I'm a big fan of The Herbfarm so was excited at the opportunity to visit their 5 acre farm in Redmond. I've not only eaten there a couple of times but I've also helped in their local vineyard, did a project on The Herbfarm Cookbook, received ozette potato seeds from herbguy, which I've been saving and replanting every year, and last year got a Latah tomato start which I saved seeds from that I plan on planting this year. You would think I'm obsessed. I just like what they are doing there. It's not just a restaurant, they do a lot of things to involve the community and I like that they have an ever changing menu with various themes to feature local ingredients.
Last Saturday, we arrived at the farm with about 20 other people from The Other Nine Months group and met with Bill Vingelen, the head farmer for The Herbfarm. He gave us a tour of the farm and their newest addition of a huge greenhouse. We learned quite a bit from the event and got some good tips on what to do and not do. He also teased us with some dried Pellegrini heirloom beans that you can only get on the Herbfarm website. I've already put in my order for some as if I don't already have enough beans to plant this year. What's one more variety? Have you heard of the Green Zebra tomato? I've been hearing a lot about it recently though it didn't make the cut for this year but it's definitely on my list for next year. It so happens that Tom Wagner from Everett, WA is who we have to thank for this tomato. He runs trials of new varieties of tomatoes at The Herbfarm every year.
In addition to plants at the farm, they also have a few animals. We got to see the chickens and one of the two cats, named Chicamu. They tried ducks at one point but they were very messy so it appears they got rid of them. Here are some of the important lessons learned at the event:
- PVC is a very common frame for hoop houses but he warned against using them because they deteriorate the plastic too quickly. Instead, they use a metal frame which lasts much longer and is more sturdy too.
- For winter gardening in a hoop/greenhouse, transplant existing plants to the greenhouse in the Fall rather than starting them from seed. That was the mistake I made last year. I attempted to start seeds in the greenhouse in Fall (kale, lettuce, arugula). That did not go well and the only thing still alive is the arugula and it's very slow growing.
- He prefers the plastic coverings for hoop houses rather than the fabric kind. He's been using a plastic covering with slits in the sides to allow for some airflow within the greenhouse, something I hadn't seen before.
- He recommended always sprouting beans and peas before planting in the ground, a tip I will definitely use when the time comes.
- He gave us a list of crops that do well in the cold weather which will come in handy.
Semi-Frost Hardy (tunneling recommended when temps dip below 20 degrees): carrots, broccoli cauliflower, greens (arugula, chard, cress, kale, lettuce, mache, mustard, raddicchio, spinach), herbs (chervil, parsley, rosemary, sage), radishes, turnips.
I plan on doing a hoop house over my bed of greens in the winter to prolong the growing season as well as get some other stuff growing in the greenhouse earlier in the season so they are well established before it gets too cold.