I wake up early. During the week I start the day before 4am, so on the weekends even 5:30 seems like sleeping in. This morning at said time it was all of -9 degrees. Even by mid afternoon the temps hadn’t really crossed zero yet, this is one mean cold snap! So of course I went to visit my spinach and bok choy.
By the time I got out there the sun was well past its zenith, and the current site of the Hoop House is shaded from about 2:30 on. Obviously this needs to be remedied for next year, but that is where I am. Pulling in with the kids, it was all of -1 with a bitter wind. The door to the house was frozen shut, and the entire interior was frosted over, further reducing solar gain. Interior temps felt balmy: despite the 80% shade were still in the low 20’s.
The Spinach had obviously taken a beating the night prior and was laying flat, but the mache, claytonia and bok choy looked no worse for wear. I am not overly concerned about the spinach as it has pulled through before. More interesting, despite the wicked cold, the soil still had not frozen!! Even better, last weeks highs in the 50’s had actually woken up the soil enough that I had dozens of new earthworm holes, some with visible castings. Apparently the heat and/or the 1/2″ layer of comfrey fronds I had laid down 3 months ago is doing the trick!
I certainly will not get a harvest before March, but I will have a the earliest greens harvest of my career.
Plans for next year:
- Orient the Hoop House correctly
- Currently shaded from 2-3pm on, and it is on a N-S axis. Both must change!
- Use row covers for additional frost protection
- Use heat sinks to store solar gain
- The 5 gallon buckets I used this year just froze solid.
- Use compost to generate BTU’s from December-January
Even still, this remains an exciting adventure and being able to run my hands through soil with the outside air temp at -1 is a real treat! Hoop Houses are a great option: this one cost under $500 in materials, is “portable” and only takes up 12×25′ in space making it versatile while still providing 200 sq feet of growing space.