The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Deciding which beds to cover with quick hoops

Fall greens

Baby Brussels sproutsI put up a quick hoop over our last planting of lettuce in October, and I meant to erect the other three quick hoops then too.  But I needed to make a decision about who to protect, and vacillation can take awfully long time.

By the time I came back to the project this week, a few things were clear.  We started eating Brussels sprouts from a few beds recently, but the long bed of sprouts that got a lot of shade before the leaves fell from the trees was trailing behind those in sunnier spots.  If we want to enjoy Brussels sprouts from that bed this year (which we adamantly do), we need to extend the season, so that's one quick hoop accounted for.

Tokyo bekana

The other two quick hoops are earmarked for leafy greens, but which ones?  We've got three kinds of kale, tokyo bekana, tatsoi, mustard, and Swiss chard in the ground, and there's not enough row cover fabric to protect them all.  While I could make another quick hoop, I don't think we'd eat more greens than that anyway, so it's best to stick to two hoops of leafy greens.

HuckleberryHuckleberry reminded me that a few of these greens varieties are so tender they won't last into December even under quick hoops.  Despite the brilliant coloration of the tokyo bekana pictured above, showing how healthy the plants are, both this and the other Asian green are going to bite the dust soon, as will our mustard.  Those beds are best left uncovered so I'll be sure to eat the tender greens up before real cold weather hits.

Putting quick hoops over kale

Since I'm opting to cover the most winter-hardy greens in hopes of enjoying their leaves all winter long, kale is the obvious winner.  We devoted two whole quick hoops to beds of kale, and still have other plants that will be left uncovered for November munching.

One change I made to our leafy-greens coverage compared to other years is that I went ahead and covered our Swiss chard as well as our kale.  This decision mostly came about because the chard is at the end of the Brussels sprouts row and didn't require its own hoop, but I also noticed last winter that Fordhook Giant appears to be just about as winter hardy as our favorite kales (Red Russian and Dwarf Siberian).  (Our third kale variety this year is Laciniato --- I'll report on its hardiness next spring.)

If you're still interesting in reading more about our quick hoops, I devoted a whole chapter to the topic in The Weekend Homesteader.  (You can also read the same information in the 99 cent ebook Weekend Homesteader: October.)  Despite having to do more mending this year, we're going into our third season using the same fabric, so the cost comes to about 10 cents per square foot per year, and drops every year the structure stays in use.  I can't say enough good things about quick hoops and eating fresh food all winter --- try it and you'll be sold too!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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From time to time your hoops fall over due to the weight of snow. Have you ever thought to add a perlin along the top them stake the ends like a tent for added strength?
Comment by Gerry Sat Nov 9 09:58:58 2013
I'm in zone 8 so a much warmer winter. But I'm wondering if you add another layer of protection on top of the fabric when it turns really super cold?
Comment by Amy Sat Nov 9 13:04:48 2013
Gerry --- I figure as seldom as that happens (I'd say it averages once or less per year), it's not worth making any effort to prevent it. The official solution is to add a layer of greenhouse plastic on top of the row cover fabric in snowy climates so the snow just runs off. (Which, I guess, answers Amy's question too!)
Comment by anna Sat Nov 9 14:55:08 2013
We live in NW Montana and have already had a 6 inch snow fall and night time temperatures in the 20's yet our B. sprouts are GREAT! They are unprotected in the garden and I think the cold adds sweetness to them that they might otherwise not develop in warmer temps. I'm sure you've experimented with your Brussels sprouts,so you know what works best in your neck of the woods, but you might just leave them uncovered and use the hoop for another crop that needs it more than the sprouts. Just a thought :)
Comment by Elizabeth Mon Nov 11 19:27:44 2013

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