We finished planting the winter greens yesterday.
Our hoop house is 30′ by 12′ and has five raised beds in it. This limits greatly what we are able to grow over the winter. During our first winter on the farm, we only used the hoop house to start seedlings for the spring as we weren’t quite ready to venture into off-season planting. Last year, however, we tried our luck with mini hoop houses (little versions of the big one inside the big one, think Matryoshka Dolls: Farm Edition). I wrote about last year’s set-up here: https://applewoodfarm.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/the-winter-hoop-house/.
This year, we’re venturing into a new realm altogether.
Rather than repeat the mini hoop houses (which worked, mind you, but were cumbersome), we decided to put a second layer of polyethylene plastic over the entire hoop house. Once the house was essentially gift-wrapped, we got all of our seedlings planted. This year’s hopefuls include lacinata kale, arugula, red chard, mustard greens, and two kinds of lettuce.
In the back corner of the house, fairly hidden under their own sheet of plastic, are our hot pepper transplants.
We “saved” one Jalapeño, one Thai Chile, and two Bolivian Rainbow Hot from the freezing temperatures outside. Due to their delicate nature, these plants require an added layer of protection and tucking them away under more polyethylene seemed to do the trick.
Despite the added layer of protection, the interior of the house really didn’t seem to be getting warm enough on cloudy days. Add to this the problem of the cat-door breeze, and we had a real issue that needed solving. Why does our hoop house have a cat door, you ask? Well, we need the cats to have unfettered access to the hoop house for two reasons:
1. Last year’s kale and spinach were pretty much wiped out by mice and voles. Ever since the cats have been lounging around the raised beds, there has been no sign of rodents whatsoever, and
2. despite their oozing disdain for All Things Human, we kinda like these guys and want them to survive the cold months. We keep their food and water in the hoop house to encourage them to hang out there.
So, the nighttime temperatures have been plummeting into the 20s and are only going to plummet further over the winter months. The biting winds started puffing in through the flaps of the cat door and we knew we needed a better solution.
The first step was to build mini archway “walls” on the front end of the raised beds as a sort of wind block.
We then draped a tarp over the inside of the doorway like a hobo’s version of those temporary vestibules used by restaurants in the winter.
But we still wanted more warmth.
Ultimately, we invested in a small heater attachment for our propane tank. After a reasonable amount of research, we found one that was affordable and seemed like it could handle the job. It is a simple design that resembles, in no small way, a miniature robot. As soon as we had it up and running, I felt like we were performing a real-life reenactment of Silent Running, complete with our very own maintenance drone.
Hopefully, our story line will turn out much, much better.