First, I want to thank Paramount Coffee for the free burlap coffee bags they gave me to make walkways throughout the garden. Recycling the bags in this eco-friendly way is an example of a win-win strategy. Paramount is glad to share the bags, but just make sure to call first to make sure they have some on hand.
Those of you who have been following my updates on winter cropping in my passive solar greenhouse know that part of my challenge has been to calculate when to start planting for my winter harvest. As you can see, the transplanted lettuce mix I planted about a month ago is now ready or harvest. Same for the direct-seeded spinach that went in at the same time.
Those crops are hardy enough and of sufficient size that they should survive quite nicely even as the temperature drops. While it was only 40 degrees outside today, it was 60 degrees inside whenever the sun was shining. In addition to rolling down the plastic sides and battening various hatches, husband Drew placed panels of white Styrofoam insulation as baseboards around the bottom of the rollup sides. The picture also shows the first of a series of milk jugs painted black that we have filled with water. The idea is that they will absorb sunlight as heat during the day and radiate it back at night.Even if the lettuce and other greens freeze, you just wait for them to thaw the next day before harvesting. Harvest them while they are still frozen, and you get mush. But if you wait until the the sun shines and the ice in the plants melts, you can harvest wonderfully garden-fresh greens all year round.
This weekend may also be the last time this season to fertilize. I gave everything in the hoophouse – kale, beets, brussel sprouts, spinach, lettuce, carrots – a dose of fish emulsion fertilizer diluted in water yesterday. Then I watered fairly heavily today. My plan is to build up the moisture in the soil enough to carry the crops through the winter. Without a frost-free hydrant, I am dependent on watering with hoses, and there is good reason to expect that it will soon be time to take them in.
Next step is figuring out how to make floating row covers. I am investigating setting up wires across the rows so that I can lay plastic on top as an additional layer of protection.
This is my first winter with a full hoophouse. Will it produce enough cold crops to feed me until March? Stay tuned for updates and recipes throughout the winter.