"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Extending The Growing Season
I was asked to elaborate on the construction of our row covers, and having considered doing a post on this subject in the past I was finally encouraged to do so. Season extending row covers allow us access to fresh salad greens at least until early January and often all year depending upon the weather. Regardless of the amount of snow received, if diligent in keeping the row covers free from snow, I am also provided with a place to plant greens, onions, brassicas and other cold hardy crops in the very early spring.
We also have a few cold frames and will be constructing more in the future and although they do have some advantages over the covered rows they cannot cover the amount of space needed and are also not as versatile especially in the sense that they cannot be easily removed when no longer needed.
It has been my experience that many winter greens, especially less mature (smaller) ones, can survive numerous freeze and thaw cycles. The trick is to provide them with adequate protection from the elements as the, wind, rain, and snow will take their toll on the crops long before cold temperatures will.
The design I chose for my row covers is simple yet effective, easily put up and just as easily dismantled and stored away for the season. Our garden rows are approximately 4' wide and anywhere from 10-60' long. I use 1" poly irrigation pipe for the tunnel frames and 4 mil, 10' wide plastic for the covers.
The pipe is cut with a hacksaw into 8' 4" lengths, to allow for taller growing greens such as Swiss chard and certain brassicas.
This fits nicely over my 4' wide rows as well. The hoops are held at ground level with 12" wood stakes that are cut from the many maple saplings that grow on our property.
The stakes are pounded at an slight angle about 6" into the ground and the poly pipe fits snugly over them.
Normally the hoops are placed 3' apart all down the row. Going forward I will be placing the hoops every 2' as we have had record snowfall the last couple years and more support is needed. At 3' apart the hoops will easily hold up to 2' of dry snow or a little over 1' of heavy wet snow before they are compromised.
A length of rope is staked to the ground at each end of the row as well as being securely looped around each individual pipe in order to prevent them from sliding back and forth.
A 5-6' long pole with a natural V shaped notch or one that I have cut is then placed at the end of each row to further stabilize the entire structure.
To further strengthen the pipes a piece of rope or twine can be attached to both sides of each hoop in order to allow it to handle more downward pressure.
Neither the ropes or end poles are necessary if snow is not an issue. I use 10' wide clear plastic sheeting as that allows for an extra 1' on each side of the row that can be held down with brick, rocks, or wood. In the winter I just use the snow to my advantage as the other weights often become frozen to the plastic.
The plastic is cut lengthwise so that it overhangs each end of the row enough to be held down with another weight.
There are a few issues with this type of season extension. The snow can accumulate faster then you can remove it and the structure may collapse under the strain. While shoveling the snow off it is easy to tear the plastic. I find that a piece of duct tape attached to each side will fix any rip and often wait until summer to repair the tears as I am able to dry the plastic in the sun and this really helps the duct tape to bind with the sheeting. Some of my tape jobs have lasted over 3 years now.
One of the biggest problems is the plastic freezing to the ground, my only solution to this is to patiently wait until a warm day allows for the removal of frozen ice and snow. Lastly, the plastic sheeting can be blown off when the wind catches it if not held down in enough places.
Although row covers as season extenders take some effort, the choice has been made to use them as it affords us the ability to procure fresh produce from the garden much longer then otherwise possible and also fits into an ongoing goal to provide for ourselves. As our quest for food self-reliance progresses, we find ourselves increasingly reluctant to consume food from sources other than our own garden. The availability as well as the quality of the produce offered in the supermarkets is most disturbing and I would just as soon not have to wonder what is in, on, or being done to our food. Below are a couple other posts I've written regarding cold weather gardening.
Weary of the world and its illogical ways my wife and I have chosen a path towards self-reliance in all aspects of our lives. Our main focus is on growing and gathering our own food. We hope to use this blog as an avenue to share with and learn from others with similar interests.
The Good Life (click↓)
"To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." M. Gandhi
"Deep inside everyone of us is a call to the wild. Much of the impatience, discontent or violence around us is due to a lack of opportunity to reconnect with where we came from. For sanity and generosity of spirit, we should be able to witness nature at its unceasing, rejuvenating work." - Abdul Kareem
On Permaculture, Edible Landscaping and Garden Plants
"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness." - Justice William O. Douglas
First They Came For My Seed..▼
"Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine" - Thoreau
Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling, for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted. Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.
I visited the offices where for the sake of the objective the planners planned at blank desks set in rows. I visited the loud factories where the machines were made that would drive ever forward toward the objective. I saw the forest reduced to stumps and gullies; I saw the poisoned river, the mountain cast into the valley; I came to the city that nobody recognized because it looked like every other city. I saw the passages worn by the unnumbered footfalls of those whose eyes were fixed upon the objective.
Their passing had obliterated the graves and the monuments of those who had died in pursuit of the objective and who had long ago forever been forgotten, according to the inevitable rule that those who have forgotten forget that they have forgotten. Men, women, and children now pursued the objective as if nobody ever had pursued it before.
The races and the sexes now intermingled perfectly in pursuit of the objective. The once-enslaved, the once-oppressed were now free to sell themselves to the highest bidder and to enter the best paying prisonsin pursuit of the objective, which was the destruction of all enemies, which was the destruction of all obstacles, which was the destruction of all objects, which was to clear the way to victory, which was to clear the way to promotion, to salvation, to progress, to the completed sale, to the signature on the contract, which was to clear the way to self-realization, to self-creation, from which nobody who ever wanted to go homewould ever get there now, for every remembered place had been displaced; the signposts had been bent to the ground and covered over.
Every place had been displaced, every love unloved, every vow unsworn, every word unmeant to make way for the passage of the crowd of the individuated, the autonomous, the self-actuated, the homeless with their many eyes opened toward the objective which they did not yet perceive in the far distance, having never known where they were going, having never known where they came from.