Sattin Hill Market Farming Course Module 9: Winter Growing (FSFS247)

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Episode Summary

This episode of Farm Small Farm Smart features the eighth module of the Sattin Hill Market Farming Course, where Josh Sattin talks about the benefits and considerations of adding high tunnels to your farm.

Today’s Guest: Josh Sattin

Josh Sattin is a farmer at Sattin Hill Farm in Raleigh, North North Carolina. As an educator and professional videographer, Josh has published hundreds of educational farming videos on his YouTube to help make a difference in the local farming and foodscape.

            Josh Sattin – YouTube | Instagram | Website

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • An overview of the Sattin Hill Farm Course Module 8 (00:42)
  • Some reasons why you should consider using tunnels on your farm (01:12)
    • Season extension (01:35)
    • Better climate and environmental control (02:18)
    • Protection from the elements (02:57)
    • Irrigation, trellising, and shade cloth (04:16)
  • Permanent tunnels vs. temporary tunnels (04:55)
    • More cons than pros with DIY kits (06:02)
  • A look at the Farmer’s Friend Tunnel (07:15)
    • Choosing the shape: Gothic vs. Quonset (08:00)
    • Choosing the size (08:37)
    • Options and accessories (10:18)
  • Got questions or looking for specific recommendations? Call your tunnel manufacturer of choice (11:27)
  • Ground prep for tunnel installation (13:11)
  • Making tunnel modifications (14:10)
    • Installing end walls (14:21)
    • Baseboards (15:45)
  • Considerations for irrigation, trellising, and using shade cloth (16:44)
  • High tunnels and dealing with storms (17:50)

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FSFS247 (SHFC 9)

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to farm small farm smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. Today, it�s Sattin hill farm course module nine on winter growing in this module, Josh satin is going to talk about why. And the benefits of winter growing. If you want to watch his presentation of this module, you can do so on his YouTube channel, which I've linked to below.

[00:00:23] And if you want to find additional resources related to this module and all the other modules, check out Now let's get into it. Josh sattin on winter growing.

[00:00:38] Josh Sattin: Welcome to module nine of the Sattin Hill Farm Course. This module is all about winter growing. And before we get into it, you just have to have a huge thanks to Paperpot Co. for sponsoring this entire course without the help of Diego and Paperpot Co., none of this would be possible and more on them later.

[00:00:52] Now in this module, I'll get into some general stuff about winter growing, how to protect your crops using row covers. Irrigation and moisture control, plumbing and freezing issues. And a little bit about planting both transplanting and direct seeding, but we'll get into those more in depth in future modules.

[00:01:10] Let's kick off this module. It's some general stuff. And first of all, you have to realize that winter growing is going to depend a lot on where you're located. I'm in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is in zone seven B we have pretty mild winters here and it allows me to grow pretty easily through the winter time without.

[00:01:26] Input. I have tunnels and I'll get into all that kind of stuff, but I focus a lot on winter growing. Now, if you are further north than me and as much colder, you get a lot of snow, those sorts of things. Well, you probably can't grow as much in the winter time without a lot of infrastructure inputs and those kinds of things.

[00:01:41] But if you're further south than me, well, you can focus a lot more on winter growing and do some really good business in the winter time. It'll be warmer obviously, and you'll have less constraints and things will just be growing a lot easier. Now, let me talk about why I love winter growing so much, why you might want to consider it.

[00:01:56] I think most people think of farming is from spring to fall. Right? You get out there as soon as you can in the spring, wait for the fields to dry. Fight those late frosts and then just push through the season and kind of take the winter off. And I think for a lot of people, you may not have an option if you live in an area that's super cold or has a lot of snow, but I want to change your opinion a little bit about winter growing in this, because I'm now focusing on a lot of winter growing and sort of open up your eyes to it because there's a lot of benefits to it now for me.

[00:02:22] Why did I think about this and why am I naturally not growing in the summertime? I'm kind of doing the opposite season now. Well, first of all, As I said, North Carolina, and it gets very hot here in the summertime. And that causes a few problems. First of which the kind of crops that I to grow, like the quick growing high turnover crops, like my main crop is lettuce mix or, you know, a salad mix that doesn't do great in the summer.

[00:02:44] There are some workarounds or some tricks to like course the lettuce into growing, but it naturally just doesn't want to grow in the summertime. It doesn't have the same yields. It doesn't taste as good. It doesn't look as good. You're fighting pests, those sorts of things. So for me, I was putting a lot of effort in the summertime without a lot of output.

[00:03:01] And that's something that I'd really like to do. That's not a good Cajun there. The other part of it is with the heat here physically. I didn't want to be out here in the summertime. I'm in my early forties. And I was just struggling after about 11 or 12 o'clock during the day to be outside because it's over 90 degrees and humid pretty much from may through like almost October here.

[00:03:21] It is super hot here. And I think even if you're younger than me, you'll probably understand that the heat can be very oppressive in the summertime. So those are kind of the reasons why I've kind of shifted my to a mostly winter growing the other benefits about winter growing. It's a much slower pace.

[00:03:37] And what I mean by that is that the crops grow more slowly. So when crops are ready to harvest in the summertime, like you got to go and harvest them right away, are they going to get too big or they're going to bolt or those kinds of things. But in the winter time, if you miss the harvest by a few days, a few weeks, Usually not a big deal.

[00:03:51] You can come in, come back through, gives you a lot more flexibility. I like that slower pace in terms of a business strategy, you have a lot less competition. There's not a lot of growers, most likely in your area that are growing in the winter time. So when you go into a farmer's market, if they're opening the winter or your restaurants, you're probably going to be one of the few farmers that are gonna be delivering.

[00:04:09] Awesome because you can charge a good amount and you have less competition because there'll be a big demand for your crops. You're growing in terms of the types of crops you want to grow. I did cover that in the crop selection module. So go check that out. But generally speaking, we'll be doing a lot of greens like lettuce some brassicas like kale and arugula and those sorts of things.

[00:04:29] spinach has also another good one in carrots. What a great crops to grow in the winter time. And I had great luck with it.

[00:04:39] A big part of winter growing is going to be protecting your crops. And there's two things you need to protect it from. One is going to be the cold cause frost obviously hurts crops and also from winter precipitation. So there are a few ways you can do this. I want to go through all of them. I think the best way obviously is, is in tunnels.

[00:04:55] Hopefully saw my last module, which was all about tunnels. I'm a huge fan of. The tunnels will take care of both the cold and the winter precipitation. So we'll get into that, but there are a few things that you can use other than tunnels.

[00:05:10] The first way you can protect your crops from winter cold is going to be row cover. And this is a super common tool that's used on farms because it's the cheapest way to cover the most amount of land. It is probably my least favorite method I have. The relationship with recover as I'm sure a lot of you do out there as well.

[00:05:27] The negatives are it doesn't last that long. I tend to be clumsy and rip it pretty often. You also have to weigh it down in a lot of places because it's super lightweight. If you're not in a tunnel, it's going to blow around. You're gonna need a lot of sandbags or, or stone. Pavers or something like that to keep it in place.

[00:05:43] it doesn't really protect from the moisture as well as something like a tunnel will. But as I said, it does give you really good frost protection and it's very inexpensive for covering large areas. So row cover which has also in an Agra bond or re Mae comes in different thicknesses. And what I have here is the medium way to come in.

[00:06:02] Ag 15, 19 30 and 50. So the the 15 is kind of advertised as like an insect netting. It's super lightweight. I've tried it before. It's like it rips. When you look at a funny, it's so thin and not very durable. So as you go up in higher weight row covers, it will give you more frost protection, like more degrees of safety.

[00:06:22] Temperature and also be more durable and fossil more expensive. So I think most people are either getting the 19 or the 50, the, the low or the medium. I like the ag 30, which is the medium one. It gives me a good balance between durability, more protection and costs. And so I usually like to 30. Now, if you, if it's really cold outside and need more protection, you can double up, you can put two layers on it, but then you need double the row cover.

[00:06:46] So these are all things you need to consider. But ag 30 is kind of where I like to live for my context here. And those sorts of things. So in addition to the row cover, you're going to need a way to support the road cover because you don't want to lay it directly on top of your crops because when it freezes, you'll have issues and things will die.

[00:07:02] So you have to keep it somewhat elevated off the, off the crops. And there's in my opinion, two to wasted. The first way is going to be using something like this. Just a piece of wire I bought these pre-made or even just buy a spool of wire, which is probably cheaper, but this was great because they come, I don't remember the length, but I'll leave a link down below.

[00:07:20] they come this length of for one bed and when you take them out, they straighten out. So they're easy to store, which I really like. If you get a spool of wire, sometimes they don't do that. So you can see them laid out here on the beds. These have been out for a while. I probably can take these out soon as we're coming out of winter time.

[00:07:35] I'm not expecting too many hard freezes at this point. the other option is something like this, which is a 10 foot piece of half-inch electrical conduit. And I bent these, myself using a very simple rig that was made out of a piece of plywood, some screws and a piece of wood, and just, I just drew an arc with a string to the, the right size and radius that I wanted and just.

[00:07:55] That way, there are also commercial ones available, I believe, but these are pretty inexpensive, but again, if you need a lot of these on your farm, like it's going to add up quickly, but this is definitely a preferred method. And let me show you how this works. So for this, this will cover two beds. Like this and I put them down all the way, and this will allows the 10 foot row cover here to cover a half the tunnel and work really, really well.

[00:08:20] I do love this method a lot, and you can also use this for low tunnels, which we'll talk about in a, in a few minutes. Keep in mind with the size of your row covers is going to make sure you get the ones that fit your, your setup. The best. This goes back to me talking about standardization in terms of your beds and tunnels.

[00:08:37] And they come in different wits and links. These are 10 foot by a hundred foot. So this, each one of these will cover half of. So I'll pull them over. I did buy these from farmer's friend. They came in a 20 foot by 100 and it was, I thought I covered the whole tunnel with one piece, but it was just too cumbersome.

[00:08:55] So I cut it in half and it seems to work a lot better. But if everything is standardized, then you can have the same row covers and they can work everywhere. And you don't have to remember which thing goes where, so let me show you what this looks like here. So they just pull over like this.

[00:09:15] And you can cover up two beds with a 10 foot piece. and this is what I do here in the tunnels. And then when I don't need them, I just kind of toss them over the side. Of course, I'll do this a lot neater, but, and another question people have is about storage of row cover because you make sure it's dry when you put it away.

[00:09:37] And the other thing is you can set up a really simple braiding with this to keep it a little bit more organized. And the way that you do that is pretty simple. Just make a loop like this�and pull it through until you have another loop.

[00:10:00] And you just keep doing the same thing. That's already tied up at the bottom, but he's come through and do it just like that. And you keep going and eventually you'll get an ice braid like this. It takes up a lot more space since a lot easier to store. but again, super simple. just little, little tip to to keep this under control.

[00:10:18] So benefits of row cover it's cheap cover large area. just keep in mind that it's not going to get the moisture out and be very careful about the moisture control, because once the, once these guys get wet, they're going to hold a lot of moisture and say, well, make sure you're ventilating when you need to. And those sorts of things, we'll get into more about irrigation and ventilation a little bit later.

[00:10:42] I have used what I would call low tunnels in the past. And I don't really recommend this for commercial growing. These are basically built out of 10 foot pieces of electrical conduit with a piece of greenhouse plastic over it. It is much more inexpensive than having caterpillar. But the amount of labor that you have to spend working these things, setting them up, moving them, getting in and out of them, harvesting all the kind of stuff.

[00:11:04] It's just not worth it to me. I think they're great for smaller situations like home gardening and those kinds of things, but keep in mind also with low tunnels or spaces that are very small, they heat up super quick in the morning and you have to be very careful about ventilating them, or you can cook your crops and they don't really provide that much more protection than row cover.

[00:11:22] Although the plastic does help. I find that they're not. The time that you have to put into it. So I'd recommend this for homeschool stuff, but really not for commercial stuff. Let me jump in here real quick and take a minute to talk about our sponsor paper pod co, as I mentioned at the beginning of this module, this entire course is sponsored by paper without the help of Diego and Paperpot Co.

[00:11:41] This course wouldn't be possible. And I truly mean that for me to be able to spend the time on this and give this away for free on YouTube, this would not be possible without their help. In addition to being the founder and owner of goes also an awesome podcast or on YouTube, or I highly recommend you check out his podcasts like farm, small farm smart, and his new one carrot cashflow, which is about the farm business stuff.

[00:12:02] The things that Diego really loves to nerd out about. So go check that out. In addition to that paper, pod co has great tools, equipment, and supplies that really focus on high quality and efficiency. They're a reliable place to buy things from, and they have great customer service. In addition to all that, there are extra resources for this course at Go check out what they have and let them know you're enjoying the. Back to the module.

[00:12:28] The most important tool and strategy on my farm to help me with winter growing is definitely the tunnels. And if you have questions about types of tunnels, sizes, all the things you would want to consider with tunnels, go check out my last module, module eight, it's all about tunnels, but I'm going to talk specifically about what I have here, which is these 14 by 100 foot Gothic pro caterpillar tunnels from farmers.

[00:12:49] I love them. I think a lot of people either have them or considering these kinds of tunnels because they're inexpensive cheap to set up and allow a lot of flexibility. Now you can get away with a lot of winter growing with row cover and low tunnels, like I mentioned previously, but these allow me to do it way quicker with less time input.

[00:13:06] And also I think give a much more consistent environment for the crops. As I said, it's way faster because I don't have to deal with row cover as much, and I can open and close the tunnels pretty quickly, either the ends or the ends and the sidewall. So that makes it super easy to cool it off in there versus messing with a whole bunch of row cover.

[00:13:24] And I don't have to worry about keeping the weight on the row cover and it ripping and all that kind of stuff. Now, one thing is you have a lot more flexibility as well, because you can add additional. On the beds inside the tunnel and that'll give you even more protection. So generally, if I see the lows are getting down to about 28 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit, I'll just close up the tunnels and, and be fine.

[00:13:45] Now, if I see getting colder than like 26, so like down into the low twenties, which is kind of the coldest it gets here is around 20 or so at night. And it's usually for not that many hours during the, during the evening, then I'll put row cover on the bed. Inside the tunnel. And that gives me even more protection from the cold.

[00:14:02] Now this system of row cover inside of a tunnel was as far as I'm concerned spearheaded by Elliot Coleman, who in Maine, who did a whole book about winter growing and, and helped us a lot as growers with. Kind of stuff. So what that does is it allows you to have even more protection. And the way I think about it usually is like, if you have a tunnel, it adds a zone onto where you are and if you add row cover and a tunnel, then you are on like two more zones.

[00:14:27] So I'm in zone seven, I'd be in zone nine, essentially if I had row cover on inside of the tunnel. So that's a great way to do that. Also having the recover on insight. I don't have to worry about weighing them down and stuff because there's no wind in there and they don't really blow around. Now, the biggest thing with the tunnels is maintain temperature.

[00:14:44] And so what do you have to realize is because these are not heated, right? You have to maintain the temperature by opening, closing the tunnels. And if you know that the tunnel, if the temperature is going to drop below freezing. Make sure you close up your tunnels in the afternoon while the sun is still hitting the tunnels.

[00:15:00] And what that does is it allows the tunnels to trap as much heat and heat up the soil as much as possible. So when the temperatures drop overnight, there'll be a lot more heat in the ground and in the tunnel and allow the crops to be a lot happier. Now the low temperature is one thing to keep in mind, but you also want to think about how long it's going to be at that temperature.

[00:15:18] So if it's going to get down to 25 degrees, is it 25 degrees for eight hours or for like two hours? Those are the kinds of things you have to worry about and the consistency of those. So if you have one cold night versus several cold nights, the several cold nights are going to be, have, have a bigger impact on the crops than just one cold night.

[00:15:35] So if you have a little bit of a frost and the crops struggle a little bit, they rebound, it's gonna be different than if you know, you have a long streak of them now in terms of heating of tunnels. This is something that you need to think about because I don't do it, but it, there is a significant cost in terms of equipment, but also in terms of the energy, if it's a gas or electric or whatever for me, it's not worth it.

[00:15:56] Also, these tunnels aren't really designed for heating wood, being single walled and very like not super sealed. So. If you are thinking about heating your tunnel and you have a greenhouse where you have that kind of setup, think about the cost. Cause it can get pretty pricey. One that you can do is if you are, let's say pushing tomatoes early, like late winter into early spring, and you want to heat the tunnel to get the tomatoes going.

[00:16:18] So you get to market quicker. You can also at the cost of heating by inter planting and planting other things next to the tomatoes, cropping those out and having those crops. Pay for the heat to get your tomatoes up earlier. So there's a lot of options out there, but generally speaking, I think for me here, heating is not something I, I really can think even think about. It works really well with just the tunnel and the row cover

[00:16:43] Other than controlling the temperature in your tunnels. Another thing that you really want to maintain and keep an eye on is the moisture level in your tunnel. And this is a couple different things. One of which is the moisture that's actually in the soil and also how much moisture is on the plants or around the plants because if it stays too moist and you don't have enough airflow, you're going to have fungal issues and disease pressure.

[00:17:03] And that can happen very quickly in the wintertime. If you're not careful, you really don't need. Irrigate very much in the winter time. I do not use the overhead whatsoever once in a while. I'll turn the drip on every few weeks if I need it. But what I, when I do that, I actually just put my hand in the toilet, go around and like, feel the soil and make sure it's totally dry.

[00:17:21] If it is, if there is moisture in there, don't add any more because it's going to cause problems. So go check that a lot of times I'll just hand water, certain. Certain crops need it more than others. Really take a look and make sure you're not over-watering for a few reasons. As I said, with the moisture issues, also, if you put a bunch of cold water on there, like late in the day, you're going to cool everything down right before it needs to warm back up.

[00:17:44] So if you're going to water, try to do it sort of late morning, where it has time to warm back up, because you know, if you're using well water, it's usually pretty cold. Or if you're using city water in the wintertime, it can be cold as well. So keep that in mind, but don't really. They had too much moisture cause it's going to cause a lot of trouble.

[00:18:02] In addition to controlling how much moisture you add. One thing that's super important is ventilating your tunnels every single day, unless it's super cold outside. There's probably a time during the day where inside the tunnel, it's going to get above freezing because that's why you have tunnels because they warm up with the sunlight.

[00:18:18] So as soon as I can, or as soon as it gets around freezing, I'm going to open the tunnels because I really want to make sure I'm getting maximum air flow. In the middle of the wintertime here, I'm generally just opening the ends of the tunnels. And that gives me enough, but I'll often crack the sidewalls a little bit to get a little bit more.

[00:18:34] you know, air flow through there and adding some fans would not be a bad idea as well. If you have electricity out here, another thing with ventilating, the tunnels and being really conscious about that is the spacing of your crops. So what I've been doing is spacing my crops a little bit wider in the wintertime because they're going to be in the ground a little bit longer and moisture can build up very quickly.

[00:18:54] So I want to make sure they have more room. So generally I plant lettuce. At four rows, I've been playing to get it three rows in the winter time, just to give it a little bit more space. And that's really helped with air flow and keeping down the fungal and disease pressure is like giving the plants enough from and just be really careful about the moisture that's in the soil and around the plants.

[00:19:17] I've been talking about maintaining and harvesting crops in the winter time. But what about planting? This can work depending on where you are and what you want to plant. And I can do some of that here in North Carolina, but we'll, again, will depend a lot on where you are in terms of direct seeding. I have direct seeded crops in the middle of winter time here and had success, but it really depends a lot on a couple of things.

[00:19:37] One of which is you pick the right crops to plant. I planted a bunch of beds of carrots in the middle of the wintertime here. I had mixed results with germination and they took forever carrots. Take a long time journey anyways. But I had really good luck last year, planting things like baby kill and other brassicas, like a rugala also spinach, you know, those kinds of things do really well because they can germinate a little bit cooler and they germinate very quickly.

[00:20:00] So what I recommend if you are direct seeding is take a look at the soil temperature and keep it on the weather. So if I see that I have a streak of warm days. At some point that's when I'll plant it, the being of that, you really want to give them the best chance to germinate in terms of the temperature.

[00:20:15] So if it's really cold out, I wouldn't really worry. I wouldn't really try to do some direct seeding. And the same thing goes for transplanting. Look for those warmer days, you don't want to put up brand new seedling. If it's super cold outside, it's going to be even more struggling if if it's cold out.

[00:20:28] So in addition to the temperature, keeping up with the moisture, I really like to use hand watering with newly planted beds, especially direct seeded beds. I would just literally go and check them either once or twice a day, check on them wishy level and hand water them as needed. And that way you'll get the best results with direct seeding and also having results with transplanting.

[00:20:46] As I said, I'll get into direct seeding and transplanting and more detail in later modules.

[00:20:54] As I was saying, you're gonna need water on your farm from time to time during the winter and how you manage your water lines is super important because water freezes in the winter time. And if you don't have a strategy for managing that, you're going to run into a lot of problems with things freezing and then breaking either valves or lines or timers or all those sorts of things and create leaks and all sorts of headaches.

[00:21:16] Strategy to help manage that. The best that you can do is bear your water lines deep enough, and that will depend on where you are, how deep you have to put them and put in frost-free hydrants everywhere. I did not take that strategy because they didn't want invest the time and money while we were building.

[00:21:29] So this is what I did. It's not as ideal as putting in a bearing your lines in the frosty. But this is my main header that runs through my farm. And this is what all the irrigation ties into for the tunnels and some other stuff. And at the end of the line, I have a ball valve here, just a simple ball valve.

[00:21:45] So on nights I know it's going to go below freezing in the afternoon when I'm out here, closing out my tunnels. What I'll do is I'll close off the water at the house and open up the ball valves there at the end here, and also at the other end to have another one down there. And the other thing with this system is that I have another valve on a tee close to the house, which allows air to come in.

[00:22:02] So close the water for that. Open up these at the end and open up that valve, flip the air, come in and it drains out the whole. It only takes me a couple of minutes to open and close all these valves. So it's just part of my process for when you know, when it's going to be cold or when I need water.

[00:22:16] So if I don't need water for awhile, I'll just leave everything open, but make sure that you're either draining your lines and you have a game plan for that. Don't recommend. If you have to unscrew things all the time, like figure out ways to put in valves and drain things. You'll save so much time and frustration and just less things to go wrong.

[00:22:33] I really liked that. The other thing with water management is your wash station. So make sure you have a place to wash your vegetables in the winter time. And there's a few things you want to think about. If it's super cold out, you not gonna have water because either you're going to have to turn it off cause it's frozen or it is frozen, those sorts of things.

[00:22:48] So having an area where you can have water and also keep in mind, if you are growing in the wintertime and harvesting and washing, it's really tough on whoever's doing the work. If you're doing wet, work outside in the cold. So having areas out of the weather and maybe even heated. A huge advantage for yourself or for whoever's working for you in terms of winter growing.

[00:23:08] All right. So lots of stuff to consider with winter growing. And I absolutely love it. It's a big part of what I do and it's making my life a lot better. So if it's something you want to consider, maybe pushing more of your energy towards winter growing, or maybe just extend your season a little bit longer and get some more profit for your farm and your family.

[00:23:25] That's another thing to consider. Keep in mind, there'll be live Q and A's. As I said before, every Monday at 3:00 PM, Eastern about. Topics. So comment, check that out. The next module will be module 10. It'll be all about irrigation. Hope to see you. Then

[00:23:41] Diego Footer: There, you have it. Module nine of the Sattin hill farm course.

[00:23:45] If you enjoyed this module and you'd like to read more about it, you can do so in some of the resources that we've compiled at paper. Dot co slash Josh. And you can watch Josh's presentation of this module on his YouTube channel, which I've linked to below. Thanks for listening to this one. I hope it helps until next time.

[00:24:06] Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.


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