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

Quick hoops and snow

Winter lettuce

One of the biggest culinary shocks of our power outage had nothing to do with electricity.  We've gotten so spoiled with our quick hoops of greens and lettuce that I'm used to trotting out to the garden for at least one vegetable meal a day even in the dead of winter.

Mustard greens in the snow

But the  uncovered beds currently look like the photo above.  And, on Friday morning, the quick hoops looked like the photo below.

Snowy quick hoop

Despite  being inaccessible, the winter greens and herbs do mostly seem to be in good shape under the snow.  However, one of the three quick hoops collapsed, pulling out a stake and even breaking a pole:

Quick hoops in the snow

I suspect it's no coincidence that the collapsee is the quick hoop covering lettuce, meaning that I've been slipping under the sides of the structure constantly for the last couple of months.  (Our uncovered kale has been doing so well that I've only broached the other quick hoops once.)  Perhaps if I'd taken the time to reseat the fabric and to stake and tighten everything down more carefully before the snow, even this collapse would have been averted.

Collapsed quick hoop

Looking more closely at the collapsed quick hoop, I see that one pole bent double and the fabric was breached in a few places, but the lettuce underneath is still good (as you can see from the first photo in this post).  When I brushed snow off one end, that pole bounced back from its bent position, so I suspect we may only have to replace the one bent hoop and do a little fabric mending.

The experience does remind me that folks in the far north who deal with snow cover for extended periods of time probably won't be as thrilled with quick hoops as I am.  Sure, the garden protection devices may stand up under the snow, and the greens underneath may thrive, but if you can't get to your lettuce, what's the point?  I'm looking forward to this sunny spot melting away all of its snow so we can continue to enjoy fresh lettuce and greens every day.

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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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It was -32C outside when we got up this morning, probably colder during the night. Farming and gardening is a completely different activity up here in the mid-north of Canada.
Comment by Maggie Wed Jan 23 08:46:42 2013
This is my first year with row hoops. I do have 1 small tare in a vulnerable spot. How do you do your cover repairs ?
Comment by mona Wed Jan 23 09:53:26 2013
Ya it was -21 here in Mn. Which is why I love reading your blog :)
Comment by Canoearoo Wed Jan 23 11:02:50 2013
Yup, quick hoops are quite a different ball game with below zero weather or, like two winters ago, snow deeper than the hoops themselves. I mostly use them for some end of season "grab that last bit of greens" in the fall and early soil warmers to get tomatoes in a month early in the spring. That gets me tomatoes in July, equivalent to the best the guys supplying the local farmer's market can offer.
Comment by c. Wed Jan 23 11:12:10 2013
You have probably mentioned it before, but what material is the hoop fabric made of? Are they the frost blankets one can order from a garden site?
Comment by J Wed Jan 23 13:59:05 2013

Hi Anna,

Would love to see an eBook on this topic - how to build quick hoops, when to plant, harvest, etc. All the things you've learned. :)

I commiserate with Maggie with the -32C (not sure where she is from). We've had a good winter so far here in AB. At least we are one of the sunniest spots in Canada in winter (and summer too I think) so this helps a lot. That sun just makes you feel good.

Comment by Heather W Wed Jan 23 14:29:20 2013

Thought your readers would enjoy a link to an article extolling the many benefits of snow cover for us gardeners up in Alaska! Deep frost protection and nitrogen fixation to name a few.

By the way, we are enamored with hoop houses up here - they make tomato and corn (yes corn!) growing possible in the summer!

Comment by David Wed Jan 23 15:09:11 2013

It makes me feel better about our 8 degree low last night hearing everyone else's woes. I'm glad we don't get quite that cold!!

Mona --- I do quick and dirty repairs with needle and thread. I cut a piece of a ruined covering and whip stitch it in place over the hole. It tends to last a couple of years, which is all that the rest of the fabric will last anyway.

J, We use Agribon fabric. You can read Eliot Coleman's experiences with choosing the right thickness here.

Heather W --- I've summed up most of what I know in Weekend Homesteader, specifically October for construction information and July for planting dates. Also, Eliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook provides much more information and is what I based my experiments on.

David --- I'm actually jealous of constant snow-cover some winters, because it's hard on my perennials having the constant freeze-thaw. I do see the benefits of our climate, though, when I realize what it would be like for the winter harvest if we had more snow.

Comment by anna Wed Jan 23 15:36:52 2013

Looks like more snow Friday.

What are the hoops made of? Would PCV make a stronger structure? I've seen some frost protection material that looks more substantial than the cloth you have. Have you seem that?

Comment by Gerry Wed Jan 23 17:58:52 2013

Hey Anna,

How much space do you need for growing winter greens enough for the two of you? For my fiancee and me, we have a very small back yard, and I would love to grow some winter edibles.

Sounds like there's room in here for another ebook!


Comment by SideStep Tue Jan 29 09:45:21 2013
SideStep --- We eat a lot of greens in the winter, so keep that in mind when planning your own area. We had four beds of lettuce under quick hoops this year, which felt about right. In terms of greens, we had more like six beds under quick hoops and maybe fifteen beds without cover, and we've only barely started dipping into the quick hoops beds now. Each bed is maybe three feet by six feet. You could get by with a lot less if you just want a fresh treat now and then.
Comment by anna Tue Jan 29 16:28:47 2013

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