Fall/Winter Garden Experiment

Posted by: billstephenson

Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 09/29/17 01:35 AM

I'm going to try growing salad veggies this autumn-winter using some low hoop and visqueen row covers. I planted a salad garden this time of year a couple years ago and we had wonderful fresh salad with our Thanksgiving Dinner, but it died shortly after. Still, I was surprised by how much I got out of it and I didn't have any bug problems to speak of. That part of it was really nice.

I'm using 1/2' pex tube for the hoops and old tent poles for stakes to hold them up and I'm going to experiment with using the reflective "emergency blankets" inside the rows running along the bottom 6"-10" inches of the row covers to help solar heat the inside during the day. Hopefully the soil will warm enough with that to help keep things from freezing inside overnight.

The past few winters we've had here have been pretty mild and I think I might be able to keep the covered rows warm overnight by covering them with emergency blankets on colder nights. (This will reflect the heat radiating from the soil back into the covered row and retain it longer).

I figure I can also burn a candles or oil lamps inside the covered rows and place cinderblocks over the flames to help retain and evenly distribute the heat on really cold nights.

This sounds like it could end up being a bit too labor intensive but I'm going to try to design it to minimize the maintenance routine. And I'm going to start with just one row in my garden for this, and probably only 1/2 -2/3 of one (24-36 sq ft) to make it easy on myself.

It's just an experiment, but if it works here it will work most anywhere in the mainland US and it could be a lot of fun and worth the bit of extra effort to extend the growing season. It certainly won't cost me much because I just won't spend much, so it should pay for itself pretty fast and then generate savings too, and last several seasons with minimal fuss.

Anyone have any thoughts or ideas on this?
Posted by: PerryMK

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 09/29/17 05:07 AM

I had a small winter garden a few years back. I used a popup greehhouse (commercially available) that folds for storage and when used was about the size of a pup tent. The sides zipped open for access.

For light freezes (down to maybe 28-30 degrees) no heat was necessary. Just zip it shut. I had to unzip during the day as it could get pretty warm. For hard freezes (25 degrees for more than a couple hours) I used an incandescent bulb in a drop lamp. Consider a 60 watt incandescent bulb is basically a 55 watt heater. It was more than enough. I would suggest going with 40 watt or lower if you can find them.

I can't wait to see pictures!
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 10/05/17 06:51 PM

I should be able to assemble it over the next couple days. This past week I let my burros into the garden to clear out all the grass and other stuff they'd eat and spent a few evenings out there with them pulling weeds I know they don't eat.

We finally got a bit of rain here after a long dry spell and it's cooling down over the next few days so the garden is ready for me to start setting it up.
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 11/13/17 03:59 PM

Well I procrastinated past getting veggies for T-Day but I did get some lettuces planted today and I got a chance to measure the soil temp inside and outside of the covered row.

It's seems to be doing pretty good but we'll have to wait and see...

Here's the covered row:



Here's the outside soil temp:



Here's the inside soil temp:



And this shows the reflective mylar on the sidewalls a little better:



I tried to buy some thermometers yesterday at the "Dollar Store" but all they had we're the battery operated ones for checking if you have a fever so I'll have to go to hardware store or someplace to find them so I can keep one inside and one outside and compare them in different conditions.

I planted four types of lettuces and they will be ready to harvest from 35-55 days, so it will be early to mid-January before the longest to mature are ready and that's the coldest time of year so it will be interesting to see how it does.
Posted by: PerryMK

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 11/14/17 05:01 AM

That looks awesome! If you have a Harbor Freight nearby they have a non-contact infrared thermometer that I like to use.

I planted garlic 2 or 3 weeks ago and its already coming up. I'm also still picking peppers and making hot sauce. This batch is really too hot for the average person using Ghost, Carolina Reaper, and Scorpion peppers.

My problem now is time. It's hiking season in Florida and I've been working on my section hike of the Florida Trail. The weather has been perfect for it.
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 12/16/17 01:10 AM

It's been just a bit over a month and some of the lettuce is growing but it's very small still. I probably should be watering it more but it's still pretty stunted looking to me.

That was really old seed though and I did get some new seed this week that I'll try sowing every few weeks from here on out.

We've had some pretty cold nights since I planted it. It's not got down below 0ยบ yet but it's got down into the low teens several times. We're a month away from the average coldest days of winter so I don't expect it to do much now but I'll keep playing with it.

I'll get some pictures in the next few days up to show what it's doing and keep at it until last the frost next year to see how well I can get a jump on the planting dates.
Posted by: packlite

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 12/18/17 11:22 AM

Thanks Bill. Looks awesome.

I also did a bit of experimenting here in eastern washington. I use portable tunnel row covers which works ok for early spring and late fall/winter.

This year I experimented with kale, beets, spinach and lettuce (without row cover). Here the weather was uncharacteristically mild. The greens actually like the light freeze down to the high 20's they do just fine. Sweetens up the flavor quite a bit on the kale, beet greens, spinach and lettuce.

Planted kale and beets July 15th, spinach and lettuce August 15th. All still producing til around December 10th when the single digit temps and snow took over. I probably could have covered with row cover and still get something but once snow starts falling it's not so easy.

Here's my last large harvest of greens (also some resilient celery stalks) from Nov 30th.



Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 01/06/18 12:08 AM

That is beautiful Packlite!!

I'm pretty jealous looking at all that!

I should've started my plants a lot earlier and I'm gonna try to do better this year.

We didn't get a hard cold spell here until a few days before Christmas, and we left about a week before then to visit kids and grandkids living in Florida and got back on New Years Eve.

My sweet wife passed a flu going around at her work to me a couple days before we left and I've been fighting it since.

My garden is in the middle of our back yard, in the "pasture" where our burros are, and I've gone out there and fed "the critters" everyday since we got back but haven't checked on my lettuce since we left. Just haven't had the umph after all the chores are done.

I'll try again tomorrow to see what's going on in there but I don't expect much to be left. The covered row must be dried up and pretty close to frozen right now. If not, I should have some lettuce ready to eat and that would be a real treat!

On the plus side, I've been keeping an eye on some wild Mullein we have out there and that stuff still looks great. That plant is truly amazing and I think I might start growing and selling it because nothing seems to bug it much and it loves it here. I went down to the lake at the bottom of the ridge we live on the day before we left to harvest some for my daughter and it's growing like crazy down there.

I know people sell it. I've not looked into how much they charge but I sure have access to tons of it here, and all the seeds I could ever need to grow it in my back yard. The burros won't eat it, so I don't even have to protect it from them laugh
Posted by: packlite

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 01/10/18 01:20 PM

Sounds good - wild, organic Mullein. I read that asthma sufferers used to smoke the stuff for relief. I just had a massive chest infection from a cold and it's just beginning to break up. Should have used the Mullein, supposed to be good for breaking up mucus.

Haven't heard of anyone eating it, though.
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Fall/Winter Garden Experiment - 01/15/18 07:54 PM

"Haven't heard of anyone eating it, though."

No, you don't want to eat it. I've been making tea with it but you have to strain it with a coffee filter or put it in a tea bag to remove the fine hairs (fuzz) on the leaves. One of my daughters brought over some tea bags she bought at a health food store that you can put your own tea in and seal it with a hair curler. Those work great because they're pretty big and Mullein is pretty fluffy after you crunch up the leaves.

It really helped me with breathing easier after I caught that nasty flu and got a lung infection with it, but I have to mostly drink it at night because it does have a bit of a narcotic effect. It's pretty mild, but you can feel it. Helps me sleep good laugh