to use that, and links to posts about winter lettuce varieties we used in 2017/2018.)
  • Planning and Growing Winter Hoophouse Vegetables (hoophouse crop map, many links to other posts including a video and three slideshows, crop rotations, choosing winter hoophouse crops, posts about specific crops (with all the details), back up plans in case something goes wrong, and harvesting.)

    Mid-October emergency back-up seedlings for the hoophouse.
    Photo Pam Dawling. We needed to compensate for poor germination that year.
  • Preparing your hoophouse for fall and winter (includes one of my slideshows, and a more detailed discussion of lettuce types and sowing dates, information about salt build-up and our wash-down strategy in a 3-slide mini slide show, when we close and open the doors and windows, and a Be-Prepared Winter Kit list)
  • Planning winter hoophouse crops – our step-by-step process for hoophouse crop planning.

    Spinach seedlings (from pre-sprouted seed) emerged on the third day after sowing. here they are on day 4. Photo Pam Dawling
  • Winter hoophouse growing (includes a round-up of earlier posts, and a discussion about the value of crop rotation in the hoophouse, and a list of 20 benefits of having a hoophouse.)
  • Spinach variety trial conclusions This year we are growing Acadia.  Johnny’s do not recommend this variety for late fall or winter sowing, but it did very well in our hoophouse, sown in September, October, November and January.
  • September in the hoophouse: sowing spinach 
Two jars of sprouted spinach seeds and grits to prevent the damp seeds clumping. presprouting spinach seeds for a week in a fridge gets round the impossibility of getting spinach to germinate in hoophouse soil at 80F (27C) as it is September 11.
Photo Pam Dawling
One side of our hoophouse on Sept 10. Three beds with cover crops of buckwheat and sunnhemp (which got bitten down at a young age by Something), and one bed under solarizing plastic in hopes of killing nematodes. Photo Pam Dawling
Zipper spider on the pepper plants in our hoophouse September 10.
Photo Pam Dawling

2 thoughts on “Planting winter hoophouse crops”

  1. HI Pam – thank you for your email. I tried to leave a comment initially via my phone, so maybe the computer will work better. Greatly appreciate the response. We are in zone 7, so very close to you! I was surprised to find how dry the rows were in the morning because I am used to field growing where they are moist from the fields. I am going to get some overhead sprinklers for the high tunnel so hopefully that will alleviate the problem. For now, I am watering daily by hand until I see germination. Hopefully, that works.

    1. Hi Amanda, Glad you got the Leave a Comment button to work! Given the time of year (days getting shorter, temperatures dropping, growth slowing), you might want to resow the crops that didn’t come up in the first week, to be sure of getting a harvest. You could make new rows between the original rows, and keep whichever come up! That way you don’t lose those first ones, if they are going to germinate, and you don’t lose time by waiting. Pam

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