Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mini High Tunnel Hoophouse Project

If it weren't for the damn mosquitoes everything would be perfect to be working on outside projects. They aren't going to stop me however. I'm the perfect candidate for West Nile. While I make cold frames from the same concept each winter I thought I would expand up on the idea after seeing a youtube video on how to raise the hoop concept so that you can get inside of it. The only additional materials I needed to get to the end of the project today was rebar.

Step 1:
This is the site of a former raised bed. I had to enclosed the garden with chicken wire to keep the chickens out since this is being installed in the Orchard, aka Chicken Yard, and because I am not going to enclose this in plastic until the nights get near freezing.  Hoe, weed a bit, remove large sticks and created a very narrow path down the middle.

Step 2:
Placed narrow (6 inch) strip of cardboard down to mark the path. I'll be lucky if I don't fall on my arse with this path. Notice it doesn't go all the way to the end of the bed to maximize planting space. This is a very small hoop house and I'm planting intensively. 

Step 3:
I harvested 2, 5 gallon buckets of compost from the floor of the chicken coop and spread around the planting space. This is all the soil amendment I am adding since the soil was in good organic condition already. 

Step 4:
I hammered in 10, 4 ft pieces of rebar about half way into the ground. These will support the conduit hoops. The rebar cost just under $3 a piece and has been my only cost since I had the other items around. 
Next I bent the conduit and stuck it over the rebar on both sides of the bed. 

Some people have a centered length of conduit connecting all of the hoops, but my bed is longer than the length of the conduit and the hoops seem strong enough to not collapse (famous last words?).

Step 5:
Plant! I planted mache, 3 varieties of kale, spinach, arugula and several lettuces and marked their perimeter with sticks. 

How do I get in there to eat that yummy seed?

What I have left to do is cover the high tunnel in plastic and create an entryway. I haven't decided if I want a door or a zipper. I saw that you can buy a tarp zipper and attach it to plastic to act as a door way w/o needing to build a door. I'll probably build a door though. It will go on the east end to limit cold NW winds from entering. I will cover it when it gets colder. Right now I need it to rain on these seeds so I don't have to water in the meantime. 

Dimensions: 11 feet long and 4.5 ft wide. 

It's an experiment. If it works I may even try erecting a propagation bench inside where I can start some seeds next spring. We shall see. I'm kind of excited to have an almost greenhouse. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Fall

We finally are seeing rain and cooler temps. Today is sunny and upper 60's and we recently received around 5 inches of rain within a week. The mushrooms popped and plants started growing again. Revival.

I get pretty excited about disgusting fungi and the Elegant Stinkhorn has graced us with its radiant odor. After about a week of smelling it I'd had enough, but it is still pretty cool to look at. Many of these popped up around the fountain at the backdoor, which insured I could smell them in the kitchen. This gem was in the front bed.
The Elegant Stinkhorn

A coworker shares an interest in fungi and has been bringing me samples of things she finds to taste. Here are the last 3: Cauliflower, Purple-Gilled Laccaria and Ceasar's Amanita mushrooms.

A few native flowers from seed I collected from a hill prairie last fall actually bloomed. I had transplanted them, after stratifying in a flat of potting soil last winter, in a wrecked wheel barrow. This goldenrod has been shown a lot of love by the bumbles (*note: plant lots more!).
Solidago nemoralis- Old Field Goldenrod

Brickellia eupatorioides- False Boneset

Schtuff in the garden:

Yellow Morning Glory- Ipomea

Deformed 4 O'Clock

Lettuce Mix transplants

Holy basil (foreground), lettuce transplants, Zucchini under tulle

Black and Blue Salvia (overwinters in the basement)

Mexican Sour Gherkin (volunteer)

Carrot seedlings

Asian greens ready for transplanting

Winter is coming. I started cutting back some annuals to overwinter in the basement and took cuttings of others. The cuttings include:
Tradescantia, begonias, dark and lime sweet potato vines, coleus: Alabama Sunset and Dipped in Wine, Lime Geranium, two other plants I always forget the name of that are great for purple and hot pink foliage (in the back of the photo). 

Got my bulb order in through Van Engelen. Planted 9 Allium- Sensation in the back porch bed I bought at Lowes. I've added some new plants & shrubs there as well including Twist and Shout Hydranga, an Oakleaf Hydranga, 3 white obedient plant, 1 Clethra, 1 varigated Phlox, 1 lime perennial Cornflower, and a multicolored False Sunflower. 

Another project: got some free bricks so I encircled my water fountain near the back porch, mulched and planted some natives I had started from seed in the nursery this spring. 

In this bed: 
along the brick path: liriope
on the right side: Horsemint & Bradbury's Monarda
on the left side: Itea Henry's Garnet, Short's Aster, heliotrope and Anise Hyssop

Bad news: Our Sugar Maple is slowly dying. Husband cut half of it down last weekend. 
Good news: We have a lot more sun in the northern end of the woodland garden, which means MORE PLANTS!!!

And that's what's growing on.