Follow-up On Winter Gardening With Simple Hoops.
We have been eating from one garden bed since late October and that bed will be mostly harvested by early January and then be used to start summer crops, like tomatoes, eggplant and other transplantable crops, by mid-February. We have freezing nights in February, and sometimes March, but the hoop gardens will afford enough protection for temperatures down to the high twenties. The hoop setup could be used as a greenhouse or nursery without growing winter crops but we use them for double duty.
To make the hoop gardens from scratch for winter use or as nurseries to get a jump start on summer, see my article “Growing Fresh Winter Greens Using Simple Hoops, Covered with a Plastic Sheet.
A Lazy Man’s Winter Gardening System.”
I re-seeded the first bed after the initial harvest(s) and we’ve had radishes and some dill from the edges but it’s necessary to be sure the plants on the edges grow fast, and short enough not to touch the plastic sheet. Anything that touches the plastic sheet will freeze and not be edible.
The gardens were watered two days before Thanksgiving and on the eighteenth of December. Using the hoops saves on water and, in the desert, that’s a prime objective. I remove the hoops from one side and harvest about once a week. It would be possible to harvest more often but time is a factor and less often would mean the produce wouldn’t be as fresh. Each of us has to work out a schedule that works for us.
I harvested the first crop(s) today, December eighteenth, from the bed that was planted second. The germination rate was approximately one-hundred percent and the garden needed to be thinned. Small lettuce, kale and beet tops are delicious and contain high percentages of nutrients. We give quite a lot of our harvest away, we can’t eat it all and we eat a lot of greens.
I haven’t found another system that works as well, uses less or even the same amount of water, produces fresh produce all winter and requires as little time and effort.
The second garden will continue to supply us with cold crops until the middle or end of March, depending on the temperature. By that time the root crops will be mature and ready to harvest. All the seeds are mixed together and planted at the same time in the respective garden beds. That helps keep pests under control, since most pests are crops specific. Bugs that will decimate mono-crops will generally leave inter-planted crops alone. We don’t spray any of our gardens and lose very little to bugs.