Objectives Identify the fruit and vegetable crops that are well-suited for high tunnel production. Select the best crops for producers unique needs. Recall methods for extending the growing season and increasing profits.
Beets Days to Maturity: 40-50 Planting: Plant 30 days before frost-free date; Mid February to Early April/August; Plant every 2 weeks Concerns: Provide beets with consistent moisture, particularly during early development.
Carrots Days to Maturity: 70-85 Planting: Plant in early Spring or late Summer; Mid February to Late March/August Concerns: Provide 1 in. of water per week during growing season
Potatoes Days to Maturity: 100-120 Planting: Seed from late February to early April; May need to protect with row covers if shoots emerge early. Concerns: Provide uniform moisture throughout growing season.
Radishes Days to Maturity: 25-35 Planting: Mid February to Late April; Mid-August to Mid-September Concerns: Keep soil consistently moist to prevent radishes from becoming bitter and mealy. Can be grown within other crops.
Turnips Days to Maturity: 35-70 Planting: Mid February to Mid-March; Early August to Early September; Earlier for north and later towards the Bootheel. Concerns: Provide plenty of water to help prevent woody stems. Turnips can withstand several light freezes.
Cabbage Days to Maturity: 70-80 Planting: Start seeds as soon as early February and plant from late February to Mid-April. For Fall: Start seeds in early July. Set plants out from July 20 to August 5. Concerns: Provide an even supply of moisture but avoid overwatering transplants. Cooler temperatures improve cabbage flavor because plant cells convert starches to sugars to protect the plant from the cold.
Cauliflower Days to Maturity: 65-75 Planting: Late February to Late March; Mid-August to Early September Concerns: Cauliflower is blanched to maintain white heads. To blanche cauliflower, tie the outer leaves over the heads when the heads become visible. Self-blanching varieties are also available. Care required when handling.
Lettuce Days to Maturity: 55-80 Planting: Early February to Late April; Late August to Late October Concerns: Provide continuous moisture to promote vigorous growth and keep lettuce from becoming bitter. When hot, shade lettuce lightly if possible (30% to 50%).
Spinach Days to Maturity: 40-50 Planting: Early February to Late March; Late August to Late October Concerns: Provide continuous moisture to promote vigorous growth and keep spinach from becoming bitter. Spinach is highly perishable and is usually marketed or eaten soon after harvest.
Cantaloupe Days to Maturity: 80-90 Planting: Early to Late April Concerns: Bee or hand pollination will be needed.
Gourds Days to Maturity: 100-180 Planting: Plant gourds as a crop after Spring/Early Summer crops. Gourds are a low care, low input, and low return fill in crop. Concerns: Because of their long growing season, gourds should be started indoors 4 weeks before planting outdoors. Bee or hand pollination will be needed. Gourds are often grown on a trellis or arbor. Gourds vary greatly in weight and size. Be sure the structure will support the weight of the gourds.
Pumpkins Days to Maturity: 95-120 Planting: Plant pumpkins as a crop after Spring/Early Summer crops. Concerns: Watering plants early in the day and keeping water off foliage helps prevent mildew. Do not plant pumpkins until the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed.
Watermelons Days to Maturity: 85-95 Planting: Plant melons as a crop after Spring/Early Summer crops. Concerns: Adequate water early in the season improves vine growth and yield. Bee or hand pollination will be needed.
Winter Squash Days to Maturity: 80-120 Planting: Plant squash as a crop after Spring/Early Summer crops. Concerns: Bee or hand pollination will be needed. Monthly application of a complete fertilizer is recommended to improve plant health and yield. Squash plants are not hardy and are susceptible to frost in the Spring and Fall.
Cucumbers Days to Maturity: 50-70 Planting: Late March to Late April; Late July to Mid- August; Plant from seeds. Concerns: Cucumbers need plenty of water to stay crisp and juicy. Water in the morning so that leaves can dry during the day.
Eggplants Days to Maturity: 80-90 Planting: Late March to Mid-April; Early to Mid-July; Use 6 to 8 week old transplants. Concerns: Dull skin indicates over-ripening.
Green Beans Days to Maturity: Bush: 50 to 60; Pole: 60 to 70 Planting: Spring: Mid-March to Early May; Late Summer: Early August to Early September; Consider several plantings 2 to 3 weeks apart. Concerns: Sensitive to moisture stress. Bush beans require less space and produce more beans at one time, but pole beans provide a more constant supply. Equipment considerations include poles or trellis for pole beans.
Okra Days to Maturity: 55-60 Planting: Early April to Late June Concerns: Okra pods develop twice as fast with every 18°F rise in temperature. Harvest every other day in hot weather.
Peppers Days to Maturity: 70-80 Planting: Late March/Early April to Early July; Typically transplanted ~2 weeks later than tomatoes. Concerns: Peppers are shallow-rooted, so mulch can be used to prevent moisture loss. Fruit will not set at night temperatures below 60°F. Temperatures above 90°F can cause fruit drop or failure to set fruit.
Summer Squash Days to Maturity: 80-90 Planting: Mid to Late May Concerns: Drip irrigate or water at base to reduce mildew.
Tomatoes Days to Maturity: Staked: 70 to 90 depending on type Planting: Set out transplants when soil temperatures are above 60°F. Temperatures below 50°F will impair tomato growth. Southern MissouriEarly to Mid-March Central MissouriMid to Late March Northern MissouriLate March to Early April Plant Fall tomatoes by Mid-July.
Tomatoes Concerns: Need at least 1 in. of water per week May through June. Need at least 2 in. of water per week July through September. Structure and equipment considerations include stakes, cages, or other supporting method.
Strawberries Days to Maturity: 15 to 30 days after flowering. Flowering should commence in early to mid-March in order to begin harvesting in early April. Planting: Plugs: Plant in mid-September. Dormant runner tips: Plant in late August (Cheaper than plugs) Chandler variety is recommended. Do not plant too deeply; plant midway up the plug.
Strawberries Concerns: Drip irrigation is recommended. If two or more rows of berries are planted, 2 to 3 drip lines are needed. Soil salinity can be a problem, particularly in a high tunnel where soil is not leeched. Effective pollination is essential for maximum yield. If over-wintering, consider the use of row covers. Can be rotated with crops such as tomatoes or peppers as long as there are no soil borne disease outbreaks. In order to be profitable, each plant must yield at least 1 lb. of marketable fruit.
Raspberries/Blackberries Days to Maturity: Production can begin in May for some floricane-fruiting (summer fruiting) cultivars and extend through November for some primocane- fruiting (fall fruiting) cultivars. Planting: Fall-bearing plants should be established as early in the Spring as possible in the planting year to further maximize first year harvest. Summer fruiting brambles may be grown outside during the first season in or near the uncovered high tunnel.
Raspberries/Blackberries Concerns: Trellises will be needed for each containerized plant. The high tunnel floor should be covered with weed barrier fabric or gravel before plants are moved inside for fruiting. Be mindful that brambles will need to be pruned annually. Containerized brambles may be used for several seasons. Containerized brambles may need to be mulched with compost, particularly in first year.
Activity You are the manager of two high tunnels. You need to produce as many different crops as possible in a years time. Create a chart of what you would grow at what times in each of the two high tunnels, again attempting to include as many different crops as possible.
Summary In order to determine the best crop to plant during certain times of year, a person must be able to: Identify produce suitable to growth in a high tunnel Compare and contrast the fruits and vegetables grown in the warm season versus the cool season