Low Hoop Tunnels for Winter Gardening

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Garden in OCtober
In late summer, I start some autumn seeds and in autumn, I pull out the summer veggies and replace with my autumn plants. This year that was mache (corn salad) and mixed Asian greens. I'm experimenting with growing them through winter, although I think they got too cold in November so some of the Asian greens probably won't make it.

To get plants going through winter, I decided to construct some cheap low tunnels. I followed the directions in Nikki Jabbour's The Year Round Vegetable Gardener which is pretty similar to these instructions. Although, I don't use a sleeve for the PVC (small beds), and I instead have a piece of PVC to act as the 'spine' between my two PVC ribs. The spine is connected to the ribs with a #320 U-bolt. No collapse so far!

I also have some Super Hoops from Gardeners.com for my smaller bed. Even if you're not going to grow through winter, a low-tunnel can help extend the season. It'll let you start growing earlier and keep harvesting later. Certain vegetables, such as mache and carrots even get better with cold. Carrots, however, can just be covered with 6" of mulch. No tunnels needed!

PVC Low Tunnel - ribs secured by 12" rebar in garden bed Low Tunnel - PVC spine connected with U-bolt

Once the hoop tunnel is put together, you place a few inches of mulch, compost, or organic matter on top of the bed. This helps block out weeds while also improving the quality of the soil beneath it. More plant nutrients! Then the bed is ready to be filled with cold-hardy plants.
Adding 2" compost, then transplanting fall plants
Asian Greens in a Low Tunnel
At this point, you can leave the hoops up for warm days, and then throw row cover or a plastic sheet over them when frost is coming. The plastic sheet I use is from a hardware store, it's a painting drop cloth. You should secure the cover with clamps of some sort.
Low Tunnels

Here's my slightly frost-bitten Asian greens that I forgot to throw a cover on. They may not make it. They're now under both a row cover and a plastic drop cloth. Each layer of cover is said to move your growing zone one further south (although any more than 2 blocks out too much sunlight).
Frost-bitten Asian Greens
The mache/corn salad is fine, however. I also planted some soft-neck garlic in there with it, so we'll see how that turns out.
Mache in a Low Tunnel

I think I should probably do denser plantings...

The Snow-Covered Garden 12/4/2019

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