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Despite Freezing Temps, It Feels Like Summer In Hoop House

The guys of Bread & Roses Gardens are growing a variety of herbs and greens inside their hoop house. Thanks to the sun, it's 80 degrees in there.

in the hoop house at bread & roses gardens

Photo: Sarah Gordon/WFIU

The guys at Bread & Roses Gardens are growing a variety of herbs in their hoop houses. The damp newspaper keeps the soil moist as the seed germinate.

Hard At Work

The two guys of Bread & Roses Gardens are pretty busy these days. They’re creating raised garden beds, transplanting starter plants from the hoop house into the ground and sheet mulching.

One of Salem Willard’s many titles is part owner of Bread & Roses Gardens. He also calls himself a farmer, permaculture designer, edible landscaper, woodsman and nurseryman, which is indicative of the variety of tasks that are required of him on the farm every day.

Help From The Chicks

Earth Eats visited Bread & Roses Gardens in early 2011. Willard had just started the arduous task turning this rustic plot of land near the Hoosier National Forest into a farm and homestead. Back then, he only had one rooster and three pigs. Now, he’s up to a dozen or so chickens and ducks who have free rein of the chicken moat.

“They eat whatever we throw in there, and they actively compost everything for us so we don’t have to do the work,” says Willard. The moat surrounds the garden that will eventually produce food to be sold at summer farmers markets. (It’s called a most not because there’s any water involved, but because it surrounds a plot of land.)

chicken moat

Photo: Sarah Gordon/WFIU

A dozen or so chickens pick at scraps of food in the chicken moat.

It’s Summer Inside The Hoop House

The garden inside the moat doesn’t have much growing in it right now. It’s still a bit too early to see plants popping up.

But in the greenhouse is a different story — the kale is flourishing! They took cuttings from last year’s kale and planted them in the greenhouse to have  greens growing all year. The metal frame of the hoop house is draped with two layers of plastic, which helps ensure the temperature stays around 80 degrees during sunny days.

Along with the kale, mustard greens and cilantro, they are growing a variety of perennial herbs – American licorice, baptisia (which is a native wildflower that’s nitrogen fixing) , clove, fennel, celery, parsley, caraway and chervil.

The many trays of seeds are labeled and covered with damp newspaper. As seeds germinate, they don’t need light but they do need a moist soil base.

Jonas Carpenter, fellow farmer at Bread & Roses Gardens, explains this hoop house helps them extend the seasons into both fall and spring. “The key here is not to be really pumping and growing a lot during the winter but just sustaining,” he says. “We’ll go into winter and out of winter with a really big kick start.”

These starter plants will eventually be sold at farmers markets in April and May.

hoop house at bread & roses gardens

Photo: Sarah Gordon/WFIU

This simple structure contains starter plants (a variety of herbs, leafy greens, citrus trees). A metal frame is draped with two layers of plastic tarp to hold heat inside and prevent the ground from freezing.

Local Oranges?

Off in the far end of the hoop house are perhaps the most interesting plants of the lot — mandarin orange trees. Willard says there are certain varieties that survive down to 10 degrees. “This year the lowest temperature we got was 7 degrees, so if you can keep a high tunnel an extra 15 degrees warmer, they’ll make it just fine through the winter,” he says.

Stay tuned!

More: Next week, Salem Willard and Jonas Carpenter will be back to talk about sheet mulching. Do you want to convert your front lawn to a garden? You’ll want to hear their advice for sure!

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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