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Winter Hoop Gardening with raised beds

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Are you at the end of your garden season? Not ready to quit? Winter Hoop Gardening with raised beds is a great way to extend the life of your garden. Here is our experience with winter gardening. This post also includes a tutorial on how Dave built the hoops.

Winter Hoop Gardening

Winter Hoop Gardening to extend your growing season!

This is also our LAST Tuesday in the Garden blog hop post for the year!

You won’t want to miss these great garden posts. Full of wisdom and innovative ideas from our experienced gardeners. Representing several different places throughout the country. Click on all the blog links at the bottom of this post to Glean helpful garden information. Enjoy these final posts for our 2016 garden season.

Extend The Garden Season!

In our post about the Fall garden  Chores I included a section on planting Fall crops in August. Assuming you did that, your crops are starting to grow. When the frosts hit those new crops will take a hit. As the days continue to get shorter and colder… you have a choice. Either put your garden to bed for the Winter or go year round straight through the coldest months for winter and early Spring harvests!

Traditionally we let the garden rest in Winter. As the crops are harvested Dave begins the prep work for putting the garden to bed. Read more about that process in Lasagna Gardening . With just us two to feed now, winter gardening is not as attractive as it was two years ago when five adults lived here. That was the year Dave made us a Winter Hoop Garden. Here is what he did and how it worked out for us.
Winter Hoop Gardening

Winter Hoop Gardening. Notice the length of the plastic at the end of the hoop. Dave pulled that down to help protect his plants from the cold.

 Winter Hoop Gardening:

In August Dave planted a lot of winter hardy vegetable seeds. He planted several varieties of kale, broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard and carrots in our raised beds. Leeks and garlic went into our lower garden area. The plants in the raised beds all came up and started producing in October. The leeks and garlic slowly grow throughout the winter for us(we live in zone 8A) without the hoops for protection and will be ready for harvest next spring.

Dave put our lower garden area to rest, except for the leeks and garlic.

Our lower garden floods every winter so it’s not an option for very many crops. Also, The raised beds are much easier to manage for Winter gardening. He put a hoop on just one raised bed. The hooped tunnel passed the first test very well. The unseasonably cold windy weather down into the 20’s for about a week happened here a day after Dave completed the first section of the hoop in mid-November. We don’t usually see the strong Arctic Northeast Winds this early, and to be sure, they were not as fierce as they will get later in winter. Cold enough to let us know winter hoop gardening is a great idea, though!
Also, The raised beds are much easier to manage for Winter gardening. He put a hoop on just one raised bed. We experienced Unseasonably cold windy weather down into the 20’s for about a week after Dave completed the first section of the hoop in mid-November. We don’t usually see the strong Arctic Northeast Winds that early. They were not as fierce as they will get later in winter. Yet Cold enough to let us know winter hoop gardening is very helpful in protecting plants from deep cold.

The difference in the vegetables was dramatic! Our broccoli was about 50 percent covered by the hoops. The poor broccoli, and other plants, outside the hoops, survived but were pretty frost and wind burned after a week of the Artic winds. The plants inside the hoops faired much better!

Our Winter Hoop Gardening worked!

We managed to harvest quite a few leafy greens, carrots, and broccoli through the winter months. As the cold deepened we were eating up the crops. We ate the broccoli and cabbage before the deepest part of winter. Our kale, carrots, garlic, and leeks all survived through to spring. We really appreciated those veggies in early spring soups and stews and green juices.

Our winters are very unpredictable.

We can experience very mild temperatures (called a chinook) in January. The temperatures quickly climb into the fifties and sixties from the 20s. The high temperatures can last for weeks!

Then February comes. The cold returns, often with very strong arctic winds and snow and extremely cold wind chill. This stresses the plants. They start to think winter is over and then they get tail whipped. Plastic hoops over the crops helped them get through those cold spells.

The raised garden beds helped heat the plants and made the harvest easier.

Having the plastic on the hoops allowed Dave to adjust the plastic to open the beds to our occasional winter and early spring sunlight and warm days. The plastic was easy to slide back down the hoops at night to protect the plants. The wooden raised beds were also very easy to attach the hoop to as you will see.

What We didn’t like about Winter Hoop gardening:

As you might guess, Winter gardening comes with challenges. Here are the ones we ran into.

  • The strong  Northeast winds blew the plastic off the Hoops several times! The poor plants were exposed to some extremely cold temperatures and some didn’t make it.
  • Dave HATED going out in the cold to repair his hoops when the winds and snow took the plastic off the hoops.
  • Because there were now year round crops growing in the raised beds, Daves spring planting schedule and the garden plan had to be adjusted. Crop rotation is more difficult.
  • You never get a garden break. This is actually a pretty big point. Spring gardening is a ton of work. When you are still emerging from winter gardening and now also starting new seed, and having to cultivate, weed and prep some of the garden while continuing to care for and harvest your winter crops…that can be difficult. But it is NICE to get lovely kale and other winter greens reviving in March so you have fresh greens all year. It’s a trade-off to consider.

Building Your Hoops on a Raised Garden Bed:

If you decide to winter garden hoops on raised beds are the way to go. But hoops are useful even for the rest of the year at times for various crops. They work well as cold frames. Here is how Dave made his hoops.

  • Dave used 1 inch PVC pipe he had laying around.

    • Measure and cut to length all the pipe, making sure There is enough length to get adequate height on the hoops for  plants to grow and retain the heat. (This will be different for each bed depending on their dimensions)
    • Attach each hoop to the raised beds by screwing a 2-inch drywall screw through the side of each hoop into the raised beds at ground level.(Dave has lots of drywall screws laying about, use whatever works best for you, or any brackets to hold the hoops)
Hoop Gardening

Dave uses 2-inch drywall screws to attach his hoops. Notice the plastic clamp above the screw holding the plastic onto the hoop!

  • To make sure the hoops stay up right and get some sheer support against wind, tie them to each other along the sidewalls with, plastic twine.
  • After the  hoops are set and tied, cut short pieces of the PVC pipe and cut them lengthwise on one side. Set them aside to use as clamps to hold the plastic onto the hoops.
  • The plastic is installed by starting at one end and clamping the plastic to each end hoop on both sides. Pull the plastic to the other end and stretch it over  the hoops making sure it goes well below the raised bed edge to keep the wind out.
  • Dave hated the clamping part. The cut pipe is difficult to pull open when clamping onto the Hoops and plastic. You will need strong hands for this. But the clamps work very well! Pull the plastic tight after clamping the plastic to each end hoop . Dave chose to leave extra plastic to fold over the ends for extra plant protection.
    Hoop Gardening

    Inside the Hooped bed plants gain protection from the frost and cold winds. Notice the twine supports on the sidewalls

    USEFUL TIPS:

  • Dave used 6-millimeter thick clear plastic he had around the place. If you are buying your plastic the UV protected variety is the way to go. It will hold up under sun and weather better. We are believers in using what we have on hand. Scrounge around and see if you can find pipe and plastic for free!

    Hoop Gardening

    Dave pulls the plastic up and uses bunji cords to secure it to the top of the hoops when he wants to expose the beds to rain and sun.

  • To allow light, air and rain into your beds, the plastic should be adjustable on the hoops.  This also helps accommodate harvesting the crops.
  • Keeping moisture in the ground helps protect the plants. Their root systems need water so even if the tops die off the roots can grow new tops. Last winter our kale survived several horrible winter storms and came back from the roots as soon as the ground warmed and the roots defrosted. Kale is tough stuff! Dry garden beds suffer the worst in freezing weather.

Tuesdays In the Garden Blog Hop

Please Click on the links for every Gardener to find new and useful gardening tips. It’s been a joy sharing our garden with you this year. We hope to see you at our blog hop again in the spring!

Happy Gardening!

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