This week, I awoke one morning and looked out down the drive to see the grass covered in sparkly gray. ARGH! We had been dutifully monitoring the forecast and it had not been “supposed” to dip below 35 F for a few more days. I shot out of bed, threw on a sweatshirt and my sloggers (another magnificent Tractor Supply find for $19) and ran out to see what had become of our garden. (M was still sound asleep.)
Mind you, as mentioned before, we intentionally chose to plant cold-loving vegetables. Nonetheless, some of our little troopers either haven’t quite matured yet, or really should be enjoyed before it gets too frosty. This being my first real attempt to grow things in a region with actual seasons, I was very concerned. My most recent gardening ventures, aside from basil in the windowsill, was our olallieberry vine in high school and before that my 10’x10′ garden plot in 5th grade science class. This is central coast California we’re talking about – essentially, the Garden of Eden, with temperate seasonal variation and scarcely any “winter.”
Although the little plants did look a bit snarled and cranky, by mid-day they had perked up again. But we were not going to leave them out to the cold alone for another night.
After consulting another of our gardening books, Four-Season Harvest (Eliot Coleman, Chelsea Green Publishing Co.), we decided on setting up low tunnels over some of our beds. Namely, we wanted to make sure that the salad greens had some protection and the beets & bok choy could stay warm at night. I maintain hope that our broccoli and red cabbage will produce, though it’s a bit of a long shot at this point. As is our philosophy with most of our endeavors these days — nothing ventured, nothing gained.
In the book, Coleman describes a French design of low tunnel row covers (“chenille” aka caterpillar) that differ from the standard design in that the plastic covering is not trenched and buried on either side but stops just at the soil surface and then held down by stringing a lace through the hoop stakes and crisscrossing over the top of the tunnel to keep the plastic from flying off. This allows for easier access to the crops and easier venting on warm days.
We picked up some PVC pipes at the building supply on one of our many trips there (did I mention we’re doing construction on one of the garages? I’ll have to elaborate later). We salvaged an incredibly long length of transparent plastic from Mom & Dad G which they had wrapped around some book cases they hauled down here on their last trip (yet again, it was pouring rain that day).
Even though M is clearly more mathematically gifted and expert with planning construction projects, I insisted on mapping out the row cover and cutting the PVC. I needed to flex my little gray cells and furthermore, as a member of the Gebel family, it’s my prerogative to invent a project and conquer it! (Poirot allusion, if you didn’t catch it)
After laying out the PVC lengths and stakes, we created the hoops and covered with plastic. M came up with the solution of drilling through the PVC to thread the lace through and even made a little needle out of a splinter of wood. (Very MacGyver of him)
All in all, I think it worked out nicely. Hopefully this will keep our veggies happy through at least early winter. We’ll see how they fare when it gets really cold…
For dinner: barley and parsnip soup with swiss chard (from our garden!!!)