Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Extend Your Growing Season With an Easy to Create Hoop House

The kids and I went over to Growing Hope last weekend to participate in their Seed Starting Squad. I actually have never been there, even though they are minutes from the house, but thought this would make for a nice weekend project. While we were there though we got to tour their beautiful (and large) hot house - It was inside that where I found a great idea for a quickie hoop house. 

I've been thinking about creating a micro-climate where I can extend my growing season, and thought this might be the answer to what I was searching for - The best thing was, we had almost EVERYTHING hanging around in the garage and my home office!  I should note too, that this type of hoop house works with raised bed gardens that have a wooden walls surrounding the beds...

Directions for a Basic Hoop House:
  • Get several 10' lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe
  • A package of 1/2" galvanized 2-hole pipe strap (Look in the plumbing section of your local home improvement store)
  • Screws
  • Clear heavy duty drop cloth (we found a 10'x25' one at Lowes)
  • 1" binder clips or other clips to secure the plastic 
  • A screw driver and scissors 
  • Two sets of hands are necessary to create this hoop house
At the ends of the beds add the pipe strap, you will actually need to srew one side in most of the way and start the second screw - Insert the pipe and tighten the screws. Next add the pipe strap to the second side of the bed only make sure it is slightly loose. Bend the pipe over the bed inserting it into the pipe strap and tighten the screws.  Continue doing this at your desired distance down the beds - In my case there is approximately 5-6' between supports, although I'll admit a 4' distance might have been ideal, so I might alter my hoop house at the end of the season!

Next drape the plastic over the hoops and clip into place.  I opted to cut a separate "doorway" for the ends so that weather permitting I can open the top of them to let some of the hottest air escape. No need to fry the little plants lazing in the warmth...

Obviously this is new to me, but I already have plans in mind for improvements in future hoop houses.  It sure dies make a nice, and inexpensive hoop house though, if I had to purchase everything it would have only cost around $15. It even held up to some pretty strong March winds, although it is somewhat sheltered sitting between tow homes.

So get out and extend your growing season with this easy, and quick, hoop house. You're seedlings and plants will enjoy it, and possibly so will your children!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Signs of Spring...

The local paper asked a quick Facebook poll today "What signs of spring have you seen?" Many people responded with funny or creative comments such as:

The long lines outside of the recently opened Dairy Queens.
The first robin of spring.
Having to re-fill the bird feeder!
Honking geese.
Puddles and dirty snow mounds, but kids are outdoors wearing shorts.
Undergrads in flip-flops.

And the list goes on and on. But what have you seen specifically in your own yard?

On Sunday while I was cleaning the debris from the front yard I realized several pansies in my one pot have appeared to over winter while being covered by some pine boughs, I also found worms crawling sluggishly on the sidewalk, and just today as I was re-filling the birdfeeder I saw two honey bees lazily flying around looking for something to eat! On the south side of my neighbor’s house, several of her bulbs are beginning to pop, and when we stopped by the farmers market this weekend, pussy willow bunches were for sale!  My family has also boiled down a bunch of Maple sap that we collected - and are continuing to collect - to make some wonderfully home made Maple Syrup.

So what have you observed? Have you bought your spring seeds yet? Anyone getting the itch to get dirty and play in the garden?

I will admit, I did take my garden hoe out to my raised beds and poked around some - Nothing but frozen chunks of dirt on Sunday, but I'm certain one day VERY soon things will be rearing to grow!

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Maple Syrup Time!

... Or it's about that time... The days are getting warmer with cool nights...

A few years back my family attended the Sap to Syrup event through Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation. It was a fun, informative event that sent us out to make our own maple syrup last year. If you are interested, the program is running again this year - just be sure to register early for Sap to Syrup the event is running Saturday March 6!