Growing Tomato, Pepper, Lettuce and Spinach in Summer Under Shade Netting in Kansas City, Missouri
PROJECT BACKGROUND AND DESCRIPTION
The objective of this project is to evaluate production and productivity of selected vegetable crops under shade netting to:
• Extend the harvest season for cool season vegetables such as lettuce and spinach by preventing bolting and bitterness.
• Improve pollination and fruit setting in tomato and pepper in late summer.
• Improve quality of fruits by promoting even ripening and good color.
• Prevent sunscald on tomato and pepper fruits.
• Reduce water loss by evapotranspiration.
The final objective is to create a condition through the use of shade netting for growers to improve income and reduce production risks.
It is reported and has been noticed by us that:
• Due to short spring seasons, cool season vegetables such as lettuce and spinach bolt due to high temperatures.
• Due to very hot summer temperatures (>90º F), tomatoes fail to set fruits in July-August.
• High temperatures are also responsible for poor fruit color.
• High summer temperatures are also responsible for flower drop, poor fruit set and sunscald in peppers.
I am a small urban farmer. Based on our local Extension Agent’s recommendations, I have been planning to grow lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and peppers (my main vegetables) under shade netting and compare yield and quality of these vegetables with vegetables grown without shade netting.
Two structures were built to accommodate the shade netting. The structures cover four beds each of 2.5 feet x 100 feet. The beds were used for tomatoes and peppers. Leafy crops, lettuce, and spinach were not planted during this time because of funds being received late and the heat and lack of water in the summer. All beds were made before the structures were built. Two beds were made using green mulch for peppers and tomatoes.
Peppers – Less sun scald damage for the peppers under the netting than the ones planted in direct sunlight. Need more shade cloth on the east and west sides of the beds to block the direct sunlight. The plants on the east and west edges of beds suffered damage like the ones planted in the direct sun.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes planted on the west edges of the beds had significant sun damage. Tomatoes were damaged by spider mites and we lost all the plants by the end of July due to the stress on the plants from high temperatures and spider mites.
Leafy crops were not planted.
Workplan for 2007: The structures will have to be rebuilt as the snowstorm in December 2006 broke the posts. The structures will be redone with additional supports added to protect from the wind. Fifty percent netted shade fabric/netting will be used to cover half of the 100 foot beds. The other half will not be covered. This will allow me to evaluate the outcomes better with identical crops planted side by side. Analysis and data gathering will start early in the spring to gauge the effectiveness of the project. We will plant leafy crops and the tomatoes and peppers.
Because the project was late getting started there were no demonstrations given last year (2006). This year (2007), we plan on having the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture visit the farm and will show the structures and results.