It is hard to believe that it is nearly February, and we are more than half way through the winter. The Persephone period will soon come to a close in our climatic zone. It is a time when vegetative grown slows to what to our eyes almost be not happening. By the end of February, daylight will be a notch above 10 hours/day. Ten hours of daylight is the minimum required for most plants to show substantive growth.
Time to get ready for spring crops!
Over the next several weeks on our farm, we will be busy getting ready for spring planting! Now, you may think that is much too early to start planting. And for tender crops like tomatoes, squash and peppers that is true. However, for cool loving crops like onions, spring greens, radish and parsley it’s almost time. To prepare, the first thing we will be doing is converting one of our raised beds into a hoop house. A hoop house is a season extender, and generally they are unheated. They use the sun and cover to harvest heat in the day, and provide protection from frost from cold tolerant crops. The first step to ready the bed we will plant up is to warm the soil. Even though the crops we will be planting are cold tolerant, they still require a specific soil temperature germination. Radishes, for example need a soil temperature of at least 12 degrees Celsius to germinate. While in the Halifax region, we have had a mild winter, the soil will still need to be warmed.
Step one- Build the hoop house
We will this by adding a frame of 2x4s on either side of the raised bed. They will be secured to the top of each side, and overhang on the outside. For the hoop frame, we are using ½” pvc pipe, which will be cut into 10’ lengths. Four of these will span across the raised bed, being bent across with width of the bed to form an upside down “u”. A fifth ten-foot length will be cut, and placed the length of the raised bed in the middle of the hoops to provide support.
In the frame on either side, we will drill ½” holes to thread the pipe into to stabilize it. You will also want to secure the pipe to the raised bed just beneath the frame. This will stop unwanted shifting of the hoops. Lastly, cover your hoops with a piece of greenhouse plastic that will cover the entire square footage. You can source greenhouse plastic, locally from Halifax Seed. To secure the plastic, you can use rocks or bricks to weight it down- so the wind won’t take it.
Step Two – Warm Your Soil
Once you have your hoop house constructed, and the greenhouse plastic in place…comes some down time. Depending on the amount of sunny days, and the temperatures we have – plan for 2 – 3 weeks of soil warming. To assist with warming and controlling temperature swings, you can add some bricks where the sun will hit. They will absorb heat during the day and release it at night which help to reduce extreme temperature swings.
Step Three – Plant
Once two – three weeks have past, if we had have a good amount of sunny days the soil should be warm enough. It is time to plant! With a thermometer, before you plant take the soil temperature. A temperature in the range of 12 – 15 Celsius is desired. Plant your seeds following spacing directions on the package, and water them in. Re-secure your hoop house cover and wait for germination. Once germinated make sure you keep them adequately watered and be aware of the outside daytime temperatures. There may be days as we move into April, that will require venting for the hoop house- so it doesn’t become too hot. From May forward, you will want to switch to a heavy weighted row cover, to still provide protection from too much heat or chance of an early May frost.
With a little bit of planning and easy construction, you can be the first on your block to have fresh veggies for 2017!
Do you use season extenders in your gardens?