Well the 2018 season sure caught up with us! If you recall, we were just finishing the doors, got the cover crop in, and waited for some growth until we planted the heirloom tomatoes.
As you can see below the Bardwell Farm Crew prepared the high tunnel to plant rows of tomatoes. We started by tilling the soil and incorporating the essential amendments needed. Next, we measured out each row for the different tomato varieties. We only made five rows because these plants get massive.
We planted each plant roughly 3' apart and 6' between rows to give adequate spacing. Lastly, we watered the plants heavily before and after they were planted and added a beneficial compost to get them moving along.
We gave the tomatoes a few weeks to get use to their new growing habitat. This meant monitoring them for water, disease, and heat stress. The tunnel can get up in the 90's easily on a sunny day.
After the plants were established we added drip irrigation to keep them from getting thirsty in an environment where it doesn't rain unless we let it.
We also added a trellis system where we use twine in a "v" shape on poles that lay above the tomatoes, and stapled at the bottom of each plant. This supports the plants as they climb to the ceiling.
Next, we clipped these fast growing plants to the twine so they would stay up-right and not hang to the ground. We used biodegradable tomato clips specially designed to hold the tomato stock and not suffocate them once they are big. We clipped the two main leaders to the two pieces of twine going up to the ceiling. They will continue to be clipped as the continue to grow.
Plants are at a month of growth in the photos below.
While the plants are growing up, up and away, we prune the suckers and branches that will take away from the growth of fruit and the structure of the plant. This is done every few weeks to keep the tunnel from looking like a jungle, increasing air flow and decreasing the chance for disease.
After months of prep, constant monitoring and a few learning curves, we finally saw some beautiful fruit forming and turning color. From this point on it was harvest, harvest, harvest!
From July through late October we were able to stock beautiful and tasty fruit at our farmstand sourced directly from our high tunnel. We harvested over 2500 pounds of heirloom tomatoes in a space of 2160 square feet and we are very satisfied with the results.
Below is just some of the beautiful fruit we harvested!
It all finally came to the end in October where it was just getting too cold for adequate protection in the tunnel, so it was time to remove these monstrous plants.
We started by cutting the stems at the base and letting them dry/freeze with the weather for a few days to decrease the weight. Next, we removed the tomato clips and twine and let the plants fall to the ground.
It was a sight to see as the sun set and the high tunnel was empty again. It signaled the next steps. Cover cropping, liming and letting it grow over the winter.
Below you can see me rototilling the soil in preparation of adding the seed and amendments into the ground.
The first season really was a success and we learned so much along the way. Stay tuned next year as we begin to build High Tunnel 2!
Thanks for reading :)
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