I hope you’re still eating lettuce out of your garden no matter what cold temperatures your area has experienced.
If you’ve tried to winter garden and haven’t been successful I encourage you to keep trying.
Methods of Protection
As much fun as it is to see what a wonderful set up Eliot Coleman has for winter growing on his farm in Maine, I for one am not able to have that exact same set up with the large walk in hoop tunnels and the smaller/lower tunnels inside.
Up until this year I had the popular pvc hoops (anchored with pieces of rebar that had been driven into the ground). Plastic (uv resistant greenhouse film) over that anchored with clips.
And although this is a pretty good system it had some flaws and not all of my lettuces made it through the severe cold and heavy snow last year. Also it’s more complicated and time consuming to put up than I like.
The system I used this year, concrete reinforcing wire (bent over the bed to make a tunnel) and then covered with row cover fabric and then covered again with uv resistant greenhouse film (plastic) is very easy for me to set up.
It doesn’t collapse under the weight of the snow. I can remove a little of the plastic and reach through the big openings (squares) of the wire and harvest.
And the concrete reinforcing wire is much less expensive than the pcv and clips necessary for the other method.
For lots of pictures and more details see my previous post: Winter Gardening – Making It Easier.
The Principle of Air Circulation
Quite a few readers have written to me saying that their tunnels got too hot for the lettuce when the sun finally came out. This is very common and something you can learn to work with.
When I closed up my tunnels in anticipation of the blizzard that hit the Mid-Atlantic last weekend, I left small places where the plastic was not pulled tight at the base of each wire tunnel for air to circulate. That way when the sun comes out again and heats things up, there is a place for the heat to escape. And it will since air goes from hot to cold.
This is something you just need to get a feel for and you can only do it by doing.
When temperatures start to rise even more, I remove the heavy plastic and sometimes all or part of the fabric so that the bed can breath. This goes a long way towards preventing aphids and other problems caused by poor air circulation.
When temperature are forecast to go down again, I close everything up once more.
Mache of course, laughs at the cold. In spite of that it frolics when it has a little protection! (And you get to eat a lot more that way.)
I have it everywhere. Some with the lettuce under the tunnels and other spots under a blanket of snow that I can’t get to yet.
I picked a huge bag of mache before the two storms. Although I had to ration I ate for 10 days on that one harvest. Then I did without any thing green for two days. (It was rough! 🙂 )
Harvest in the Snow
Yesterday I harvested again and what I saw looked great. Today I’ll get out there and open another tunnel and harvest lettuce and mache.
Again, I encourage you to keep trying. As it turns out, my latest winter garden set up is easier to put up and has proven more successful so far than ones used in prior years.
If you depend on your garden for food as I do, it’s well worth your time and effort. And when it turns out that the most simple way is the most successful — well, it doesn’t get any better than that!
Tomorrow I’ll talk about starting your seeds for spring crops.
Addendum: PICTURE and notes added 1/31/16
I finally got into all the tunnels except one.. My lettuce that I had picked on for months and that was looking poorly before the cold really looks bad now. Voles came up in it also. Need to trap.
The younger lettuces have grown a bit and look really good. They’ll be my first to eat in March.
The endives look a bit shabby but will perk up in no time.
The larger brussel sprouts plant looks really good. Russian kale looks good. Mache is fantastic.
Here’s a picture of my harvest today.
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