Today, January 17, was supposed to be the first day back to school after another pandemic school closure but Mother Nature had other ideas...and so did the kids and I. One was building toboggan runs and the other was harvesting. We were dumped on by 20 - 30cm of snow and couldn't be happier.
I decided to try my new accessible hoop tunnel design and harvest for a client. How successful was it? Moderately so and much more successful than last year's hoops, but there are still some adjustments needed to make it better.
This is what was growing:
But this is all I could reach:
There were gorgeous heads of lettuce in the middle. If only...(sigh)
Though there were zippers installed, freeing the sides to lift the flap would have meant a lot of shovelling. The drawstring does allow for access and for easier venting but there are improvements to be made.
In 2020, I made the ends of the plastic long enough that I could tie it up like a piece of candy, as recommended, and weigh it down with bricks and rocks. This made harvesting and venting a real challenge in our changing weather. Had it only been snow shoveling needed to access the beds that would have been fine, but there was inevitably ice chipping, often resulting in brick chipping to free the plastic.
On one bed (left), I tethered the ends with metal shelves, rock and concrete blocks, which made things a lot easier, since the metal shelf would pull away from the plastic. But as the ground wasn't completely level, it meant that there were gaps where rats could get in. (That's a topic for another post but thankfully I only had a stinky shrew take up residence). Some beds were entirely inaccessible without damaging both plastic and row cover, so when the ice finally melted enough to free the ends, many of the plants had gotten so hot in there they bolted early and were attacked by pests. Additionally, once the plastic ends were lifted and rested on the hoop tunnels every morning, they were so dirty that they obstructed sunlight.
Hence, my imagination has been whirling ever since with new hoop tunnel designs.
Some have zippers and some have a drawstring at the ends, most have a board stapled to one side for opening and some are still in the planning stages. All are not easily accessible to rodents from the bottom, and the surrounding ground is covered with 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch fencer wire where possible and necessary. All use less plastic or none at all. With some adjustments in design and materials, I should be able to reach much farther into the tunnels.
The way I think of it, summer gardening is like running after a toddler, with all the weeding, watering and harvesting and winter gardening is like dressing one.