Musings of a Happy Farmer – May 8, 2013

A while back I read a gardening book by some people from New Hampshire and they talked about using sheets of hard corrugated greenhouse plastic to wrap into cones to make coverings for tender plants.  Here in Northern California, our climate is much milder, so we’ve been experimenting with various types of lightweight alternatives.  Small versions of the Caterpillar tunnel (search online for the full breakdown) with ½” PVC for hoops with a baling wire purlin staked down to rebar on both ends and wrapped around each hoop.   You can do these tunnels in various widths/lengths depended on the size of your beds.  We use greenhouse plastic, frost blanket and thinner row fabric to cover our hoop rows and tunnels.  For single row we’ll use stout metal wickets that we get from DripWorks, along with #9 wire that we make hoops out of.  The wire is great if you aren’t gonna get snow loads on it, but it won’t hold up too well to big snow.  Even if it squishes though, the plants will usually be all right underneath.  Yesterday I figured out a way to cloche square blocks of plantings.  I used two pieces of PVC to make a sort of dome tent by “X-ing” the hoops, and then I secured them at the center with a piece of baling wire.  I put a piece of 14 foot (that’s the width it came in) by ten foot frost blanket over the top of the whole thing and hold it down with fence posts.  The result totally looks like a dome tent and creates a nice, warm space to shelter tender transplants.  We’ve been planting out broccolis and romanescos in these and it’s been fabulous.  Also, setting them up a few days before you want to plant will prewarm the soil which will stoke your plants out big time.  Be wary of cutworms and gophers underneath the tunnels, because it’s often sorta out of sight, out of mind.  We dig through the soil around plants that have been eaten to find the cutworms, little caterpillars that cut off leaves and suck out the juices from the cut stem.  As they grow they become more voracious, until they cocoon and become a moth to start the process over again.  Amber is much better at finding them than I am, but we hunt them avidly.  At night and early in the morning they can often be found out and about munching on plants, but during the day they burrow down into the soil usually right near the base of the plant they’ve been eating on.  We trap gophers with the metal spring traps that we bury in their tunnels.  Amber catches them; I’m not very good at it.  Make sure to block out the light with a board or trash can lid, otherwise they’ll just fill the trap in with dirt.

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About HappyDay Farms

Happy Day Farms provides direct access to local, seasonal, farm-fresh produce, allowing our community to reconnect with the local food supply and producer. We utilize sustainable practices to grow fresh, high-quality food. Our goal is to create community through eating right and sharing the wealth of our harvest.
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