About Good Scents

The cut flower business ended in 2011 but I continue to post other items about gardening.

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Infrastructure - Mini-hoophouses

One of the problems I have had over the years has been coming up with a good way to suspsend insect barrier row covers over china asters and snapdragons. China asters are terribly susceptible to aster yellows and need row covers to keep out leafhoppers which transmit the disease. Snapdragons have the bad characteristic of dropping the lower flowers as soon as they are pollinated. To get nice, long spikes, snapdragons need to be grown in a greenhouse or covered with rowcovers to keep out pollinating insects.

The row covers used for these purposes need to be suspended with some structure because if the row cover is allowed to "float" on the flowers, they can be bent or broken in high winds or when it rains. In the past I have rigged up supports using pvc pipe but have always had problems with the row cover tearing on the corners of the support. I have also had problems anchoring the row cover to the ground. I can't bury it the way some vegetables growers do because once the flowers start blooming, I need to lift the cover a couple times a week to cut the flowers.

Most often row covers are supported using little wire hoops but I didn't think these would work over a 4 foot wide bed containing plants more than 2 feet tall. I finally had the idea to adapt designs for do it yourself hoophouses. The materials I used were 2 foot sections of 3/8" rebar and 8 foot sections of pvc pipe. After squaring up the bed, I set the rebar ever 2 1/2 feet along each side of the bed and pounded them in so only about 6" stuck out of the ground. Then I bent the pvc pipe and slid each end over a rebar stake so they arched across the bed. To add stability, I joined pieces to make a 25 foot piece of pvc and attached it under the top of each arch.

The row cover can then be stretched over the entire frame. The cover is gathered and twisted together at the ends. Because I will be lifting the cover frequently, I decided to just weigh down each end with a big rock.

Seed catalogs sell fancy (and expensive) pegs for holding down row cover but I read that you can just use ground staples on top of a piece of wood.

I put all this together in a couple hours today. I wanted to set it up now so I can see how it performs before I actually put in the plants.

New Infrastructure - Coldframes

Over the past year I have become more interested in growing vegetables. I'm already growing so many flowers that it doesn't seem like it should be that much more work to grow some of the stuff I most like to eat - leafy greens, peas, tomatoes, radishes, peppers and so on. Partly this is to be eating better, fresher food and partly it is to try to eat more locally.

While investigating eating locally, everything I read kept mentioning Eliott Coleman's book "Four-Season Harvest" which I finally purchased. I built a couple 4'x8' coldframes based on Coleman's design. I glazed mine with sheet fiberglass instead of glass or polycarbonate because I already had it. The frames are made from 2x12 and 2x8 lumber with a 4' piece of 2x2 lumber in the middle connecting the front and back.

The frames for the covers are made of 2x2 lumber and are not hinged to the frame. This makes the frames much easier to move around. The covers are edged with 1x3 inch lumber so they fit snugly like the cover of a shoebox.
I built the coldframes with the plan of growing some greens for winter harvest, but then realized I can start using them before that. I am going to try placing them over one of the beds I use for lisianthus and try planting out the lisianthus directly into the beds in mid-April. Hopefully this will bring in an earlier crop of lisianthus.