March Field Tunnels

After having seen the balmy Maryland and Virginia February weather, I thought we should go peek at our fields and see what’s been going on in our field tunnels.

The brassicas in the following  pictures were direct seeded last September. In mid-October, we built a field tunnel over the young plants. At the end of November, the brassicas in the field tunnel were being harvested for late fall markets.

MARCH 1, 2011

An average snowy end of winter.

Indoors, the brassicas are cozy under a layer of row cover.

On even the coldest nights when the temperature outside drops to -35C, the temperature under the row cover stays above -9C.

Under the row cover,  the brassicas that haven’t succumbed to the winter are getting ready for a growth spurt.

MARCH 8, 2011

A couple early March snow falls extended the cross-county skiing season.

Since the coldest part of the winter is over, I completely removed the row cover.

The brassicas grew since the previous week.

MARCH 18, 2011

The snow has started to melt. At some places in the field the water is a foot deep.

There is also a touch of flooding in parts of the tunnel.

The brassicas have taken off.

I go through each row plant by plant removing dead leaves, culling damaged plants, and selecting the mother plants for this year’s seed crop.

I aim to leave 1 plant every 2-4 inches. I select the healthiest spring plants  – the largest plants with the least damaged leaves. Since I am trying to increase genetic diversity in the population, I also make sure to leave a mix of leaf colors and shapes.

MARCH 22, 2011

A light snow fell yesterday. The fields are still pretty swampy.

The tunnel has also dried out for the moment.


You can compare this year’s tunnel with last spring’s posts about our early spring melts and our field tunnel. Winter 2010 was an El Niρo year with milder weather than winter 2011. As such the 2010 crops took off much quicker and were bigger by mid-March.

Though we were able to harvest many March salads in 2010, I prefer 2011’s slower growth. Last year the plants grew  quicker than I could rogue them. It was difficult to select the best plants since all the greens recovered so fast. This year I think I am definitely selecting the hardiest plants.

Now I am going to wait for the snow to melt and see if any leafy greens have survived in the fields.

4 thoughts on “March Field Tunnels

  1. Do you water the plants in your tunnels during the winter at all? Your week-by-week pictures are awesome!

    1. Hi Joan,

      The soil is usually quite wet by the time we build the field tunnel over the crops at the end of October. This is enough moisture for the plants until we uncover the tunnel at the end of April.

      If we were planting into a greenhouse that was already covered, we would have to irrigate in the fall to make sure there was enough moisture for the winter.


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