GARDEN STRUCTURES

Hello March!  It was 37 degrees on Monday, but I still ended up spending a good two hours in the garden.  I needed to be out there so badly I didn’t even notice the cold.

David got productive much earlier, leaving me at my desk.  About the time I was getting onto myself for not getting more done, he returned from the hardware store with a trailer load and I finally got motivated.  He had PVC pipe, rebar, and a 16’ cattle panel.  I’m not a fan of PVC, but I want a hoop house to put over my (4 x 8’) leaf bed.  Last year I used bamboo from my sister’s house and it worked pretty well, although the branch stubs tore the fabric in places and she has since moved, so I no longer have a source for young pliable bamboo.  Anyway, he got 4 – 10’ pieces of grey 1/2” PVC and 8 – 2’ pieces of 3/8″ rebar.  He pounded the rebar into two corners of the bed, stuck a PVC pipe over it on one side and carefully bent it onto the other.  Six more pieces of rebar, three more bends, and voila, tunnel supports.  All in all it cost under $20. 

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I’ve still got some Agribon+ AG-19 floating row cover fabric that I ordered from Johnny’s Seeds last year.  It’s 83” wide and I have about 40’ left of it.  I’m going to cut it in half lengthwise and sew two long sides together giving me a piece about 20’ x 14’ which will be perfect.  I’ll put that over the top first.  It will provide frost protection down to 28 degrees as well as insect protection.  It lets 85% light through and is water permeable.  Because nothing under there needs pollinating, it can stay put all summer.  I’m still debating on whether I need to cover that again with plastic for these last crazy weeks of winter. 

I can’t wait to start some spinach and lettuces under it, leaving room (if possible) for cauliflower and cabbages.  I got carried away when ordering from Seeds of Italy and ordered a couple of lettuce mixes.  Misticanza di Lattughe has 14 varieties of lettuces of all shapes, textures, and colors and Misticanza di Radicchi has 12 varieties of red and green radiccios and chicories.  I also got Cavolo Broccolo Spigariello aka sprouting broccoli “an iconic vegetable from Naples” that I’m looking forward to trying.

David also had a cattle panel on his handy trailer.  I’ve been wanting to make a tunnel between beds to grow cucumbers up.  The panel is 16′ long and the beds are 4’ apart.  When curved between them it needed some reinforcing to keep the sides straight, so he ended up making a frame out of 2 x 4’s.  I can hardly wait to see it covered in greenery with little cucumbers hanging from it!  Here’s David figuring it out.  I love how it frames the venerable Magnolia in my neighbor’s yard.  

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And I still need to tell you about the Hot Box! 

Fayetteville is one of those places where there are many routes to your destination.  I’ll go out of my way to drive down a street with a house or tree that I like or a garden I’m observing.  A couple of years ago I was driving down one of these streets and they were replacing the windows on a house I like.  After stalking them for several days, I got up my nerve and stopped to ask what they were planning to do with the windows in their refuse pile.  We had a lovely conversation about houses and dogs and gardens and landscaping and several trips later I had a new friend and thirteen lovely old wooden windows.  It is my hope they will ultimately be part of a phenomenal greenhouse, but in the meantime, I wanted to use them to make a cold frame.  Because he’s amazing David surprised me with this one.  I may paint it, or maybe I’ll be patient and wait till the plywood mellows like the rest of the garden structures.  

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I know they’re called cold frames, but for some reason we call ours The Hot Box.  He lined it with Perma R foam board insulation.  We put a thermometer inside and have been monitoring the temperature.  One day when it was sunny in the 60’s here it was 110 degrees inside! 

In their great book “The Four Season Farm” Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman (preeminent garden gurus, especially winter gardens) advise that 75 degrees is as high as you want to let it get inside the box.  They also advise that it is much better to err on the side of too cold.  We’re still trying to figure out the best way to vent ours.  We’re thinking about using chains attached to the fence behind it to raise the windows enough to keep the temperature moderate.  In the meantime it’s 25 degrees here and snowing, so I’m not going to worry about it today. 

On my blissful day in the garden I planted ‘Astro’ arugula, ‘Spring’ Broccoli Raab, ‘Quarantina’ Broccoli Raab, and Claytonia in the hot box. 

Claytonia perfoliata, also known as miner’s lettuce from when it was eaten by miners during the California gold rush, is a super cold-hardy green that is native to western North America.  Those miners ate it to prevent scurvy because it is high in vitamin C.  I couldhave/shouldhave/wouldhave planted it last fall, but I didn’t, so I’m trying it now.  We shall see.  As soon as the leeks sprout, I’ll put them in there too. 

I love having these new structures in my garden.  They expand it in all dimensions.  Into the sky and earlier into the season.  Gaining me space and time.  Cosmic.

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