Package of Johnny's Selected Seeds
Package of Johnny's Selected Seeds

February 2012 JSS Advantage Newsletter


Innovative Software and Tools to Help You Grow

Here at Johnny's, we are always pleased to offer new resources to our customers. This month, we have two exciting new programs to tell you about. We hope that you'll find one or both of them to be a benefit as you plan for the season ahead.

Take Your Growing Mobile with Moveable Caterpillar Tunnels

benderHigh tunnels are without a doubt one of the most beneficial capital improvements a vegetable farmer can make. But a commercial-grade high tunnel is expensive. You may be able to get grant from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to pay much of the cost of a high tunnel, and if you're interested in pursuing that option, you can read more about the program below.

But there are other ways to get many of the benefits of a high tunnel without building a commercial structure. A recent innovation is the moveable caterpillar tunnel, an inexpensive, temporary structure you can build yourself. Johnny's has developed a pipe bender that will create the correct shape hoops from locally available pipe. We have also produced a comprehensive manual about how to build a moveable tunnel, available free for you to download. Most of the materials you need can be purchased from local home improvement stores, and Johnny's can supply specialty parts including connectors, pipe track wheels, and greenhouse poly.

A moveable tunnel can be built on a track long enough to accommodate two, three, or even more positions. It gives you tremendous flexibility in scheduling crops that require a protected environment. You can start cool-weather crops extra early in the tunnel. When the weather moderates enough for them to grow outside, you can move the tunnel to the next position and plant warm-weather crops that will get a head start in the warmth of the tunnel. When summer arrives, you can move the tunnel again and cover it with shade cloth to extend the season for lettuce and other vegetables that dont like the heat. In fall, as the weather cools, you can move the tunnel back over heat-loving crops to get a few more weeks of production from them. Meanwhile, you can plant fall crops outside and when cold weather threatens, move the tunnel over them to keep them going into winter.

If one moveable tunnel can extend the season for so many crops, consider what you can accomplish with several moveable tunnels. In his book, Winter Harvest Handbook, Eliot Coleman describes his complicated crop rotations using multiple moveable tunnels.

Moveable caterpillar tunnels can be an important component of a season extension program that includes greenhouses, stationary high tunnels, low tunnels and row cover. Here are some additional resources to help you extend your season:

Get a Free trial of AgSquared Crop-planning Software

AgSquared is a new, web-based software program designed specifically for small farmers. It offers a suite of tools that will help you make your crop plans and follow through on them throughout the season. With support from Johnny's, AgSquared is offering a free three-month trial of the software, which will be available by subscription the rest of this year for $4 per month.

The primary benefit of the program is that it allows you to make comprehensive crop plans for each variety you will be growing this season. You can schedule seeding and transplanting dates, assign the crop to a specific field or bed, plan for management tasks such as pruning and spraying, and project harvest dates (done automatically when you enter days to maturity for the variety). As you enter details for each crop, the program collects the data and creates a calendar of tasks and events. You can consult the calendar weekly, monthly, or seasonally to keep a clear idea of the work that needs to be done. In addition, you can amend your plans as needed and keep track of actual harvest dates. The information you record this season will help you make better plans next season.

Many people at Johnny's have tested the program over the past several months. We think the existing crop-planning features will be helpful for many of our customers, and we believe that as the software continues to develop, it will provide a valuable tool for overall farm management. Additional features planned for the next year include inventory tracking, staff management, and cost accounting, which will be available for an additional fee.

We encourage you to sign up for the free trial, explore the programs features, and let AgSquared know what additional features would make it even more helpful.

When youre ready to give AgSquared a test drive, we recommend that you start with the video demo of its features.

Save Money with an NRCS High Tunnel Grant

The Natural Resource Conservation Service has extended its Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative to all 50 states this year. In the first two years of the program, the agency funded 4,430 high tunnels nationwide. It will pay 50-90% of the cost of installing a high tunnel up to 2,178 square feet. Producers can choose to build larger tunnels, but will have to cover the extra cost themselves. The tunnels cannot have any electrical, heating, or mechanical ventilation systems.

NRCS uses rating periods, in which all applications received by the deadline are rated and funded immediately if they meet a standard. Deadlines for 2012 are Feb. 3, March 30, and June 1.

For more information, visit the Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative website. To apply, visit your local USDA Service Center.

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