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Protecting the Winter Garden

November 1st, 2010

If you remember, last year Mr Chiots and I installed hoops over my raised bed specifically for protecting crops from our cold NE Ohio weather. Since the night time lows are starting to dip into the 30’s and the days are barely getting into the 50’s, I figured it was time to cover the beds with greenhouse plastic.

Although we have yet to have our first frost (woke up this morning to our first frost and a temp of 30) here at Chiot’s Run (which is pretty late for us), Mr Chiots and I spent some time on Thursday afternoon covering up the beds that are filled with spinach, celery, arugula, leeks and other winter veggies. The small greens inside were doing well, they were all seeded in early October.

I also covered the carrots and cabbages that are planted in my mom’s garden with a floating row cover. I also have my cold frame to move over on the of the beds, I have some fairly mature spinach, daikon radishes and winter greens in that bed. It will be interesting to monitor their growth under the plastic and the other coverings to see which works best. Here’s hoping for delicious veggies long after frost!

What do you use to protect your crops?

Building Hoop Houses out of Electrical Conduit

April 17th, 2010

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about our hoop houses that we have over our raised beds here at Chiot’s Run. They show up in a lot of photos. They sure come in handy for covering with frost blankets, netting to keep insects/birds out, supporting peas, as well as for winter garden protection. The first year I overwintered some spinach I didn’t have these hoops over the garden. I simply bent some bamboo poles and floated a row cover over them. This did a fabulous job protecting my spinach crop throughout the winter (we live in a zone 5).

The next spring we decided to build more permanent and sturdier structures for overwintering crops. We didn’t have enough space for a big greenhouse or a big hoop house, so the next best thing was to make small hoop houses over each raised bed. I researched a little and found that a lot of people use irrigation tubing or PVC, which is plastic and pliable. You drive some stakes or rods into the soil leaving 8-12 inches sticking out of the soil or make a base with holes in it to insert the tubing into. I found these photos on Flicker to give you an idea of other options (thanks to oceandesetoiles for these two images)

We decided we’d rather use electrical conduit because of it’s rigidity, we get a lot of heavy wet snows here and didn’t think the tubing would hold up as well. This conduit is very inexpensive as well and we figured it would outlast the irrigation tubing as well. The conduit was $2.19 each length of pipe and we used 4 per raised bed (our beds are 4×10).

Now I’ll have to warn you that pipe bending is not the easiest thing in the world. Mr Chiots and I worked together and our hoops are fairly nice. Not perfect, but not too bad either. I’d recommend buying an extra piece of conduit for a practice piece. The first thing we did to help with even bending was to mark the conduit 21 inches in from each end and then in 2 inch increments in between these two marks.

We used a hand pipe bender and practiced on one or two pieces to learn how much force was needed for a small bend each 2 inch increment along the length of the pipe. We over bent the pipes a bit, so they did not look like a hoop when we were finished. Ours looked more like teardrops since we left the ends straight, then we stretched them back out a bit to put them over the beds.

I will once again warn that this isn’t the easiest thing to do to get these things nicely rounded (read through the comments on this post I wrote about it last year). Mr Chiots and I are adventurous and willing to try to do anything ourselves though, so we were not daunted by the task. We were also OK with less than perfect hoops. We joke that ours have character since they were made by local artisans.

You can now buy a special tool just for bending garden hoop houses from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. They came out with it the year after we made ours. It’s a little pricey at $69, but if you want to make a lot of hoops or have someone to share the cost with it would be a worthwhile investment.

We attached the hoops to the raised beds with two pipe clamps, one up top and one at the bottom. They’re very sturdy and will last a long time. I do love these because they come in handy for so many things. We use them to hold up netting over the strawberries to keep the birds out. We throw row covers over them to keep the deer out of the peas. We also throw blankets over them to protect from late spring frosts.

I ordered some greenhouse plastic this week and I’m hoping to use them as mini greenhouses this winter. I’ll be using a floating row cover on short wickets inside these hoops (you can be sure I’ll blog about it this fall). They also have come in handy to steady myself if I lose my balance or when I’m reaching in to the middle of the bed.

What measures do you use in the garden for extending the season and protecting crops?

New In the Garden: Hoop Houses

March 7th, 2009

For all of you who guessed a hoop house you’re right. Well, kind of, we added hoops to our raised beds (so not a proper hoop house, but 5 mini hoop houses).
We added these to help extend the growing season. I don’t have room to add a big walk-in greenhouse like Eliot Coleman in Four-Season Harvestso I decided to go this route. Since my spinach did so well under a floating row cover, I thought doing hoop houses in addition to the floating row covers should allow me to extend the season throughout most of the winter.
I’m planning on covering these with plastic here in the next couple days and this should help warm the soil so I can plant things even earlier. They should also help protect early tomatoes from frost. In the summer I plan on adding netting to these to keep the deer and rabbits out of my crops, so they will be very handy in all seasons!
How much did they cost? The tubing was $2.19 each and we used 4 per raised bed (our beds are 4×10). With the tubing and the clamps to attach them it cost about $10-$12 per raised bed, not bad if you ask me!

Do you do anything to extend the season? Anyone else using hoop houses or hoping to?

For details instructions on how we built our hoop houses see this post.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.