Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Garden Fresh Thanksgiving Produce!

I finally reached a goal that I have been striving for - fresh organic vegetables from the garden for Thanksgiving. The stoop houses worked and I picked loads of broccoli and four heads of cabbage a couple days ago. I know those aren't traditional Thanksgiving veggies but fresh coleslaw and broccoli casserole will go nicely with potatoes from the garden, turkey and all the other trimmings.

We have had an unusually cold November this year. It sure was strange picking from the garden the other day when it was only 12 degrees Fahrenheit outside!

Look at the ice buildup on our newly constructed greenhouse:

The greenhouse is not any warmer inside than outside because I never finished building the vents. Right now the bottom 2 feet along the sides are still exposed and there are several opened windows. I need to fix that soon so I can use the greenhouse this winter and early spring.

Luckily the temperature under the small hoop houses is higher than in the greenhouse and the outside. It has stayed warm enough to keep the broccoli and cabbage from freezing.

See the water droplets on top of the broccoli? Those are actually little beads of ice.

The only casualty under the stoop houses was the lettuce. It still looked good, but after picking it and bringing it inside, I could tell that it had been frozen. For lettuce harvesting now, we will have to turn to our indoor lettuce growing under lights.

It is a little extra work keeping the garden going in the Fall and in the cold, but its worth it! I've got cabbage and broccoli ready to be prepared tomorrow along with the other Thanksgiving goodies!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Building Stoop Houses to help with Frost Protection

In last week's post I showed you my broccoli plants and this week the heads have continued getting larger. We have been lucky enough to have no frost this week, so the leaves have not been damaged any further.

The Cabbage and lettuce beds are also looking great.

Frost is coming back tonight however, and we are in for a very cold week or longer. If I keep only using the row covers over the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce, the season will finally be over.

I don't want harvest season to end, so today I put up more hoops and plastic sheeting to make mini greenhouses. In The 12-Month Gardener, Jeff Ashton calls this type of frost protection a "Stoop House".

That name is appropriate because to tend to the vegetables, you lift up the side of the plastic and "stoop" down.

How to Make a Simple Stoop House:

My raised beds are framed with untreated 4x6 lumber and are four feet wide. Ten foot PVC pipes bend over the four foot span to make nice hoops. The key to doing this is providing a way to attach the pipe. I used 3/4" diameter pipe and attached pipe brackets to the outside of the raised beds.

I found it to work best if I put two brackets per pipe on each side. The top bracket was the 3/4" size and the bottom one was the 1" size. This kept the arch at the correct angle.

After getting the brackets attached, I slip one side of the pipe in.

Then I bend it down and slip it in the brackets on the other side. A pipe should be place every three to four feet. One of my stoop houses is covering a 4 foot by 12 foot bed and the other covers two beds that are four by four.

After the hoops were up, I put the row covers back on to add a second layer of protection.

Then I put the 6 mil plastic sheeting on. Greenhouse plastic is best, but I just used normal plastic sheeting from the hardware store. I have greenhouse plastic I could use because I bought extra when we built our greenhouse last month. I'm saving that plastic to expand the actual greenhouse next season. Besides, these stoop houses are temporary and will work just as well with regular plastic.

I staple the plastic directly to the wood frame on one side.

I only staple to one side, not the other or the ends. That way I can easily vent one side or take the plastic completely off during sunny days. You don't want to keep the plants completely covered on sunny days because the hoop house can quickly heat up and damage or kill the plants. Remember, these stoop houses contain cold-tolerant vegetables. The main purpose of these mini greenhouse poly tunnels is to keep frost off of the plants. At least until it gets really cold, I will probably pull back the plastic each morning, and batten down the hatches every evening. This is what the stoophouses will look like every night:

I sure hope they work. I want to be able to still be eating fresh salads and broccoli in December.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm back!

If you tried to come to this site in the past day and a half, you noticed that it was down. Sorry about that. There was a major problem with my DNS control ip address registered with the domain name. It wasn't able to talk to blogger and redirect my blogspot pages to gardendesk.

Hopefully it is back now.

It has made me look into some other things though, and I think I will be migrating this site to typepad along with Veggie Garden Info. I haven't been able to add to for some time now due to a problem that I can't seem to solve with wordpress. If I move it to typepad as well, I can resume adding content and links to all the great garden blogs out there. I understand typepad fairly well now thanks to my 14 year old daughter who has a site about American Girl dolls hosted there.

See, when us old people can't figure out computer issues, it always works to turn to a teenager who has had the Internet all of her life. My daughter will help me get everything squared away!

Anyway, enough with the rambling. It was awful having gardendesk down. I'm glad its back. Sorry for the inconvenience. The next post will be about gardening again :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fall Gardening Continues

This week the weather is going to be nice, but last week's low temperatures got down in the 20s. I have been keeping everything covered with row covers.

The hoops are there to put plastic over when it gets really cold. I still need to cut a piece of greenhouse plastic to go on them.

This is one of the beds that broccoli is growing in.

I did cover the hoops with a small piece of plastic and sheets on the coldest nights, but we have had frost several other nights with just the row cover as protection. The broccoli florettes still look good, but some of the leaves were damaged by the frost.

A few of the broccoli heads are large enough to pick now, but there are others that still need a week or so. Next weekend we will undoubtedly be eating fresh broccoli and broccoli casserole. Hopefully, there will still be plenty left at the end of the month as well for Thanksgiving. Yum!

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