Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Hoop House

The new hoop house is up and planted with spinach, lettuce, radish, mustard and kale.
Rebar rods, 'U' galvanized clamps help secure the PVC conduit to the 2x4 frame.
I used two clamps to secure the PVC to the base.
I used the glue that is labeled for this PVC conduit.
This picture and the next show that I brought the base plate into the first hoop.
I had to do that so that I could build the frame for the front end.
The back end is another hoop plus a wood frame. I think I like the front better.
Both ends done and ready for a door and covering.
Because the house goes down hill the door opening was not square - kind of a challenge.
The plastic is secured at the base with lath strips screwed into the base.
Lath also help secure the covering to the front and back making a nice closed space.
I planted spinach in three rows.
Instead of seeding the whole row I used a dibble and space spinach clumps 2-3 inches apart.

This weeks mystery plant was a surprise to me too as I have waited all summer to see this....

The new hoop house, season extender, is up and planted. The total cost is somewhere less than a $100 as I did have some materials left from other projects that I used. I got gray PVC conduit instead of the white plastic because it cost less than the other pipe and I liked the fact that I did not have to buy another fitting to stick them together - the conduit has male and female ends for gluing purposes.
I used the ten foot conduit and only cut about 6-7 inches off each end to make a hoop that was 74 inches high and fit nicely between my 2x4 base frame. I used rebar rods and galvanized 'U' straps at the base to secure the hoops to the frame. I used 1x2 furring strips as side and top braces and attached them to the pipe with zip ties. The ends were each different as I wanted to see which seemed to work best for closing off the hoops. I think I like the front closure method better than the rear closure for two reasons - first, the front does not need another piece of pipe and it was difficult to get the bend correct to fit under the existing pipe at the rear; second, the front seems more stable and has more staple points for attaching plastic. Both ends are from other Internet sites that show this kind of plastic hoop house.

(Look at them here: and also at )

I used one 20ft x 25ft sheet of 3 mil plastic to cover the house. What I liked was that this plastic sheet allowed me to double the covering - (not planned but it just turned out that way - what luck) - so I think the structure will better withstand snow and maybe allow the snow to slip off better. The plastic was secured to the base with lath strips and dry wall screws. Snow was the biggest problem with the old structure I had - snow stayed on the roof and had to be pushed off. We will just have to wait and see what winter will bring to this season extender.
So to summarize - the new hoop house is a 10 ft x 10 ft space with 2x4's as anchors for the two pieced PVC conduit hoops. The braces are 1x2x8 and the end boards are 1x3's. The door is also 1x3's and is covered with a sheet of heavy plastic I have been using to make apple labels. A friend gave me several sheets of this stuff a long time ago and so out of the basement the heavy plastic came to serve as a nice door for the hoop house - (Thanks Linda L.) The skin is a 20x25ft sheet of 3 mil plastic and the ends are covered with pieces from an 8x25 sheet of 4mil plastic. The whole structure was secured with zip-ties and drywall screws.
The only thing I forgot to do was to paint the PVC as some discussion says the plastic against plastic seems to degrade. So I put duct tape on the hoops after the fact today and will wait to see how that works.
The space has some plants already in place - celeriac and some greens but today I planted spinach, lettuce, greens, and some kale seed I had left from last year. I also left some space for arugula and lettuce for a spring planting. Hopefully the weather will hold and I will get some germination in the next two weeks. The spinach I planted in the cold frame a while ago is sprouted and the lettuce transplants have perked up too.
Along with finishing and planting the hoop house I got some of the other fall jobs done. I drained all the rain barrels; dug the bonsai into their winter locations; picked the apples - mainly because the robins are attacking the fruit through the bags. I had a number of apples that were really pecked badly and that allowed the German wasps to get on them too. So the best solution was to pick them all. I pulled all the tomato posts last week and hope to till the garden soon.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Warm Weather for Garden Clean Up

Pride of Burma Ginger - a new plant for us.

The Pineapple Sage blooms with the short days of October.
The garlic patch planting -plant now for a next summer harvest.

The finished bed.
A late planting of lettuce in a season extender cold frame
the cardoon tied up for blanching.
I harvested "babies" from this mother plant for wintering over under lights.
Here are the newly planted starts.
The Red Italian Dandelion is a chicory that I hope will winter over.
Look at those thorns on the Purple Devil.

Nothing on this plant is edible.

The return of warm weather helps make fall clean up easier but also makes one wish for more growing days. I finally got some late lettuce planted in one of the cold frames. I also was surprised when I looked in the seed box for spinach seed - seems there is not too much. Spinach is a great last crop to sow in the fall as the seed will germinate in the cool nights and then just hold through the winter for spring growth. So I will have to go on the search for some more seed as the three packets that I have just will not do as I planted one in the cold frame with the lettuce.

I also got the garlic planted. Hardneck garlic is a fall planted crop that will be harvested next summer. The pictures show that I am only planting one bed instead of two like last year. I had more garlic of one kind than another so I figured that I would just mix the cloves and not bother to worry about two separate beds. The garlic all ends up eaten or planted anyway. I used my dibble to punch the holes and planted the cloves about 2 - 2 1/2 inches deep and talking with some other gardeners I think next spring I will give the plants a good shot of blood meal to help push them along. They seem to think that garlic is a heavy feeder and needs fertilization so I will try. I sure would like bulbs as large as the ones I saw again at the Door County Fair in August.

Along with the planting I took out all the cucumber vines, melon vines, tomato plants and peppers and sent them all to the city compost pile. Just as matter of practice I don't compost any of those plants. I want to move the tomato planting so I will pull out all the "T" posts this fall and reposition them next season in the new patch. I removed all the potato vines too and sent them off as well. The egg plants, when I pulled them, had huge root systems as did a few of the tomato plants. The 'Red Peach' along with the 'Green Doctors', 'Tomatoberry', and I think 'Red Alert' all had substantial root systems this late in the season. While the other tomatoes in the rows were easy to pull out as they had few roots holding them in the ground. The grafted plants were not as heavy on the roots as they should have been. A few of the cherry types also had the very last tomatoes of the season. The 'Green Doctors' and 'Red Alert' had the most and a yellow variety also had fruits but I just can't remember the name of that yellow variety, as the plants were in the rows that got replanted and the records don't show exactly what they are - too bad because they were good.

I also tied up all the cardoon plants in order to blanch the centers before I harvest some of them. Hopefully they will be on the menu for Thanksgiving or maybe sooner. Some of the plants might winter over and then next season they will grow flower shoots and make what look and taste very much like mini-artichokes. What fun.

We are having beef stew tonight. The base is tomato juice frozen from last years tomatoes; with onions, potatoes, carrots, and celeriac from this years garden.

Last week I started a new batch of 'Spider Plants (Chlorophytum conosum) for the house and for next years outdoor plants. I like to have 'Spider Plants' in the house all winter. They will take the low light and help clean the air, and next spring, the plantlets will be a supply of new adult plants. I have been making new plants this way for a number of years. These plants are day length sensitive and that is what makes the off shoots appear in the fall and spring. Get one from your local grower and next spring make some more.

Also last week we got a new house plant - a 'Pride of Burma' ginger (Curcum roscoeana) from the Plant People Floral here in Green Bay. Sheila Hansen is the floral manager and she has a very nice variety of green and blooming plants. This ginger is tall, as the pictures show, and the orange flower is bright and really a great plant for this Halloween season of orange. I hope to keep the ginger growing upstairs as long as possible then move it to the lights in the basement and then see how it fares.

Two other plants from this summer need some up dates. The Italian red dandelions are a "YES" - a chicory as their scientific name says -Cichorium intybus - so that explains the blue flowers and now the hope is that they will also be perennial and come up next year too.
The 'Purple Devil' (Solanum atropupurean) is truly a devil to get rid of as the thorns show. I scraped off the bottom six inches of thorns before I cut them off and threw them to the trash. The other name for this beast is 'Five Minute Plant' and I agree one does spend at least that much time marveling at the downward facing thorns that can go through leather work gloves easily. Nothing edible on it and I think that this one is not going to reappear in the seed list again unless I want a spite fence.

As guest speaker for the Introduction to Horticulture class at Fox Valley Technical School last Wednesday, I had an involved group of students and really had an excellent time. I can't stress to them too much what a good career path I think they have chosen. We talked about how much everybody likes" pretty" and everyone eats food, and that horticulture seems to work at satisfying both of those needs - "Good Luck" students - hope you stick with it. Thanks for getting the 'mystery plant' correct too.

Happy Gardening.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Living Roof in Green Bay

St Mary's Hospital Living Roof. A 22,000 sq.ft space with 16,000 sq.ft of living plants.
This roof has both aesthetic and environmental benefits.
The area is open to anyone - drop by for a visit.
The sedums and alums are grown in trays in a very porous soil mix and are thriving.

At home, this eggplant was a little too bitter for a second trial.
This is a little pepper but it packs a lot of heat units.
This was last weeks ending pepper harvest.
The potato harvest out in the sun to dry before storage.
On a recent Door County bike ride we saw this amazing mushroom tree.

This weeks mystery plants - grown from germinated seeds in a fruit.

Recently my garden club visited the "Living Roof" at St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center at 1726 Shawano Ave. in Green Bay. This is the largest living roof north of Chicago covering apx. 22,000 square feet. This roof is in part of the mission of this hospital to respect "not only people but the environment we live in." I was really delighted to see this structure. Corrine Vercauteren spoke to the group about the reasons and benefits of this roof. She is the person in charge of the Environmental Service for St. Mary's. The Sedum and Alum species that grow on the roof are well suited to the zone 4 conditions they endure. Additionally the roof collects 99 percent of the rain that falls on the roof and diverts the water to two cisterns for later use and use in the other gardens that surround this hospital.
The roof was planted in trays and notably, should the hospital decide to build on this site, the roof can be removed and reused atop any future construction. This was truly a well thought out project and has many advantages as compared to a conventional asphalt roof; especially in that this roof will outlast an asphalt roof. St Mary's Hospital is working hard to fulfill its environmental stewardship role and definitely demonstrates "Reverence for the Earth".
If you are ever in the area stop by and take a look at this structure - it is well worth your time.
We are possibly looking at frost soon so the last of crops have been harvested. Potatoes were dug yesterday and the last of the egg plants were harvested and eaten tonight. The fig tree is in the green house and will probably go from there to the basement for its winter sleep. Today there were 8 rip figs - what a great treat. The apples are going to stay on the trees as long as possible. Last year I picked them all and was not happy that some of them were not as mature as another week or two would have produced. This year I am resisting the urge to harvest at the threat of frost and will wait till really dangerous low temperatures threaten. That should allow the late fruit to mature and store better. Besides the fruit seems to just taste better when it comes right off the tree.

Happy Gardening