Although most farmers have their sights focused impatiently on spring, a winter-growing experiment is taking place at the UNH high tunnels. Salad mix (which we create by mixing baby lettuce mix and baby greens mix) is a winner at the UNH Dairy Bar, so it is a winter staple for us to grow at Farm to YoUNH! For those of you who wish to grow this delicious salad mix for yourselves during the summer it is relativey simple and definitely quick. According to the seed company’s “days to harvest” statement on the seed packet, it takes approximately 21 days from germination to harvest. That number is pretty spot on too! But for those of us who grow salad mix through the winter, we do not have a reliable time period between planting and harvest due to shorter and cooler days and frigid nights. Without a time frame for how long it will take our salad mix crop to reach a harvestable size, it can be very difficult for winter growers to plan.
Therefore, during my last semester as part of the Food Production Field Experience team, I have decided to study the growth of salad mix during the winter, in both our heated and unheated tunnels. I am tracking germination date, harvest date, and harvest weight of multiple trials being mirrored in both tunnels. The goal is to compare the growth between the two tunnels and also compare the growth to the temperature and light data recorded by our HoboLink loggers, which you can access directly through our website if you are curious. I am trying to quantify the amount of light and heat the plantings are receiving to come up with an accurate estimate of how long the “days to harvest” will be at different times throughout the winter. I am also looking to determine how much of an impact growing the salad mix in the heated tunnel versus the unheated tunnel has on the growth rate of the crop.
All of the trial plantings have been started and are filling out nicely. Myself and some of the crew harvested the first couple beds of lettuce mix and greens mix over the past week. So far, over 30 pounds of salad mix have been delivered to the UNH Dairy Bar https://www.unh.edu/dining/facility/dairy-bar after taking proper measurements for analysis at the close of the experiment.
Stay tuned for the results of the experiment, which should be available in early summer.
About Me: I am a senior in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems major, focusing my studies on controlled environment horticulture. I plan to bring my experiences back to my hometown in eastern Connecticut, where I hope to aid in building up the local food movement.