Tag Archives: Greenhouses

Pennsylvania Conference Recap

I was recently in PA for an all day conference on winter growing, season extension, wholesale, and food safety. I presented three times and we also heard from Cathie, a local grower and a Bill, representative from Wegmans supermarket who was talking about the great oportunities for growers of all sizes to sell to the wegmans family of stores.

My first talk was a standard winter growing and greens production.

Second talk was on Field systems and season extension. I have fun doing this talk as I get to discuss equipment, and show beautiful pictures of vegetables.

The last talk for the day was on Farm Planning, Wholesale markets, Food safety, and washing and packing. This was a lot of new material for me, and is the talk which took the most work. It went very well though.

There was signifigant interest in our annual bed strawberry system. Here’s the link to the slideshow that I have done on this.

Another question was the source of our supplies. Here’s the link to our resources page.


A grower also had a question on the bags that we use for our wholesale lettuce mix. They are from Uline, link here.

If you are a grower near a Wegmans, and they have stores in Western NY, PA, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and the Carolinas, you should look into sales oportunites through them. They are a very farm friendly company, and have employees whose sole job is to travel seek out new farms to sell to them. Definately worth a call or email.

Many thanks to Beth at the Blair Conservation District for organizing this event!




How to Build a Poor Boy Germination Chamber

Someone asked me the other day how we germinate seeds here at Kilpatrick Family Farm. I figured a quick blog post would be in order to show our cheap, and easy method.

The outside of our germination chamber

The outside of our germination chamber

We have heated benches in our smaller transplant house. I’ll do another Post on these latter, but the short version is that a 30 K BTU standard water heater is used to heat water which is pumped through small tubes on our benches. This system keeps the root zone warm, which is the most important part for strong growth.

What is needed for good germination?

Seeds need 3 things to germinate. Moisture, Heat, and in some cases light. We wet the trays before they go into the germination chamber. While in there, we either cover them with rowcover or germination domes to keep the moist. Heat is supplied by the heat tubes running underneath. The probe that powers the heat system is sunk in a small pot in the germ chamber. For those crops that need light, we’ll either place them on the top in the chamber or bring them out after a couple days. That is enough time to give them a jumpstart.

The guts of the heat system.

The guts of the heat system.

Here is a closeup of the tubing running under the bench and germ chamber.

Header for the heat tubes

Header for the heat tubes

What our cheap germ chamber does is concentrate that heat to a temperature which most seeds germ quickly at (80F). This is done through a few sheets of 1″ and 2″ foam board held together with great stuff and a few long roofing nails.

Heat box closeup- note the nails in the corner pinning it together.

Heat box closeup- note the nails in the corner pinning it together.

Here’s a shot of seedings just coming out of the germ chamber. We’ll stack trays several high in there for a capacity of over 100 trays.


Tomatoes just out of the germ chamber

right now the chamber is chock full of ginger germinating!

Ginger starting in the germination box

Ginger starting in the germination box

During the summer, when it is too hot, we germ in the cooler or a cool basement room.

NRCS webinar

I was privileged to be selected to give a webinar for the NRCS last week about high tunnel production. Webinars are hard to give, as you can’t see your audience or hear yourself, so feedback and feeling that you are connecting with your audience is tough.

We briefly covered high tunnel placement and construction, crop planning, and different crop production.

NRCS recorded the webinar. You can access that HERE.


Overall, it was a fun experience.

Weekly update 4/1

The weather is finally starting to break. Daytime temperatures are averaging in the 50s and nights are starting to be in the 30s. Fields are starting to dry out — we will be tilling by the end of the week on ground that was prepped and bedded up last fall.

Overwintered onions are looking good. They survived the winter in the mini-tunnels even though they only had one layer of 30 weight rowcover on them. We will be weeding and fertilizing them this week.

Greenhouses are okay. Some serious cercospera in the spinach that is not being driven back by actinovate or oxidate. New plantings of greens are coming on, while overwintered kale, Swiss chard and Asian greens are bolting. Hoophouses are replanted with spring greens. Tomatoes will go in late next week.

Went to an auction in Massachusetts last Saturday. Prices on some things were shockingly low. Barely used 35K onion bagging line went for 5K; beautiful 20-foot tri-fold transport disk, $1,800. Ford 8600 with new rubber, $6,000. I have to keep reminding myself I am not in the equipment business. I did pick up a rotary table, packing supplies, and a 1,500-gallon tank to expand our water storage system.

From the Haygrove people….

Received this email from Harry at Haygrove Tunnels. It has some great information I wanted to pass on.


Dear Growers,

 Good day to you.  I hope you are making the most of this long winter to do extensive crop planning for this coming Spring. It’s also a great time to finish up those repair projects and I’ve included some resources that I have found helpful for each of those tasks in this letter.

 Perhaps most importantly, if you are planning to buy and build high tunnels for this coming season, it is not yet too late.  Please contact me this coming week to make the arrangements.

 If a delay is beyond your control, you can build a Haygrove over planted crops, however you’ll miss the early season opportunity this year, but will still get all of the crop protection benefits like reduced disease pressure and higher yields and fewer culls.  

 When planting for high tunnel coverage, plant your crops on row centers that are divisible into 24′ wide bays.  So 2′, 3′, 4′, 6′, 8′ and 12′ centers all work ideally depending on the crop.  For early snow peas, I have used 3′ spacing, for tomatoes and cucumbers I use 6′ centers and for raspberries I use 8′ centers.  (When I park the cultivator inside the Gothic for the winter, it’s on 12′ center;-)


 Here are some resources that I’ve found useful lately.  Perhaps you will find some value here too?

First low-risk planting dates:


Another crop management resource:


Carburetor Rebuilding, mail order service.  This guy rebuilt the carburetor for my 1942 David Bradley this winter and did a nice job.  He even manufactured a new needle valve for it:


Or, if you’d rather do the repair yourself and just need some tips from a professional, check out the 700+ videos by this instructor. The Small Engine Doctor, Youtube Channel:


Check here for a daily pricing report from Park Slope CoOp in NY, NY.  I use this as a comparative base for my pricing.  With some cross-checking, it is possible to adjust this by a fixed percentage to suit your wholesale or retail market.  For instance, if you usually sell your cucumbers at 20% less than these prices and you are introducing a new crop like arugula to your market, I’d introduce it at 20% less than this price list and then adjust it from there later.  Remember, this is a low cost retail food outlet in NYC.  The neighborhood is expensive, but the CoOp members provide 75% of the labor for free:


Super regards,

Harry Edwards

Haygrove Tunnels



Moncton, NB Winter Growing Conference

I was super lucky to be asked to present at a 2 day winter growing conference in Moncton, New Brunswick earlier this week. Just where is Moncton?

One thing that was notable about the trip was the amount of snow they get. Even though they are in a similar growing zone (4b), they had between 4-5 ft of snow on the ground when I got there.

They asked me to do 3 talks, the first one on Greenhouse structures, prep, and soils. One interesting thing I learned is while we orient our houses for maximum sun exposure (east-west), they also have to worry about heading the houses into prevailing wind so that the wind blows the snow off the houses.

ACORN Tunnels

The second talk I gave was on succesion planting and profitability. Although we have run numbers on what crops make us per acre(return per year((RPY)), we don’t have numbers on return per week(RPW) of growing season. This is much more important when you are dealing with tunnels and every day needs to be making you money. Adam Montri of MSU did a talk on this this winter and I’m including the slides here as a resource.

ACORN succession planting

Economics of High Tunnel Production Adam Montri

The last talk I did, which was preceded by a delicious, locally sourced dinner, was on how we do season extension on the farm. This talk was open to those in the community and I tried to share how many of the principles could be done on a smaller, even garden scale.


Throughout the day between sessions, there was great conversation had by all. I picked up some tips and tricks that other growers are using and can’t wait to impliment them this year on the farm.