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Winter gardening and makeshift poly tunnel construction

December 5, 2010

With a few nights into the mid 20s so far the original “pods” have done their job just fine. Everything underneath is doing quite well.

Forecasts for this week include 3 nights the upper teens here and I decided I’d cover the two other beds in the rear as well. These contain broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower, all of which are considered relatively hardy.

So why go to the trouble?
First: I don’t want to repeat last year’s broccoli disappointment, where a tiny bit of freeze damage inside several heads lead to a rotten bud or two in otherwise healthy looking heads. Believe me, it only takes one rotten bud to ruin the whole head.
Second: cauliflower I’m not sure how hardy my type is and I have heard that cauliflower in general isn’t as hardy as broccoli.
Third: I’d hate to lose the lats of my fall crop over a degree or two and I had the materials on hand.

So here is are the three back beads all tucked in waiting for the chilly nights ahead:

The one on the right was my original “covered wagon” style tunnel. The advantage of this type is there is plenty of clearance on the sides and ends; plastic touching tender plats in a freeze will cause damage. Also the higher center line allows for more volume and theoretically less chance of frying plants should i get lazy and leave them on when the sun is out and the temperature inside rises. With the high only in the 30s for the next couple of days I will eave them covered during the day.
This is what the inside of the bed looks like (the water jugs theoretically are heat sinks that might protect the lettuce and you greens in the immediate area.)

To connect the pvc hoops I used conduit brackets that are all of 10 for $1.19; I cut short sections of larger diameter pvc to act as a sleeve for the hoops, My logic was that the load might be spread a bit from the “bow” stress of the hoop plus I can remove and put up the hoops easily if I need to.

The other two beds were constructed using a quick short cut design basically because I was short on time and pvc. On both of these I used an end to end arch with one (one the 12 ft bed) or two (on the 16 ft one) hoops across the middle. As you can see the broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts on the southern end are doing quite well.

Seeing how my drill was at my office, I had to come up with a different anchoring plan for the arches. I used two methods.

1. Driving a piece of larger diameter pvc into the ground to so that the hoop ends can be inserted

2. Doing the same with re-bar so that the hoop can be threaded onto it

I should note I also used a third method on the small arugula and lettuce bed. I staked either end then ran twine through a pvc pipe that had been stretched over two low hoops. This is probably the dumbest method since getting a good seal on the end in more difficult but I haven’t been worried enough yet to change it.

The staked twine method:

and a shot of the whole small bed (that’s more arugula than I can eat between now and 2014)

Some items don’t need a cover, such as the turnip green bed (The bamboo rail was put up to keep me from inadvertently trampling the bed as the seeds w er germinating and I just haven’t bothered to take it down now that the greens are up.)

Additionally shallots (foreground) and garlic could care less about most Georgia winters:

More garlic, dropped into the holes where I removed large stepping stones and covered with a mix of mostly compost and with a little soil added:

Why go to all this trouble to garden in the winter?


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Dailey permalink
    December 5, 2010 11:18 pm

    That broccoli looks very yummy 🙂

  2. December 5, 2010 11:32 pm

    It is.

    If you graduate from college in the next two weeks I might share some.

  3. Mr. C permalink
    December 6, 2010 1:38 pm

    “Rich man, poor man, begger man, thief”
    Multi-talented beyond belief
    Designer, engineer, gardener all
    Everything’s set for the first snowfall

  4. December 6, 2010 9:45 pm

    I wish my broccoli looked that good.

    Thanks again for the input when I set up mine.

  5. December 8, 2010 11:17 am

    Hey Cohutt I was wondering if you knew what was the lowest temp collards would take right now I have spent most of my time rigging up my citrus trees ( I think I got it beat this yr , last yr I about lost them all but they came back really good and I did not want to go thru that again) so now I’m working on the collards , I dont have them under covers , thought about putting a layer of hay over them at night(for the frost but freezing????) and remove in the morning, labor intensive but I work midnights and it would not be that big of deal, also was wondering about onions/garlic should I cover or let them over winter and get them in the spring? I thought I would find you here easier , really like your blog and its cool to see you doing the same things, I did my raised beds with 2 center pieces(2×4) standing vertical about 2′ and located on the sides of the beds and centered, then ran 2 8′ pieces of 3/4 pvc along the sides bowed over the center 2×4 and attached the plastic, could get you pics if you like might explain better than I’m writing. But I put my collards/onions/garlic in rows w/drip irrigation this yr and I have not got my raised beds prepped in time so I’m thinking if I cant protect them by next week (lows in the teens) I will bring them in and blanch and put them in the freezer.anyway sorry for the long post but I’m really enjoying what your doing keep up the good work my friend!

    • December 8, 2010 2:04 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. Collards are pretty hardy, well into the 20s I am told. I’ll follow up this evening when I have better access

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