It is more expensive to build than a garden bed hoop house, but it's also fairly permanent and can offer greater versatility. It's also several thousand times less expensive than purchasing a commercial greenhouse.
12 Simple Ways to Lengthen Your Garden's Growing Season
For those interested in building this type of hoop house, I suggest seeking out a 6 mil polyethylene material to cover the house. It will hold up longer than an inexpensive generic plastic that you might use for small garden bed hoop houses. Commercial hoop houses that are built over extremely large garden beds are referred to as high tunnels.
They're extremely tall, strong, and expensive. High tunnels offer more coverage than the average gardener usually needs.
Row covers are handiest as an organic insect control for vegetables just getting their start in the garden. Think of them as extremely short hoop houses that are used to cover a specific vegetable row instead of the entire bed. To keep hungry insects from devouring young plants, garden fabric or plastic is held up just slightly higher than the plants using heavy gauge wire that's bent into short hoops. Lightweight garden fabric used alone as a plant cover without using wire hoops for support is called a "floating row cover" and is an effective and easy-to-use technique.
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In order for any type of row cover to work, the cover should be placed over the plants before the insects show up and the cover material should be held down at the sides with soil or small rocks. Cold frames and hoop houses are used in a similar fashion. The names of these structures refer to how they are constructed rather than how they function. They're typically constructed as a bottomless box style.
They have a door or top that can be closed or raised open at different levels. A cold frame's sides and lid might be made of glass or covered in a heavy plastic sheeting or garden fabric which allows light inside, while keeping the wind and potential frost at bay. A cold frame is one of the best places to harden off tender seedlings that have started their lives being coddled indoors. At some point these youngsters have to be introduced slowly to the great outdoors that will eventually be their permanent home.
Plan Your Garden around Bay Area Growing Seasons
The cold frame aids baby plants in this disruptive environmental transition. In late winter or early spring depending on the species , place your seedlings in the outdoor cold frame for hours in the morning. Then bring them back inside. Repeat this for the next couple of days and then slowly increase the time they are in the cold frame over the next two weeks. At that point the seedlings should be spending the entire day outdoors.
When covered with row cover, the hoops and twine create a mini-greenhouse that prevents the covering from abrading plants. In September, plant in the hoophouse. You have plenty of time to get one or more crops of beets, broccoli, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, endive and escarole, greens, kale and collards, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and turnips.
Plant growth will slow as the days get shorter, but the cooler weather of fall will keep crops healthy. Plant enough that you can harvest for many weeks. Carrots can be planted for harvest all winter, in a hoophouse or low tunnel. Carrots will grow to maturity in fall but can be left in the ground to harvest as needed and they will get sweeter and more flavorful from in-ground storage.
Spinach will continue to grow most of the winter, so young leaves can be picked repeatedly. Copyright Tomatero Publications Inc.
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