October very different inside the hoop house
October, and killing frosts are going to be regular now. That is not a euphemism for the ugly political ads, fliers and posters covering the Valley this month, although it could be seen as one. This is about a woman and her vegetable garden. Linda Kleiner, just down the road, has a hoop house.
Intrigued by Linda’s sigh after I lamented about getting only one red tomato from my garden this year, I asked about her garden. Linda and her husband Ed have built a hoop house on their ag land with partial funding from an NRCS grant. This grant was available to an ag producer, to encourage open space, by increasing the productivity of ag land. In Kleiner’s situation reversing the growing season from a few short months, where long time Carson Valleyians know it can snow 11 months out of a year, to having a viable vegetables garden 10 months a year, February through November.
Linda’s sigh came from the fact she knew exactly how many tomatoes she had picked so far, over 240 and more, lots more, were coming. The October day she allowed me to pick tomatoes with her, plus some zucchini and a cucumber, we gathered over 40 and the plants were heavy with more, lots more.
Linda’s husband had just planted some more lettuce which looked to be flourishing, as well as the snow peas, peppers, onions, carrots, cilantro, swiss chard and butter squash. Over the summer they had eaten most of the broccoli and evidence of blooming artichokes proved the plants grew nicely in the hoop house. The Kleiners also grew garlic, potatoes, spinach, cabbage, and a volunteer cantaloupe was sneaking in a few melons along one edge.
For three years produce from the hoop house needs to be recorded to prove the grant. Linda does not sell the produce. They eat salad almost every night and she has four employees who share in the harvest. Many family friends also reap the benefit of vegetable frutatas, and fresh produce on a visit.
The cost in building the hoop house Ed figured materials and additional labor amounted to $2,600, but received a grant for $1,900.
The hoop house frame came from Agri-Tech, one of a dozen suppliers of kits to choose from, in the Bay area. Plastic provided with the kit covered it the October day I visited, but Linda explained it was rolled up most of the summer. Then they had netting over the plants to discourage birds and other pests. The first killing frost the Kleiner’s recorded this year on their place, Aug. 20, the plastic was used. And on Oct. 2, Linda said the thermometer hanging in the hoop house showed temperatures in the 90s.
The Kleiners very much enjoy their fresh produce and expect to for a while. With all these variable vegetables though there is the part that causes Linda’s sigh.
Constant record keeping of the harvest, weeding, washing down the vegetables to discourage pests, looking up recipes, and cooking keep her very busy. Maybe she doesn’t have time to be bothered with all the crazy political frost covering the rest of us. A hoop house, an ag project worth pursuing.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.