Monday, March 29, 2010

How to Set up Your Own Small Winter Hoop Garden

Winter Hoop Greenhouse Demonstration

In the middle of December, with snow on the ground, nine enthusiastic gardeners met to watch and partake in a demonstration by Eric Johnson, Boulder's regional expert on four season gardening. The demonstration was held at Eric's community garden plot in North Boulder, Hawthorne gardens (above photo). The participants were comprised of Bioneers participants and Boulder Culinary Gardeners, a group which exchanges high-level gardening tips and hosts garden food events throughout the gardening season. We used one of his nicely heaped, loose, rich, dark-soil, double dug beds, approximately 3x10 feet. As we started to work, what appeared to be a wet cold rainy winter storm moving in cleared and turned into a beautiful sunny afternoon with bikers and joggers passing by in the background on the nearby bicycle/pedestrian path.

Eric brought packets of seeds with him and we each planted rows about 9 inches apart of chard, lettuce, spinach, kale, perennial onions, and arugula, trying to plant less densely than usual. After seed planting was finished, we covered the entire bed with a double (folded over) layer of spun polyester garden fabric from a farm supply store to help insulate seedlings from cold.

Then, the plastic hoops were installed. We hammered in some wonderful 18 inch cylinders of stainless steel, angled towards the center of the bed. Eric purchased this great find from our resource (recycling) center. One-inch plastic tubing was secured in place over these stakes, hooped about 14-16 inches above the bed.

Next, the plastic was placed over the arched tubes and secured with rocks and other weights across the bottom and sides. (Many of the weights were bags of coffee grounds that Eric picks up from a nearby coffee shop which we patronized following the demonstration.)

Because of the recent snows the ground was very moist and Eric works nearby, so he plans to come to vent the mini-greenhouse as necessary these coming winter months. He didn't expect watering to be necessary for quite a few weeks from now. Some of the seeds may sprout very slowly and plants may be very small in January and February, but should really take off and provide early season greens as the days lengthen, especially come April.

Eric uses Eliot Coleman's book, Four Season Harvest, as an excellent guide.

Note that this above demonstration was done last weekend here in Boulder. Coincidentally, in this week's news, the White House Garden had a similar demonstration. Below, don't miss its video demonstrating this process which is being offered to farmers at a subsidized cost in a new USDA program.

And, for today, I'll leave it at that for my commentary. Solstice is soon and the shadows are so very long now. The daylight hours will soon lengthen again, always a welcome change this time of year. Enjoy the news and your final weekend before Christmas!