Life Under the Quick Hoops

Spinach-under-hoop

It’s not winter yet but you wouldn’t know it for looking around. November 14th and we’ve already had three hard freezes and more than a foot of snow. The roads have been crappy and we’ve had to close the store early a couple times to get our folks home safely. That being said, all is well in the winter garden. Everything we planted under the quick hoops is alive, healthy and growing. The veggies we’ve harvested have been great. Cold weather  definitely improves a lot of vegetables.

For the first time ever we’re feeling good about the winter garden. In the past we were never able to really get it going. We’d futz around, building cold frames and laying things out but we always ran out of time before getting deep into the actual gardening. The cold frames were the problem. They’re clunky, fragile and expensive. They’re also time consuming to build, awkward to store and crazy heavy. Trying to get them up swallowed all our time.

This year, in pure Occam’s Razor style, we abandoned the cold frames in favor of a simpler system of row cover and quick hoops. The new system is fast and flexible. It adapts if plans change. We run two layers of cold protection. The first is mid-weight row cover, suspended on hand bent wire pickets (some pickets can be seen in the photo below). The second layer is a quick hoop, made from 6-mil greenhouse film, pulled across 1/2 inch PVC tubes.

Quick-Hoop-Kale

We use 10 foot lengths of  PVC tube to build our quick hoops, spaced one every four feet. The 10 foot length gives us 76-inch wide planting bed (C=2Pi*r), which is perfect. We divide this into two, 38-inch beds and work them from opposites sides of the hoop. For film we use 14- foot wide, 6-mil greenhouse plastic, secured on the sides and ends with rocks or sand-bags.

Our expectation is that the two layer system will protect down to temperatures as low as -10 f. So far, under some heavy snow load, the hoops have sagged and bowed a bit but everything has held and conditions inside have remained nice and lush. Things are going great so far. We couldn’t be more pleased.

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