All. Winter. Long.
But there's one big problem with the cold frames and that's that they're too short to get into easily. Especially when they're all bundled up in the cold. It's a serious pain to uncover them and get in and harvest quickly. And then bundle it all up again.
So I've been thinking about doing something taller, that I can walk into. Taller would let me double cover things - the big outside cover plus inside row covers to keep things warm even when it gets to 20 below zero, which happens out here occasionally.
Taller, but still cheap. And fast to build.
Eliot Coleman had some great ideas for hoop houses. See this post for my review of his Winter Harvest book. He makes his with electrical conduit and they grow things in Maine, all winter long.
Dude. If he can, we can.
So Eric started thinking and planning and scrounging and shopping. This is what he collected.
- 14 - 10' lengths of 3/4 inch pvc electrical conduit [$27 total]
- pvc cement [$3]
- uv stabilized zip ties [$4]
- plumbing strap [$1.50 for 10 feet]
- screws [$4.50 for a 1 lb box. You won't need anywhere near that many.]
- 6mil plastic sheeting [$72 total for 100 ft of 20' wide sheeting. We figure it'll cover three houses]
This is how we built it:
We joined two sections of pvc so they'd be 20 feet long and we glued them together. We made 6 of those 20' lengths. Then we took them over to the existing 8x10 garden bed and bent them so we could shove the ends into the dirt. The 6 hoops span the 8' length of the bed.
More rural recycling. These cinder blocks show up out of old chimneys and shed foundations and stuff and they're too good to throw away, so we toss them in our masonry piles [one pile for bricks with holes, one pile for bricks without holes, one pile for broken bricks, one pile for old limestone, and one pile for old cinder blocks and square concrete.] We use these cinder blocks for steps and seats and weights. We actually stripped our whole pile to use as weights on the plastic. We put every block we had on the sides and ends to weight the plastic down so it wouldn't blow off.
Inelegant, but it works.
I folded it across the back end like this. It keeps the sides tight.
I did the same to the front.
And that evening the wind started to blow. Hard. And all night long I wondered if our hoop house plastic would end up in Indianapolis. We got up in the morning and it was just fine. Then the wind blew harder. And harder. And by the time we got home from our school co-ops that afternoon, one little section of plastic in the front had blown free. I dropped another weight on it and that did the trick.
So I can definitely say that these babies are sturdy as long as you weight them down very very well.
I planted peas, greens, radishes, carrots, lettuce and fennel inside. They should be leaping out of the ground. If we get a serious cold snap, I'll drop a row cover over things to keep them warmer.
I'll keep you posted on how these work.