In addition to tilling and digging and raking and pruning the garden, planting the summer vegetables, tending to the yard and all the other things to do around here, Bruce and I have been working on a few special projects in our spare time.
The first project which is mostly done, I think, is the hoop house. I think of it as a chicken coop, but it is a type of greenhouse.
“A hoop house is just what the name suggests, a series of large hoops or bows — made of metal, plastic pipe or even wood — covered with a layer of heavy greenhouse plastic. The skin is stretched tight and fastened to baseboards with strips of wood, metal, wire or even used irrigation tape and staples. You can build one for a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars.
A backyard hoop house can make it seem like you moved your garden hundreds of miles to the south. You can count on four to six weeks of extra production in spring and fall. By adding an inner layer of cover inside a hoop and picking cold-hardy varieties, you can grow right through winter — even in the coldest climates. A hoop house usually has no heater or ventilation fan. It is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind, providing that you remember to open the vents in the morning and close them in the afternoon.”
Bruce had help, in March, from our friend, Jeffrey Jenks, and the house is now full of plants and some blueberry bushes. I don’t have much to say about the labor on this project, but I know it involved a lot of measuring and leveling and trying to figure out how to keep the wind from blowing the cover away. I think it looks grand, and the plants seem to love it. For now Bruce is using it to transition plants from the regular greenhouse to the ground. So the plants start as seeds in the greenhouse in late winter, get moved to the hoop house in the spring, and into the ground in late spring.
The second project grew from Bruce wanting a way to label the plants out in the garden plot so we can easily see what we have. We had gone to the Master Gardener once a year Trash to Treasures sale and I found a whole boatload of metal stakes which gave me a great idea. I took the stakes, cleaned them up, taped off a section, painted them with one of three colors of nail polish, and wrote the name of one type of plant on each stake with a Sharpie pen. I think they look splendid and they really stand out in the garden, plus they are easy to read. If I remember correctly, I made eighty of these beauties! Does that tell you anything about the size of Bruce’s garden?
The third project may be the best of all. Last year we went to a local place to pick strawberries. I had read about this method of growing berries but hadn’t seen it until that day. The berries are all grown in PVC pipes about 3-4 feet off the ground. This makes for excellent strawberry picking! We had intended to pick one or two pints, but we picked a whole flat and only stopped because the box was full. So Bruce got to work and we now have our own “easy to pick” strawberry plants! Bruce told me today that there are tons of berries on the plants, so with this recent hot weather, we should be picking in no time. Yum!
Bruce pounded the stakes into the ground which was a noisy job; He found a guy in town who welded the metal stands;
Bruce cut holes in the pipes and added the dirt and drip irrigation, and the plants, of course.
You can just see the beginnings of berries; the all important drip irrigation runs through the pipe
Those are the main projects so far for this year. The barn still needs to be painted, but you know there is the rain and the heat and that holds up finishing that project!