As Caitlin said last week, winter work on a farm is just different from the other seasons. This is my first winter here but I can already tell what she means. Taking on the responsibilities of producing enough fruits, vegetables, and herbs for the farm family to sustain through the winter months has more to do with planning than I thought. I've been flipping through seed catalogs, designing a new area to grow herbs, slowly switching to vertical growing in the strawberry tunnel, all while still learning.
The herb garden is on hold right now because of the snow fall but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Snow helps insulate the ground and protects the fertile soil from the harsh winter elements. This also helps those wood chips, cardboard, and layers of mulch decompose a bit faster, so I'm welcoming the snow.
By growing strawberries vertically, we are able to weed, harvest, and tend to the strawberries in a less physically demanding way. Crouching over rows for hours at a time will be limited saving our backs, necks, and knees. Also, by vertically growing crops, the space inside of the tunnel is maximized leaving more room to grow other crops or to grow additional strawberry plants. Each vertical planter takes up about two square feet of ground space and can grow up to fifty plants. Strawberry plants need about a foot to eighteen inches between plants so in the same amount of space, we could fit just barely two plants. These vertical growers have potential but right now we are in the testing stage.
Creating the prototypes was fairly easy. I took a roll of unused field fence with one inch gridding and cut a length of three feet off of it. I fashioned it into a long cylinder held together with zip ties and some strong twine. Afterwards, I used burlap to line the inside of the cylinder with it. Then it was ready to be filled. I placed a four inch diameter cardboard tube inside of the wire cylinder and placed drip line irrigation tubing in the center of that. Around the drip line, I packed wood chips until the tube was filled then filled compost between the cardboard and burlap making sure the composted soil was fairly packed down. I'm really excited to plant the strawberry plants and watch them happily grow in the spring but until then, I'm creating many more of these vertical growers and researching new crops to fill in the spaces!