Saturday, December 10, 2016

Winter Garden, A Cover Up (2015 - 2016)

The above picture might seem like a failure to you, but I see success.  This is Fordhook, Swiss Chard planted in the spring of 2015 but this picture was taken after a snowstorm on January 24, 2016. Observe the outer leaves are dead but the center of the plant is still alive, new growth is already emerging. If you look up in the right corner you will see Dead Nettle as green and happy as can be; a weed or an herb depending on how you value it.

If this chard plant had been placed under a hoop house, all of the leaves would still be green and edible. This picture was from the first winter garden and I had not planned correctly. When I planted the chard in the spring, I had no idea it could survive through the winter. In past years we had plowed it under in the fall. It was not close to the hoop house so it was left out in the open - even being left without protection did not kill it. It began sprouting as soon as we had a few sunny days and later exploded in growth because the root system was already developed.

A simple covering over plants can make a huge difference.  It is the same with us, on a cool day even a lightweight windbreaker can keep us warm.

This was my spinach bed last year.  I hated to see them die so I got creative and covered it with a shade cloth I found in the shed (It was Reese's and he was away at college so he could not say no).  I had no idea if it would work but it did.

I also found two PVC pipes so I used one at the top and one at the bottom of the hoop house.  In the middle, I used wooden stakes to hold the fabric up.  Later in the year, I put plastic cups on top so it would not tear the fabric when the heavy snows fell (Reese would have been unhappy if I had torn it since he had paid for it).

The shade cloth fabric reminded me of the fiberglass curtains that were popular during the '80s (along with orange shag carpet).  I do not recommend buying shade cloth (or orange shag carpet either) because it is expensive, however, it was what I had on hand.  This is a close-up of the fabric.  It was an open weave made of some type of polyester.

The picture below shows the half of the spinach bed that did not fit under the shade cloth.  It was outside uncovered and most of the plants died.

Underneath the cloth, the spinach survived.  It protected them from wind damage which would have forced them to become tough.  If the harsh winds were not beating them down, they could remain more tender.  A little bit of cover made a world of difference.

Are you wondering much snow fell last year in Tennessee?  So much we almost lost Scooter!

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