Lizzi: We’re here in the Guadalupe neighborhood of Salt Lake City talking to Top Crops to learn about hoop houses
and about growing winter hardy plants to push the season as far as you can. Lizzi: So
tell us about the general idea behind hoop houses. Elliott: it’s really just preserving
and protecting what’s already growing. A lot of this stuff in the fields with
low tunnels, it’s been growing since September. Now that the frosted kicked in, cover
it up and it’ll stay good under there for whenever, until you want to pick it. So
not just cold weather but short day length affects everything as well. So
when sunlight gets to like ten hours a day, which is November 10th for our area,
nothing really gets bigger so you try we try to get everything sized up by that
time November 10th or so. Lizzi: Can we go over and talk about the low tunnels a little
bit? Elliott: Sure yeah! Lizzi: Tell me about this fabric and frame that you’ve got. Elliott: Sure so this is
called frost fabric pretty affordable and comes in different widths and
different weights. It’s held up with these hoops that are made out of
electrical conduit this is a 10-foot piece cut in half and bent to cover our standard bed. The nice thing about this stuff is it stores up really well. You can just roll it on a spool or
you can just wad it up and put it in a barrel and get it out when you need it.
Lizzi: Where did you get these clips from? Are they just from the hardware store? Elliott: This is a new company that makes a specific clip for the conduit size but we’ve used
spring clamps or office binder clips. You can get away with sometimes so most
things don’t like the fabric resting right on them okay because that contact
can just freeze easier than suspended over. Lizzi: Looking at these conduits how do
you kind of measure that out sure we use a 30 inch spy bed and
our paths are 10 inches and so this 5 foot piece of conduit fits really well.
It ‘s about maybe 6 inches deep each side and we just shove them in usually you
can just get away with just stabbing it right in and they’re pretty strong. For
these, two bags but you can kind of really configure them any way you can if
you use raised beds you can trim it and bend it to fit your box. If we notice
it’s gonna get close to freezing we come out and put a few sturdy sand bags on each end. It will hold it down if it’s not gonna be too
windy but if you really want to seal it up good and and be sure it doesn’t blow
off. Be sure you get it laid down on the ground and then space your weights out.
Lizzi: What do you do when snow comes? I mean if we get like two feet of snow you know
what what do you guys do to prepare? Elliott: That’s a good point. These don’t hold up
to snow as well as plastic does. We’ll come out
and sturdy it up with an extra strap or rope where we will stake on the end
run it kind of like a ridgepole wrap it around to make sure it’s tight
all the way, stake it on each end and then if we really want it to — like you
know, if it’s gonna snow, plastic will replace it and use more sandbags to just be
sure it holds its shape and then it will shed a little more snow. Lizzi: So would you
replace it with plastic ? You wouldn’t like layer plastic over? Elliott: You could
actually for a little more warmth, [use] fabric under the plastic. Lizzi: Just kind of like a
temporary solution? Lizzi: Yeah yeah. Lizzi: Okay so I’m curious the very first time that you did
hoop houses can you remember the biggest lesson you learned from that first
attempt? Elliott: Well I would say you probably need more sandbags than you think
you need. The wind can really wreck them if you’re not thorough enough. Or maybe a hoop had sunk from the weight of
a little bit of snow so just be diligent making them sturdy, especially with weather coming. Lizzi: It’s a huge operation and you’re not doing it alone, so you’ve got Manda here. Manda: Hi! Lizzi: Wow, that’s cool! Manda whispers: You can have it. Lizzi: Thank you. [Laughing] Lizzi: So for a homeowner who is going to do their first low tunnel, what do you recommend in terms of what
to grow and why? Manda: Yeah first things first is growing stuff that you like to eat.
A lot of people tell me like at the end of summer market, “I don’t really eat
greens this time of year or salad this time of year, but they actually taste much better.
There’s no bitterness. They have like a more full flavor and they’re really
crispy, they study in your fridge a lot longer because they’re just healthier.
Greens are gonna be the easiest like spinach, lettuces, mustard if you like the
flavor, carrots which don’t even need to be in the high tunnel.
You could have beets in there it’s really about getting things in at
the right time and getting things that you’re going to be excited to harvest.
Lizzi: How do you harvest your greens so that they keep growing throughout the season?
Manda: You’ll get a little bit of regrowth but it’ll take a lot longer so that’s one
reason why you need to just plant a lot more. So the plant will regrow if the
days are still long enough you really have to add three to four weeks to the
date to maturity normally lettuce is like 50 days and it might be like 80
days this time of year Elliott: Things don’t really get over grown, so you plant a bunch and then you just kind of
harvest it when you need it. Manda: In the summertime, if you’re growing baby
greens they get big really fast so if we have arugula that needs to be cut we
really only have like two days to cut it and then it’s so big but it’s not the
same product anymore and in the winter you don’t have to worry about that. You
just let it sit and it will just stay until you’re ready for it. Lizzi: It’s nice and
patient. Manda: Yeah ,we felt like we gave up a lot of stuff early just so that we could
get like more carrots if you want carrots in the winter time which is
super easy to grow you have to plant them like that beginning of August.
That’s a really long time to have carrots in one spot so we were just like
let’s get everything in the ground that we can because you really only have one
chance right once those days are too short, you can’t really do anything else. Lizzi: Right, I heard you say earlier the kale
really loves the frost? Lizzi: Yeah kind of sweetens it up a little bit which is
true of like carrots and things in the winter time too. Lizzi: Were you saying the
same thing about spinach spinach also Manda: Spinach is like mush it can be snowed on
and then you just brush the snow off and it’s fine. Lizzi: Cool! Alright thanks for letting us come out
here and learn a little bit about having fresh produce throughout the
winter. It’s really awesome. Hopefully we’ll have a mild fall there’s only been a couple frosts so far and just hope for the best.