Monday, October 17, 2011
Posted by Kate at 1:48 PM
We've been struggling to get our tiny hoop house project done, racing the first frost of the season, which has been remarkably dilatory in arriving. Not that I'm complaining, believe me. This project was slated to begin in June, and technically, it did. It's simply been a series of one delay after another. Unreasonably hot summer weather accounted for some of the delay, a general gardening funk on my part contributed its own special languor, needing to stay out of the way of a contractor helped us delay some more, and then my husband's broken thumb came along, right when we really needed to get down to business.
But we're finally getting somewhere. The bones of our 12'x15' hoop house are up. The raised beds are in, and even planted. All the stuff we needed to attach to the frame before the sheeting went on is done. We used up almost an entire roll of duct tape covering up anything that might possibly wear or tear the plastic sheeting. And the sheeting is on, though not shown in the picture above. Now we just need to get the ends framed in before it's too cold to work outside. This will be a big job, and probably as jury-rigged as the rest of the structure.
I went ahead and planted two of the beds when I just couldn't stand it any longer. I was worried about missing the window of opportunity with the seeding dates. It was a rather haphazard seeding job, and a groundhog helped itself to some of my lovely seedlings, but at least there's some greenery in there for the inaugural winter. Two of the beds measure about 3.7'x9.5', and the third 3.7'x11', giving us a bit more than 110 square feet (10.3 square meters) of bed space. We'll only be growing food in two of these over the winter however.
The third bed is going to house our chickens over the winter on deep litter bedding. This saves us the hassle of rebuilding the winter quarters we've provided for them in the shed the past two years. We've built a containment system out of green garden netting in that bed,the farthest one in the picture above. This space is just a bit larger than the 30 square feet (2.8 square meters) the hens get each day in the mobile coop and pen system they're in most of the year. It includes feeder, waterer, a "bleacher" double roosting bar and a nesting bucket for them. Right now they're just testing out the new digs. They'll soon be putting in more light tilling and weeding service elsewhere until winter is well under way. In theory the chickens' body heat will nudge up the temperature in the hoop house a little bit, thus helping the plants. I say in theory because even in so small a hoop house as this one, four chickens can't possibly make much difference. But we shall see.
I've got a few more tricks up my sleeve to try out and write about in the mini-hoop house. So there will be more posts on the hoop house as we put the finishing touches on it, move through the seasons, and learn to make the best use of it. Stay tuned.