SIFT Update: Springtime Challenges

By Jonathan Burrus

SIFT germination station
SIFT's "germination station." Photo: NCAT

Springtime on the SIFT farm is a busy time of year. Growing food here in Butte, Montana, has its own special set of challenges, none greater than our unusually short growing season. Butte, on average, hosts around 90 frost-free days a year making it rather difficult for larger flowering plants, such as tomatoes or eggplants, to reach fruition even with the aid of our season-extension technologies. It is imperative for our seedlings to get an early start and over the past few weeks we have been preparing a germination station to do exactly that. With nighttime temperatures still dropping below the freezing mark (this weekend fell into the teens), our greenhouse is our best bet for keeping seedlings nice and warm. An automated watering system helps keep the small containers from drying out, while holiday lights provide just enough warmth for germination. As we prepare to fill our hoop houses, we also are preparing for our annual plant sale, held the first week of June. We are anticipating a large turnout this year and have already seeded over 750 individual plants, with many more to come in the following weeks.

Although “springtime” temperatures in Butte are not conducive for growth, with the aid of our attached greenhouse we have been providing our office with high-quality salad greens since the beginning of April. Lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, mizuna, radishes, and micro-greens are a much welcomed addition to the table after a cold Montana winter and have been great sellers around the office. Nothing says spring like a fresh salad.

The days get long rather quickly here though and we’ll be out in the field ramping up production in no time.

Posted on: April 19th, 2016