Showing posts with label winter gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter gardening. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Stalwart Kale

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Kale is the new black it seems in the vegetable gardening world. Not just for garnishing the salad bar anymore, kale has found its way into many dishes and can be a stand alone side dish.

I like it for its hardiness in the garden too; in our climate kale survives throughout the winter, and can become perennialized if you have the space to leave it be. From tender leaves for salad, to hardy braising greens, and finally raab in the spring for a broccoli-like treat. A vegetable that produces many meals from one tiny seed is pretty amazing!

Urban gardeners take heart, the beautiful colors and shapes of the various types of kale make it a great decorative plant for fitting in beds amongst non-edibles too.

Easier to grow and more productive than spinach, the recipe possibilities are endless from lasagna florentine to kale chips, you choose.

For a good selection of kale seeds of all shapes and colors my go-to seed company is Wild Garden Seeds. You can select specific types or the Wild Garden Kale mix for a grab bag effect in the garden.

Plant kale - you can't go wrong!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Italian parsley & strawberries: companion plants?

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Italian parsley

Last week I finished clearing out my garden of all the annual and winter crops - a task I do each year around Easter time, following the local tradition connected to the agricultural cycle (here). I had already pulled up the winter cabbages and leeks (here), and the radicchio (which I'm going to write about next time), while leaving the chard and the parsley for last.

Italian parsley

Although parsley is a biannual herb, I sow it each spring because it tends to produce more during its first year. I use a lot of fresh parsley in my cooking, and I like to have an ample supply all year around: parsley, in fact, overwinters quite well in my climate, and because last winter we only had two hard frosts and one snowfall (thank you winter!), I was able to harvest an impressive amount of parsley.

Italian parsley

Even in the harshest winters, parsley always survives - the plants just grow low to the ground, and the leaves are much smaller in size. Not this year, though: my parsley plants were about 50 cms tall, and produced a full colander's worth of parsley leaves.

Italian parsley

Besides the mild winter, I'm thinking that the success of my parsley this year may have something to do with the fact that it got accidentally intercropped with strawberries: parsley and strawberries, does anyone have any feedback on this?

In June last year, in fact, one of my kids came home with one single strawberry plant, that we just randomly planted in the garden. This single plant must have liked its new home, because it propagated impressively, sending many runners, each and every one in the direction of the nearby parsley, with which it spontaneously intercropped itself. Both the strawberries and the parsley did very well, and I'll experiment some more with growing them as companion plans this year.

And my colander full of freshly harvested parsley leaves? If you'd like to know how I use a large quantity of fresh parsley, here are some ideas:

Italian parsley

I made an Almond and parsley spread.

Italian parsley

And a Chopped parsley and garlic mixture for freezing.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Trying my Hand at Winter Gardening

by Chiot's Run

I'm lucky that we have a year round farmer's market that opened up last year. I can now find local produce all winter long, which is wonderful in our cold climate. Last winter I happily purchased all kinds of wonderful vegetables from various local farmers to get us through the winter. I'm always trying to expand my gardening so I can produce more and more of our food. Since we live on a small lot and don't have much more gardening space, I'm starting to expand the seasons that I grow. I installed hoops over my raised bed specifically for protecting crops from our cold NE Ohio weather. A few weeks ago I covered my raised beds with greenhouse plastic in my efforts to grow all winter long.
Four Season Gardening
Most everything in these beds were seeded in early October, and they seem to be thriving in the cool fall weather. They do take longer to reach maturity, mostly because of the reduced daylight hours not as much the cold. I have 3 raised beds at my house and 2 in my mom's garden. They're filled with cold tolerant lettuces, spinach, bunching onions, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, celery, arugula and kohlrabi.
Four Season Gardening
I searched out cold tolerant heirloom varieties of vegetables for my experiment. I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to provide a lot of my own vegetables (mostly greens) during the long cold winter months. (If you want to learn more about four season gardening I'd highly recommend Eliot Coleman's book The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses)

Have you tried winter gardening? What do you use to protect your crops?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Fall & winter gardening in summer

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

If your climate allows, now is the time to be getting your fall and winter vegetable garden planted in preparation for those shorter days that are inevitable as summer slips by. Fall and winter gardening is about harvesting not growing - so it is important that the plants get some growth on them before the shorter days of September arrive.

While we wait all winter for warmer weather so we can start our seeds, now the sun is here with a vengeance and the heat that was coveted just a while ago, is now hindering seed starting efforts. Cool weather crops get a little balky when soil temperatures reach 85 degrees F, but with a little effort we can mimic the cooler weather of late spring and early summer and still get the plants going.

For vegetables I want to transplant, I provide shade for my flats, or at the very least morning sun only, and protection from afternoon sun. After our cool, wet spring when it was time to start my fall and winter brassicas - we got our first heat wave - the thermometer hovered just below the century mark for a week - all the while when I watered I worried about actually stewing my seeds it was so warm. But shade and daily watering did the trick. Our greenhouses are oriented north and south, and by placing my flats outside on the north end of the greenhouse, the plants receive bright indirect light, and are shaded by the greenhouse somewhat. Now the seedlings can handle a little sun for growth, but since they are in black plastic flats I have to keep a careful watch on them for any signs of heat or drying out.

The other conundrum is direct seeding in hot soil - seeds like to germinate when the soil and air conditions are right- warmth and moisture are what seeds really, really want. Providing that in the garden in the right combination is harder by our hand than that of Mother Nature's. Have you ever noticed the flush of new weeds seeds germinated after a summer rain, compared to the mediocre showing of weeds after irrigating your garden? Some stalwart candidates always show up near drip lines or where you water, but after a rain, everyone shows up at the party. I swear, during our dry summers when it finally does rain, I can hear the plants sigh with relief. They like water on every surface - not just at their roots. Maybe a comparison for us would be a spit bath as opposed to a shower - not the same by any means.

It may seem counter-intuitive to add a blanket in oppressive heat, but actually my lightweight row cover that I use for daikon radish and salad turnips actually reflects the light and helps the seeds germinate as if it was a cooler. And with seeds like carrots and parsnips that take a long time to germinate but want cool, moist soil but no crust, the row cover works very well, because it bears the brunt of the pounding water droplets, allowing water through while keeping a soil crust from forming.

If you don't use row covers, and just plain don't want to use the product, there are other methods too. One that works especially well is to irrigate the area you want to plant very well, and when it is dry enough to work, plant your seeds. For fine seeds that take up to 3 weeks to germinate, covering the furrow with potting soil or seed starting mix works good too. The peat moss in the potting soil holds moisture and doesn't crust allowing the tiny seedling to emerge. I have also heard of using boards or cardboard too, to keep in moisture, the seeds don't need light to germinate, and the board will keep the soil moist until the seedlings emerge.

I am sure there are many more ideas out there, but these are just a few that I have had success with. Happy Fall gardening!!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Growing Garlic

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

I believe that garlic is one of the simplest plants to grow in your garden.  I also believe that once you have had fresh garlic grown in your own garden you will never buy garlic from the supermarket or green grocer ever again.  Never again will I eat rubbery garlic without any flavour imported from a foreign country.

You can too.  Growing your own garlic is simple, easy and very low maintenance.

Planting is also easy.  In my climate zone, (heat zone 4, cold zone 10), I plant just after the first full moon in March or April.  I find that the soil is still just warm enough so that the garlic shoots quickly and gets a good start.  Take a decent sized garlic bulb, either from your seed provider or organic grocer and pull off the individual cloves.  Only use the fattest cloves, as these will give you the largest bulbs.  Use the smaller inside cloves in your next meal.

When preparing the bed for planting, don't add any fertiliser to the bed if you did so in the summer.  You will get more leaves and smaller bulbs.  Plant the garlic in a bed that you had a very hungry crop before hand, like brassicas or tomatoes.

Make a hole with your dibber (I use a bit of old sawn off broom handle) about 2" deep (5cm) and then place each clove in the hold pointy end facing upwards.  Plant them about 6" (15cm) apart, so that you get good sized bulbs.  The closer they are to each other the smaller the bulbs.

Back fill the holes and water well.  Within about 4-6 days they will send up the first green shoots through the soil.  All you need to do is keep the soil moist for the rest of the season, and keep the bed weed free.

Around mid winter, I apply a couple of handfuls of blood and bone fertiliser to the bed and water in.  This gives them a boost as they are beginning to form the bulbs just before the start of spring.  This is what they look like after about a month and a half.

In late spring (depending on your heat zone) the stalks start to go yellow and fall over.  This is the sign that your garlic is ready to harvest.  I leave them to dry for about a week in a basket before I use them.

I once heard that you have to plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest on the longest, but in my climate, it is not the case.  Last year I harvested in the last month of spring.  Here is my harvest of soft-neck garlic.  I plaited them and hung them in the kitchen, where they have kept very well without sprouting.

This is the crop from only two bulbs of garlic!  I was well impressed with my efforts.  This year I planted out an entire garden bed, and not just two rows like last year.  I kept the six largest bulbs that I grew last year to plant out this year.  I should harvest about 60 bulbs of garlic at the end of this season, all being well.

We use garlic in our main meal just about every second day.  Garlic is such a flavoursome plant and very versatile in the kitchen. I don't know if it is a myth, but I have not had a cold since I started growing and eating my own garlic.  I have heard that it is something to do with the large quantities of natural occurring sulphur in the plant.  Oh, and I haven't seen as many vampires around in the last two years either! ;-)

So, in summary, garlic would have to be one of the easiest and most satisfying vegetables to grow in your garden each year.  Easy to grow, and it keeps for a good eight months if dried well.  Have you had much success growing this wonderful vegetable?

Monday, 5 April 2010

The lazy preserver

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Maybe claustrophobic preserver would be a more apt description. I feel hemmed in by having too much preserved. Preserved doesn't mean food lasts forever, and it loses quality fast in the freezer compared to other methods that I have come to depend on. I can some, I freeze some, I dry some, I lacto-ferment some, I root cellar some, and some I just harvest all winter long.

Growing up, canning and freezing was it. You grew summer crops, and you preserved them in the fall, and then you ate canned or frozen summer vegetables all winter long... . Now I have nothing against eating summer fruits all winter long, in any shape or form. But vegetables - I want summer squash in the summer - and I want my winter squash in the winter, even though I grew it during the summer. I have definitely acquired a seasonal palate, and to sooth my seasonal palate I have changed my gardening habits too.

I no longer chase the 10 different varieties of any vegetable unless I am trialing it. And to trial in my garden, means you better produce lots, survive with minimal care, taste good, have a snappy name, and probably be purple ;) Ok, so the purple isn't that important - but it does catch my eye.

By changing what we eat, and when we eat it, things have fallen into place in the garden and in the preserving kitchen. I am always on the lookout for vegetables that store easily without any preserving or energy use, vegetables that can be left in situ and harvested as needed, or that overwinter in the garden without much protection before they begin to grow again. And like anything, not just one method fits: we have winter squash in an unheated bedroom, potatoes in the barn, root crops left in the row and hilled with soil, and greens growing in the garden. By eating winter type vegetables in the winter, and summer type vegetables in the summer, we are eating in season, and getting away from the store mentality of, everything is available every single day of the year. We find we enjoy different foods much more this way. After a winter of beets, I will not miss them in the summer. And the same goes for most of summer vegetables too - when the first brussels sprout is ready in October, I am glad to kiss lettuce good bye for awhile. Until we meet again in the spring, my deer tongue!

This week on our table, from the garden and our stores.

Succulent Kale raab or rapini from our overwintered kales. Much easier than trying to grow early broccoli and what we don't eat before the flowers open can be allowed to bloom to provide food for pollinators, when not much is blooming yet. Started in June and harvested throughout fall, winter and spring - this is one prolific plant to have in your garden. And I did not have to preserve any of it - just harvest, prepare, and eat.

To find out what will survive in your garden, you do need to do some trials. If a vegetable passes the eating test, then it progresses to the second year in the garden. This year I planted 6 kinds of kale. As you can see from this photo and the next, some are thriving and some are dead, knocked out by our frigid December weather. If we had been blessed with our normal snow cover, the varieties that succumbed may have made it. This year it was obvious who wins. I can't always count on snow to insulate our winter garden.

When I trial a variety, I subject all to the same conditions. I plant at the same time, in the same row or next to each other and treat all as equals. The plants will show you how to make your decision. As you can see they are not created equal.
Thrivers: Lacinato Rainbow, Wild Garden Kale, Redbor, and Winterbor.
Duds: Lacinato, White Russian.

Another winner is chicory. But fair warning, it is bitter even when cooked. An acquired taste for sure, but very good and very hardy.

Another winter staple in our house is winter squash. It keeps until May or June with proper curing, and storage. No need to freeze or can it - it keeps well. Winter squash is one of my favorite summer sunlight filled vegetables. We relish it for a vegetable side dish or in pie or custard.

And last but not least, plain ol' peasant food - the much maligned root vegetables. They grow well with in a medium fertility soil, and lend themselves to many methods of cooking or eating raw. Roots are also a winter staple for our family cow. By storing them in the row protected with soil, they are fresh and tender still, and I planted all of these last May or early June, almost a year ago now.

Winter gardening begins now with planning - I hope I gave you some ideas.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Savoring the winter roots

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Almost weekly during the winter, I dig roots for the kitchen and the barn. Posts about the process are here and here. This post will deal with the kitchen aspect of our weekly winter harvest.

In recent history roots have been considered peasant fare, since root crops keep well and are usually root cellared or preserved allowing a measure of self-reliance from stores. It was thought that purchasing food from the store was the sought after ideal. However, the pendulum has swung back to favor independence from the store these days. Food borne illness, concerns about food miles and just a general yearning for simpler times are bringing these delicious foods back to the kitchen. And most roots require medium fertility for growth making them a great choice for self-reliant gardeners.

This week my harvest included carrots, beets, parsnips, black spanish radish, rutabagas and celeriac.

I could eat rutabagas almost every day, but my family kicks a little at that, so I have to fix them in different ways to keep meals from being boring.

Sauerruben, or lacto-fermented rutabagas are a welcome change from kraut made from cabbage. My husband inherited his grandfather's 12 gallon Red Wing kraut crock and boards, but I don't fill that crock too often with kraut. It is too much at one time.

No one in his family was interested in that "old thing" so he gladly brought it home along with the weight boards and kraut cutter. The kraut cutter met a fate common to many good usable antiques though... :( One time his family was visiting and we had a function to go to. Well, long story, short, while we were gone they cooked up the idea to refinish and varnish the cutter so it would look "pretty" on the wall! Sighhh - Homer Formby strikes again. It looks good...but is not safe for food preparation any longer.

When we decided to replace it, we first checked Lehman's and they have a great kraut cutter, but it seemed expensive with shipping, and then luck would have it, we found the perfect cutter in an antique store for a little less.

Like new, I have used this for many slicing jobs.

However, I did pay a little more than the original penciled price of $2.75! The antique store where we made our purchase had bought the stock from an old hardware store. Our cutter had never been sold, we were the first ones to put cabbage to the blades!

Today, I made sauerruben with some of the rutabagas from this weeks dig. Basically just sauerkraut made with turnips or rutabagas.

Using the kraut cutter is actually easier than grating the rutabagas. But it is a two part proposition. First, I slice the rutabaga very thin.

Then I coarsely chop the rounds into rustic slices. The slices are incredibly tender, and slice easily. The whole operation to prepare enough for a half-gallon jar took about 5 minutes. Peeling and cutting of the root ends took about 5 minutes as well.

Just like sauerkraut, use a non-reactive container since you will be adding salt.

I use Celtic sea salt, and the recipe is the same as for kraut: 3 Tablespoons per 5 pounds of vegetable.

The salt will bring out the juice in the vegetable for the brine.

Pack tightly in a wide mouth jar, crock or ?? Make sure brine is covering the vegetable. Cover tightly. Some people use a plastic bag filled with water, or a small canning jar filled with water to keep the vegetable below the brine. Fermentation time depends on temperature - 70 degrees F or lower is better for fermentation.

Now on to dinner, rutabagas lend themselves well to gratin dishes. More pungent when fresh, cooking seems to moderate the flavor a bit.

Two rutabagas, and 1 celeriac bulb parboiled and layered with grated cheese, and one large onion sliced in a shallow baking dish, plus a quick Bechamel sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Pop in the oven for about an hour and you have a great vegetable side dish. If you have a favorite au gratin or scalloped potato recipe, just substitute different roots for a change of pace. And if you can bear it, cool it and reheat the next day, it is even better.

Rutabaga? If lovin' you is wrong, I don't want to be right!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Vegetables for the Picky Eater

by Badhuman

I'm a picky eater and I married a picky eater which makes meal planning a bit harder. Try to add in fresh veggies and it seems impossible! But, much to our parents shock there are two vegetable recipes that my husband and I both love.

One is braised kale and the other is roasted brussels sprouts (when roasted they are more addictive then potato chips or popcorn!)

Braised Brasilian Kale, originally uploaded by asacco9642.

Braised Kale from Emeril Lagasse

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 teaspoon salt
12 turns freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 cups (firmly packed) torn and stemmed kale pieces
2 cups Basic Chicken Stock, recipe follows
Splash cider vinegar

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, kale, and stock and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes; add a splash of cider vinegar in the last minute of cooking. Remove from the heat. Serve immediately.

little green soldiers, originally uploaded by abidangit.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Sprinkle with a little more kosher salt if desired.

What's your favorite vegetable prep?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Growing a Winter Garden

Posted by Thomas, from A Growing Tradition Blog.

carrot harvest 3
A Harvest of winter carrots.

Eat local, organic, in-season foods
- that's a mantra that may be difficult to follow year round, especially if you live in an area located within climate zones 1 through 7. Where I live, in zone 6 northern Massachusetts, our winters often prove long and frigid. Those wishing to buy organic locally grown produce in November will find that most of our farmers markets have closed for the season at the end of October. And the few farmers here who do choose to grow vegetables during the winter months may not always practice sustainable methods, since adding supplemental lighting and heat (which consumes significant amounts of fossil fuels) to a commercial greenhouse operation may be perceived as the only viable means to ensure a timely harvest. The alternative would be to buy organic produce at a supermarket. But in the dead of winter, this would not be considered local, in-season or sustainable.

winter garden 2
My winter garden this year.

This reality begs the question - as someone who wishes to follow this "eat local, organic, in-season" mantra year round, am I limited for 6 months out of the year to what's stored in a root cellar, processed in a jar or bagged in a freezer? Or is it possible to add some fresh variety to my local diet during the lean months by starting a low-tech, low-energy consuming, organic winter garden, while at the same time lessening my family's dependence on produce that is shipped in from California and foreign countries? (Packaged organic salad mix, for instance, is one of the most energy-inefficient and costly veggies that one can buy at the supermarket.)

I will admit that I have a fascination with growing and harvesting food during the winter months beyond just the need to eat local, organic and in-season food all year round. For starters, I appreciate the fact that this practice has had a long and rich history, particularly in Europe, and the stubborn Luddite inside of me wishes to preserve this tradition. Ultimately though, for the die hard locavore (which I am not), it does not get any more "local" or "in-season" than growing your own winter crops. Nor do you have to rely on a governmental agency to tell you whether the carrot that you are consuming is organic. And finally, using low-tech winter gardening techniques ensures that your practices are sustainable.

winter bed inner layer
Depending on where you live, your winter veggies may require an extra layer of protection during the coldest months. An inner layer of fabric row cover can help to increase the nighttime temperatures inside of your hoop houses by a few critical degrees.

I am a huge fan of farmer and guru Eliot Coleman, best known for his writings on winter gardening. His Four Season Farm in zone 5 Harborside, Maine specializes in growing food year round using only low-tech, non-heating (and in some cases, minimal-heating) elements. Coleman's technique relies upon, among other things, choosing the right varieties of winter crops, succession planting on specific fall dates, and a couple added layers of protection during the harsh winter months. The goal here is not to create an high-tech artificial environment in which to grow anything and everything, but to use low-tech and sustainable methods to give traditional winter crops the added protection they need to survive all winter long in zones 5, 6 and 7 and to extend the growing season by at least a couple more months in zone 4.

Hoop houses must be strong enough to withstand the heavy snow storms and winds of winter.

So grow a winter garden if you'd like to add some fresh variety to your local, organic and in-season diet during the cold months. Here are some tips on how to get started:

1. Read about Eliot Coleman's Winter gardening techniques. Coleman offers a great deal of information on which winter crops to grow, when to sow them and how to protect them from the elements. His book, "Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables for Your Home Garden All Year Long" is a great place to start.

2. You will need to offer your winter crops some form of protection from the elements. There are many hoop house designs available via the internet that practically anyone can build. Personally, I utilize mini hoop houses. You can read about how I built my mini hoop houses at here or go to

3. Familiarize yourself with the hardiest of winter crops. Here are a few (some varieties are hardier than others): leeks, carrots, green onions, lettuces, bull's blood beet, a wide variety of Asian greens, spinach, radishes, chard, kale and wild greens like wild arugula, mache, claytonia and minutina. You will be surprised by the amount of fresh greens you can produce during the winter months.

4. Finally, just because none of your neighbors grow a winter garden doesn't mean it can't be done! Believe that it can be done and seek advice from local gardeners and bloggers who do! Practice makes perfect and soon, your lean winter months will seem shorter and shorter.

A picture is worth a thousand words so here are photos of some of my zone 6 winter veggies:

tango and red romaine lettuce
Rows of winter lettuce.

winter carrots - napoli
A bed of winter carrots

winter spinach
There are several varieties of spinach that are very cold hardy.

wild arugula
Wild arugula is one wild green that thrives during the winter months.

winter greens
A bed of kale, chard and lettuce.

Minutina adds an interesting look and texture to a winter salad.

mache 2
A late fall sowing of mache.

radish harvest
A harvest of winter radishes.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Building Mini Hoop Houses

Posted by Thomas from A Growing Tradition

mini hoop houses 2
This past Sunday night, we experienced our first light frost - a slight taste of the wintry weather to come. Our neighbor found it on the windshield of his car Monday morning and any hope that I may have had for Indian summer is now gone. It's time to wind down much of the garden and winterize the rest. Luckily, all of my veggies were under row cover Sunday night and no noticeable damage was done. I am very pleased with how the Agribon row cover has performed thus far.

Last Friday, I began work on my mini hoop houses and was able to complete them Sunday night. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to try my hand at a winter garden this year. Since we moved into our home in late July, I've been so focused on getting a fall garden planted and established that in a way, the recent cold weather has kind of taken me by surprised. I'm glad I didn't procrastinate too much on getting these constructed.

I wanted to make mini hoop houses that would fit on top of my raised beds, be movable so that I could cover different crops at different times throughout the year, and allow for easy access to the plants underneath. I also wanted to construct houses that were sturdy enough to withstand the heavy snow storms we routinely encounter here in New England, yet light enough to be lifted by one person. After much thought and second guessing, here is how I constructed my mini hoop houses:

wood frames
1. I started off by constructing the wood frames that would serve as the base for the hoop houses. I used 1 x 3 inch untreated spruce, which were cut into 3 and 6 feet pieces.

metal ties
2. I screwed metal ties to each corner to hold the frame together. The finished base measures 6 ft by 3 ft, the same as my raised beds.

bent conduit
3. I purchased 1/2 inch steel electrical conduit from Home Depot and used a conduit bender to shape the rods into Gothic style arches, making sure that the width of each arch was relatively close to 3 feet, i.e. the width of my frame. A hacksaw was then used to cut them down to the desired height. (I considered using PVC conduit but ultimately decided against it as I did not want to risk the chance of them bending or collapsing under the weigh of snow. The steel conduit is also relatively light.)

metal straps
4. I attached the arches to the wood frame using metal straps. These help to keep the arches perfectly straight. The attached arches also reinforce the base.

mini hoop house frame
5. I attached 3 arches to each frame. I chose to go with a Gothic style arch shape for my hoop houses not only because they more attractive then semi-circle hoops in my opinion, but also because they are proven to be better at deflecting snow and wind guts.

plastic on frame 1
6. I then went to work on attaching 6 mil polyethylene to my finished frame. This grade was chosen primarily for its strength, durability and insulating capacity, while at the same time, sacrificing only slightly the amount of sunlight available to the plants underneath. I started off by using clothes pins to tighten the plastic onto the frame.

plastic on cold frame 2
7. Then I used a hot glue gun to adhere the plastic onto the frame and trimmed off the excess. Initially, I tried using double-sided tape to do this but soon realized that the plastic would not stick to the tape. Then I tried sewing the plastic onto the frames using ordinary kitchen twine - too much work. Using a glue gun turned out to be the best and strongest option. (I tested its strength by pulling on the poly, and instead of releasing from the frame, it ripped).

finished mini hoop houses
8. I decided on two different heights for my hoop houses - 3 feet and 2 feet. A taller hoop house would obviously accommodate taller plants. Specifically, they will be used to give my tomatoes an early start in the spring. The shorter houses are less awkward to handle and lighter to move. Since most winter crops tend to hug the ground, I will most likely stick to the 2 feet or lower height when constructing future hoop houses.

mini hoop house hinges
9. In the garden, I use metal hinges to attach the hoop house to the raised bed. These can be easily removed in the spring and attached to another bed if needed.

opening mini hoop house
10. On the other side of the frame, I attached a metal handle to make lifting the cover a breeze. As you can see, the hinges allow for easy access to the crops grown underneath and also for easy venting.

mini hoop houses
The cost of materials came to about 80 dollars. By far the most difficult and tedious part in the construction process of these hoop houses was attaching the poly to the frame. After hours of hot gluing, they are still not perfect. Yet at the end of the day, I am very happy with my mini hoop houses. Hopefully, they will do their job this winter (weather permitting). So what do you think? Am I crazy?

Footnote: I forgot to mention when I first posted this that I stapled the poly to the wood base!