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What’s an Urban Farmer to Do During the Winter?

We’re often asked what happens at Green City Growers in the, well, leaner months. The sun sets early, and you just can’t grow tomatoes – or even most greens – with such low light. While many of our farmers are taking a much-needed break after a busy growing season, there are still a few of us lingering in the office and out and about maintaining some sites throughout the city. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

B.GOOD

festive mint growing indoors at bgood hinghamA few years ago, our friends at B.GOOD proposed the idea of growing herbs indoors at their Harvard Square location. Needless to say, the idea was a hit, as they’re now rolling out mint systems at all of their new locations, of which there are many… If you haven’t noticed, B.GOOD restaurants are popping up everywhere. From Portland, Maine down to Raleigh, North Carolina, the chain has gone national, and GCG is along for the ride! While we don’t maintain the systems outside of the Greater Boston area, we do consult and install with them. Recently, we delivered crates of mint to their new store in Greenwich, Connecticut. And the more than a dozen different growing systems that we maintain do, in fact, keep our farmers quite busy.

Cold Frames

Cold Frames before-afterOur go-to for season extension, cold frames allow you to harvest into December and keep the soil warm enough to plant early in the spring. Cold frames create an ideal micro-environment for overwintering some crops, like spinach and carrots. For many of our corporate clients, like athenahealth, GCG provides a monthly ‘check-in’ where we water, check for pests and diseases, and clear snow.

Chickens

While plants might not grow too well during the winter months, chickens still keep eating, and potentially laying, during the winter. Our monthly coop maintenance package includes a restocking of feed and bedding as well as a chicken health check-up. This provides our farmers with extra work during the off-season and ensures that all the hens are in the best shape they can be.

Hoop House Work

wfm-hoophouseWhole Foods Market: Lynnfield installed a hoop house on their roof this year. Back in the summer, it housed a number of cherry tomato plants, but we’ll be growing kale throughout the winter months to add on to the nearly 5,000 pounds of produce grown on the rooftop farm this year. GCG’s Horticulture Director, Laura, harvested nearly twenty pounds of kale from the hoop house last month, so expect at least one more comparable harvest by the time February rolls around.

Greenhouse Work

Green City Growers greenhouses at Lexington Community FarmsWe’re excited to be renting greenhouse space from Lexington Community Farm beginning this winter. Beginning in late February, our horticulture team will be growing roughly half our starts. This is a necessary step for maximizing production during the short New England growing season. For the time being, Laura drives down a snow and ice-covered road to on the farm to a separate, smaller greenhouse, which is housing some mint crates for B.GOOD installations.

Planning

Last year was a big year for Green City Growers, and next year is looking even bigger! Over the past few weeks, we have begun outreach efforts to Providence, Rhode Island, and have sought out ways to tighten up our systems for the oncoming growing season. There’s always plenty to do behind the scenes, especially now that the urban farming movement has taken off in the Northeast.

Alas, the spring will be here in no time!


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