Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Iron Gardener

Our garden this past season was a mess. Every adult in the house was suffering from a serious lack of free time this year, so we didn't do a lot of the gardening things we normally do. One of those gardening things was to plant winter salad and braising greens under a cloche in the back yard in early fall. When we do that, despite our seriously cold and long Idaho winters, we generally have so much produce we are begging the neighbors to take some so it won't go to seed. But we didn't do that this year, and dang, I miss it!

So I'm seeing what can be done this late in the season to remedy the lack of home-grown greens. I'm going to go out the next day it's above freezing and see if I can clear out the cloche area and put up a new plastic cover. I'm starting some salad and cooking greens indoors under fluorescent lights to transplant out when I have the cloche ready. I'm also thinking about doing something new - trying to grow a salad table indoors in our sunroom. We have a bank of fluorescent lights and a plastic table that are currently not being used, plus compost and potting soil and enough garden seeds to supply a half dozen families. Instead of building a very shallow wooden planting box to put soil into, I am going to grab a few shallow unused rubbermaid tubs from the garage and set them on top of the table, with wicking material hanging into a five gallon bucket of water underneath. All the components I need to do this project are here at hand; the task will be seeing if they can be combined into a system that can relieve my craving for local fresh produce in the absolute dead of an Idaho winter! I figure this will be an acid test - an Iron Gardener challenge.

Stay tuned!


valereee said...

I want to see photos of the cloche garden!

Idaho Locavore said...

Hi Valareee - sure! Thanks for asking. I just put a picture of our last winter's cloche on the posting, and here is a link to a few more photos I uploaded from that same batch.

Link to Garden Photos

We started this in October of last year, which was actually rather late in the season. It's better to start in September, but as you can see, the greens grew just fine, perhaps only a little slower than they would have otherwise. This is against the south side of the house, but has no supplemental heating.

valereee said...

Oh, very cool! Where did you get the covers? I've been looking for some to go over my 3' x 6' raised beds for winter growing.

Idaho Locavore said...

Nothing fancy here, actually - the cover is all from the hardware store. We used the clear 6 mil drop cloth plastic they have at Home Depot in the large roll. One covering lasts for a couple of years if you're careful with it (and the cats don't try to climb up on it!) One 50' roll will do two coverings on our cloche with enough plastic pieces left for several other home or garden projects. The cloche frame is just plain cheap 1 inch pvc pipe slipped over rebar posts hammered into the front of the bed, then bent and tucked under the "eave" there on the side. We spaced the pipes rather closely because that side of the house often gets pretty serious winds and the plastic lasts longer with the extra support.

Good luck on your winter garden beds!