Sunday, February 15, 2009
This week, my husband built me a raised bed hoop house! I could not have been more delighted! Not even if I had received a Valentine's dinner out and a box of chocolates! Ed knows me well!
He built the frame with some scrap lumber and placed it on the south side of our house in a sunny sheltered spot along our driveway. Hopefully, the heat from the house and stones will help keep it warm. If we were placing this frame in the garden, we would have made it bottomless. But since it is placed on stones and concrete, Ed made a bottom with some scraps of plywood, making sure there was enough gaps for drainage. It should be easily movable if we decide to change the location.
We basically followed the directions for a square foot garden in Mel Bartholomew's book by the same name. Because it would be along a wall and we would be only reaching in from one side, we made it only two feet wide and six feet long. Actually it is a little wider then two feet to allow us to sit some gallon jugs of water along the back. The idea is that the water jugs will absorb heat from the sun during the day and release heat at night to help warm the plants. Painting the jugs black would probably make them even more effective.
The Square Foot Gardening book recommends a planting mixture of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite. I was concerned that the peat would dry out but was willing to give it a try. I made several calls to local garden centers and no one was selling compost this early and I only found one small bag of vermiculite. Thankfully, the warm days this week thawed out our compost pile enough that we could use our own compost. Our mix contains about 2/3 homemade compost, 1/3 peat moss and one small bag of vermiculite. I should have sifted the compost as it does contain some stems and larger chunks but it appears to be a rich and fertile planting medium.
Ed used flexible tubing (1/2" PEX pipe) for the hoops. Several long screws along the edge of the raised bed hold the tubing in place. Mikroclima row cover was draped over the hoops and held with jumbo clamps. Later when we move the Mikroclima to the garden, we plan to hammer rebar into the ground and use larger tubing, but for this small bed, this seems to work well. In the few days since we've put this bed together, we've had some strong winds, and nothing has blown apart!
I plan to plant seeds directly into this bed to get some early vegetable plants started. I've already planted some lettuce seeds and plan to plant some spinach, broccoli, parsley and other greens. With the bed located next to the house, it should be convenient for picking fresh salads! Since the warm days last week seem to have ended and we are back to cold temperatures, I'm not sure that the soil is warm enough for seeds to germinate. But we will be ready for when it really does get warm.
When reading this, keep in mind that we have never had a cold frame, hoop house, or raised bed, so we are not speaking as a voice of experience! I am only saying WHAT we are doing and not the we are doing it RIGHT!
If you have any hints and tips for us, I'd love to hear them!