Cold Frame Planting

Our hoophouse has been slowly deteriorating over the last year. The corners of the plastic were slowly pulling apart from the steel frame while the plastic surrounding the door ripped away completely a few months ago. Cliff replaced the plastic door with a heavy storm door but even the plastic surrounding that began to slowly unravel. We were obviously fighting the elements and losing.

Our home sits on a bluff with 4 acres of open pasture in the front of our home….so when the wind whips, it threatens everything that is not secured. We have learned to work with these issues, staking every plant that may succumb to high winds, taking down one side of the porch swing so it won’t crack our window and securing everything inside of the barn before an approaching storm.

However, the hoophouse wouldn’t last through another spring storm season. Cliff made the call and sold it to another local homesteading family that doesn’t have the same perilous winds. Instead of working against the wind, we would look for a solution to protect young vegetables from the frosty nights while working with our windy location.

A Cold Frame!

It is inexpensive ($3 Habitat for Humanity Restore windows) and quick to build….Our oldest son assisted Cliff and they were done with the project in just a few hours.

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This small planting bed contained carrots last spring….I just added a bucket of compost to prepare the soil for planting….Remember those tiny seedlings 4 weeks ago?

Radishes & Turnips

Radishes & Turnips

I will have to keep a close eye on the temperature in this location. It is south-facing…so when the daytime temperature reaches 40 degrees, I’ll slide over the windows to allow plenty of air circulation. I’ll remove the bottom set of windows entirely at 50 degrees. It’s worth the extra effort….we’re all looking forward to a greater variety of vegetables and greens!

Lisa

The Big Freeze

Temperatures are plunging tomorrow evening…..to a frigid 3 degrees. YIKES! I held out hope that the forecast may edge warmer as we approached this week.

It is not.

So, the preparation begins:

Our cabbage has been thriving this winter, despite the erratic temperature changes. Even during our coldest nights, the temperature has not remained consistently low enough to damage the plants. Although, I risk frost damage pushing it below the mid-20’s…I’ve already nudged these boundaries down into the teens.

Cabbage: Winter 2014

Any plant exposed to single digits will likely not recover, so I pulled all the cabbage this afternoon, as well as, some remaining turnips. The chickens received the cabbage roots and some tough outer leaves as a snack….Thanks for the tip, Tiffany! We’re hoping to try our hand at sauerkraut with this harvest.

On to the hoophouse:

I am experimenting with overwintering some vegetables…so that when spring hits, I have a running head start toward harvest.

Collards have been the champions of this process.

Georgia Southern Heirloom Collard

Georgia Southern Heirloom Collard

I insulated a variety of lettuces, swiss chard and collards with breathable lightweight fabric as an extra layer of frost protection . We keep two 30-gallon black trash cans filled with water at each end of the hoophouse to help hold in heat from the sun’s rays. It typically hovers 30 degrees above outside temperatures with these techniques, but I still risk losing everything in the ground tomorrow evening, despite these efforts.

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We’ll also secure a heat lamp to a barn stall, to ensure the chickens and our barn cat, Liberty, are comfortable tomorrow evening.

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” ~ Genesis 8:22

Stay warm!

Lisa