Friday, 4 November 2011

Winding Down the Garden

The weather has been holding up amazingly well. We had a week or so of cool, grey weather, but not so cool as to make working in the garden unpleasant. Now we seem to be having more sunny weather, but we still have had only 3 frosts so far, only the one last night being a hard one. This has been great for us because we have been very behind in getting the garden ready for winter and this has allowed us to get much of it done.

The bed above is where we grew our potatoes in boxes. We dug up the second half, which was planted with German Butterball potatoes and got 88 pounds. A good, but not spectacular harvest. We were expecting more, and are going to have to assess whether we want to go to all the trouble of planting potatoes in a box next year. On the other hand, we have the soil and we have the wood so we might. We'll see how ambitious we feel next spring.

Those little green fruits sitting on the dirt are berries from the German Butterball. I've never grown a potato that set so many. I might try saving some seed and planting them next spring, and seeing what I get.

The garden as a whole is looking very different than it did just a week or so ago. The biggest change is in the fruit beds. Melon and cucumber trellises down, tomato trellises down, and all the dead and dying plants removed. Garlic is planted, and we are clean and ready to go next spring, when this section will be planted with root vegetables. We have put up a record number of hoop-houses, 6 in all planning to have lots of spinach next spring to sell.

In the root section, winter radishes still look very lush, with carrots behind them. This late summer planting is doing very well.

The leafy greens, mostly brassicas, are in the other beds that are still in use. Cabbages need to be picked and stored, as do Brussels Sprouts. I'll cut the chard down this week and freeze it. The beds where we grew corn have already been cleared and replanted with spinach, lettuce and mixed greens for the spring.

We planted peas in midsummer hoping for a late harvest. They did not do well. We did not keep up on top of the weeds, and they were probably planted about 2 weeks later than ideal. We'll just get a handful of peas and snow peas.

The beans have died down. As soon as this photo was taken, I cut down the vines and strings so Mr. Ferdzy could take down the trellises. In fact, I have already started, you can see the pile in the right hand lower corner of the picture.

Our sturdier trellises had some mixed results. The plants stayed better within their beds, but the whole trellis was inclined to sway when the wind blew, and they ended up pretty crooked.

The hoop-houses have been great for allowing us to extend seasons and overwinter greens, so I thought I would show some detail about how we make them. We are bracing them more this winter than we did last year, when one of the 2 we put up collapsed under the weight of the snow. Mr. Ferdzy put in rough-cut spruce (construction strapping) along the top and bottom in the middle of each bed. This is the cheapest new wood you can buy, about $3 for a 4" x 1" x 16' piece. Our beds are 24' long so we needed a total of 3 pieces per bed, plus scraps to brace them.

First, we lay out the bottom pieces. Then Mr. Ferdzy takes the piece and a half for the top, and drills holes where the electical conduit used for the hoops goes through.

The electrical conduit (3/4") goes through, and is anchored on each side in a 1' piece of ABS pipe (2") sunk into the ground. These are placed at 4' intervals all along the beds, and are also used to hold up the trellises.

In goes the other end, forming the hoop.

First we do the ends, then the middle, then we fill in the rest.

The electrical conduit is stiff enough to be a little hard to bend, but you want it to be fairly strong.

Once all the hoops are in, Mr. Ferdzy screws lengths of wood in every 8' (i.e. every second hoop) between the top and bottom pieces of board to brace the hoop-house. How well does this work? We don't know, I'll tell you in the spring.

At this point my battery ran out, so I don't have any more photos, but there isn't much more to the hoop-houses anyway. We buy 100' rolls of 6mil plastic (the kind used as vapour barrier over insulation in construction) and cut each one into 3 equal pieces. This is the right size to cover one of our beds. We place it over the hoops, and weight it down with paving stones, rocks and bricks. And there you have it, a hoop house. Including the taxes, it probably costs about $100 to make each hoop house and it is not really worth making fewer than 3 of them because that's the size of the roll of 6mil plastic. This also includes the ABS pipe, which remains as a permanent part of the bed. Not cheap, but we expect to get at least 5 years out of each one and hopefully more.

Hopefully we will have the garden cleaned up and ready for winter in another week or so. I admit I am happy to be done for the year. I will stop thinking about it for a month or so, then it will be time to start looking through seed catalogues and get revved up for another season, which will of course be so much better than this one!


Gerry Benedict said...

We too had rather poor results with a second planting of snow peas. I have never had the results that I typically obtain from early April plants.

Anonymous said...

Awesome run down of building a hoop house, thanks! After I get some good trellis' built, the next project will be hoop houses and I'll show my "builder" your system for sure!

Ferdzy said...

Gerry, we have the space so I guess we will keep trying but indeed, the second planting just doesn't seem great. I guess maybe we should plant them with the idea that they are dau miu (snow pea shoots) and just eat the leaves.

Glad you find it helpful, Localgypsie. There are cheaper ways to build a hoop house probably, but probably not easier and they really make a big difference.

Anonymous said...

Your garden is so inspiring!! Thanks so much for sharing. Well, I help out in a friends large garden ours remains small because of too much shade. Can't wait to have a larger garden. Great demo on hoop house too!

Kevin Kossowan said...

You may have lit the fire under my butt to build my first hoop house. I have the poly anyway for renos/hauling game animals in vehicles.

I know folks use benders, and it looks like you're using the top board to bend the conduit, yes?

Ferdzy said...

Not really, Kevin. The conduuit is just 3/4" so it is fairly flexible by hand.

We started out making hoop houses without any boards at all, but they tended to collapse under heavy snow. We don't know for sure how the top boards and bracing will work, but I am hopeful they will do the trick.