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Hoop house & looming lettuce bounty

March 4, 2012

Here, March brings the right temperatures in the hoop house for lettuce. Lows are generally in the 30s or low 40s with the possibility (“probability” is more accurate) of frosts and freezes into mid April. I can generally leave both the window and door open around the clock and there is a modest enough bump in the soil temperature to greatly improve growth rates vs the same outside and “un-sheltered”. Nineteen years ago we had the deepest snow I’ve ever seen in Georgia on March 13th (12-14 inches) when “the perfect storm” blew through, so I need to remind myself what winter CAN still bring regardless of its mildness so far…..

The days are lengthening quickly and the lettuce seedlings I transplanted into the hoop house are growing rapidly; these were transplanted from the speedling trays in late January when they were tiny.

The middle bed will be taken as far into the summer season as possible with lettuce and other cool weather greens since this year it is out of the tomato rotation.

We have been lettuce rationed for so long (I cooked the fall batch in the hoop house while trying to work out the temperature regulation scheme) that after watering the middle bed this afternoon I wanted to lie down in the middle of this tender patch of young spinach, simpson and romaine lettuce (note the spindly kale on the left that just keeps growing as we have eaten the leaves from the bottom of the stalk upwards):

Some (mostly) simpson lettuce in the upper bed:

The spinach in the lower bed has made a terrific comeback with a little help from a dose of fish emulsion fertilizer:

The “spicy micro-greens mix” isn’t so micro anymore; I just let it grow when the lettuce tanked and now have some formidably hot (mainly) mustard greens to blend into the milder mixed greens we’ve been nibbling on lately. The Chinese red mustard is my favorite both in taste (think sinus-clearing afterburner) and appearance. You’ll have to take my word for it with the taste but I will offer the two pictures below for your judgment of this mustard’s appearance:

On the way out I noticed something odd with the brussel sprouts. I had topped the plants a few weeks ago to force a more rapid plumping of the sprouts on the stem. (The tops look like a loose tennis ball sized cabbage and are quite delicious cooked as one). The sprouts look like they were riding an escalator up that abruptly stopped:

The time I spent in the hoop house watering and taking these pictures motivated me to cook something fresh this evening. Two types of kale plus a leek that mysteriously stuck to the palm of my hand and came into the kitchen with me formed the base of a delicious soup.

It was a relaxing and productive weekend; I weeded, added a few hundred pounds of fresh compost to some of the beds, moved a couple more boxwood and enclosed the area under my back porch so that the neighbors don’t have to look down into the “storage” area underneath (Who’s idea do you suppose this last task was?)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2012 9:32 pm

    Excellent post! If this snow ever melts I can finish my hoop house and get it populated!

  2. Regina permalink
    March 4, 2012 9:53 pm

    Looks good enough to eat!

  3. March 4, 2012 10:08 pm


  4. March 4, 2012 10:20 pm

    Looks so wonderful… that leek is amazing, too.

  5. March 5, 2012 4:27 am

    Your polytunnel or hoop house as you call it looks fab. Hard to believe it’s only been there a short time. You have so much produce in there. I’m envying those lovely lettuces. Here in Ireland the Lettuces are just popping their heads out of the seed trays.

  6. March 5, 2012 8:22 pm

    See the next post when it is up- we have a pretty hard freeze tonight. 😦

  7. April 29, 2012 11:49 pm

    I’ve been reading all your posts (I just found your blog) & I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. Seeing your pictures & reading your words is so satisfying somehow. You have such a great “down to earth” attitude & such a great garden (and the love of the gardening) that it’s pretty much inspiring to me. My husband has been promising to help me build my (our) hoop house but it always seemed to take a back seat to other things. Two weeks ago (on his most recent “at home” rotation for work) we got the ribs all up & ready for the poly. My son-in-law came over & helped me spread the poly over the framework. Now I just have about 1,000 or so dandelions & the like to dispense with. Thanks so much for posting your ideas, your progress & your gentle humor. Like I said, it’s inspiring me…. gives me hope to keep on pushing myself to get more done. I live in a fairly cold climate & I’m really ready to be able to extend our growing season as much as possible. (zone 4) Once the hoop house is established to some degree my husband says he’ll help build a walipini… So amazing. Have you seen them? Here’s a link to read about it if you’re interested.

    Thanks again!

    • April 30, 2012 6:33 am

      Thank you for the encouraging words. I am the sole engineer, contractor, laborer & gardener in this project, so it stands that ANYONE can do this lol.

      I’ve seen the walipini design and am still considering a smaller one to use as cold frame/deep winter herb growing set up. I don’t have the room for a large one here on a 65 foot wide “urban” lot.

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