hoopdate, February 2012

I don't think it's *just* the unseasonable temps (though that helps); the return of longer days has made a big difference in the hoop house over the last week or two.  We have reached the magical 10 hours days here in South-Central Wisconsin, and everyone (wild birds, chickens, dogs, foxes) have happily welcomed the light back to our days. 

Even when outside we are having days in the 20s and 30s, inside the temperatures shoot up to the 70s and 80s.  That just didn't happen in January.  Stalks of kale (stripped of most of their leaves due to harvest and/or aphid problems this fall) are growing new leaves.  The spinach is recouping from fall harvests and really taking off.  Late fall plantings seedlings of misc. mustards, arugula, mache, and tatsoi are making an appearance, as are cilantro volunteers.

I love these baby mustards, and it's so nice to have something colorful to photograph this time of year!

The cilantro was my sign that I could start new seeding. I can check books, extension handouts, and friend's blogs, but the best way really to tell if conditions are right is probably just to let nature show you. 

Bordeaux spinach is growing fast, it seems more forgiving and robust than a lot of varieties, so I end up with a lot more of it than anybody else. This was planted September 6th, and was harvested in November/December.

So, February 1st I tentatively began planting, filling in empty spots with more cold-tolerant greens, and even an experimental row or two of beets and carrots.  The soil is soft and warm, and it feels SO GOOD to have dirt under my fingernails again!  The snow outside is disappearing fast, but I used El's trick of bringing in a few buckets to melt for watering.  Mostly it's still very humid inside--it rains when I jostle the hoop upon entering--but the top surface of the soil dries a bit on warm days, so I am watering the newly sowed areas, and a few awakening plants such as chives, to encourage them a bit. 

Harvests are teeny yet, but should be picking up soon. I'm actually making an effort to use up any frozen spinach and kale now, since the real deal is on its way.  Even if winter makes a return trip, inside the hoop it's almost spring!

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  1. Your eyes aren't deceiving you, Sara; the plants really do start to go nuts in Feb once the light returns. So Eliot Coleman is right, it's light, not heat, that makes them grow.

    Fun, isn't it?

    To spur things along, I sometimes sprout lettuce seeds in the house and bring them out once they hit the 4-leaf phase. These babies really don't care about the cold. Hope your carrots and beets don't bolt on you; sometimes that is what happens when they're planted early. (But then again, I get volunteers of both every year and we know THEY started really cold.) Another thing you might want to try to direct-seed in your hoophouse is a row of leeks or onions; you can transfer them outdoors once they're big. The cold/heat cycle won't hurt them and they are such a pain to start indoors IMO.

    This weather is so weird. I am still gardening from outdoors: the chard never died, and I still have Brussels sprouts, big mustards and kale (kale!) out there as well as the usual leeks, collards and carrots/parsnips. And I did accidentally spill a drying tray of lettuce seeds; they fell on a bed and I simply covered the mess with ag cloth (directly on top) and voila, 1000s of little lettuces.

    Wait until March. You'll be shocked how crazy your hoop gets.

    1. Yep, I think it's a combination of day-length, and the angle of light. I'm definitely planning on trials of seed-starting in there, for the cold-tolerant stuff. March is definitely going to be fun!

      Good tip on the aphids, I have a sneaking suspicion they will return since the winter has been so mild. Though the forecast is back to more normal temps (single-digit lows...) starting this weekend.

  2. Oh! Duh! I wanted to let you know I had aphids on some kale in one greenhouse last fall. I bought some Safer insecticidal soap, and it really worked. I had to reapply it once, but it was fine after that.


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