Thursday, April 03, 2008

Signs of Spring!

After about 2 weeks of impatiently scanning the ground, I finally saw it just the other day. The asparagus is here!

Now, you might think I'm excited simply because it's spring or because it's finally asparagus season, and you'd be right, of course. But the important bit of information you'd be missing is that this is our first asparagus season. That's right, this year officially marks the asparagus crowns' 3rd season, which means that we can harvest with abandon this year. Look out asparagus cuz here we come!

The high tunnel has been a huge success this year. So successful in fact that we'll be constructing another one this fall right next to this one, giving over the entire kitchen garden to winter growing. Funny, what started out as a huge garden when we first moved in, now looks to be about the right size for the season most people least associate with fresh foods. Look how amazing that looks!

This high tunnel isn't elegant, but it's simple, relatively inexpensive, easy, and durable. The most expensive part of this project was the plastic. I went with 4 year/ 6 mil greenhouse plastic, which has withstood even our highest winds. For the hoops we used 4' rebar and 10' pvc electrical tubing with the flared ends; the end panels are just 2" x 4"s. We trenched the sides and buried the plastic, using the frozen earth to help hold the plastic in place. (In retrospect, I wonder if this affords some protection from vole penetration, though they certainly could figure out how to tunnel further under.) You can read more about the construction here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Really, this is so simple and affordable that pretty much anyone could have greens year round. Areas with heavy snowfall would need to figure out how to shore up the hoops to avoid collapse. Where we are in Maryland, I simply go out and knock the snow off periodically during a storm. We'll soon be taking the plastic down, but leaving the hoops up to support shade cloth during the high summer season, hopefully enabling us to grow lettuces successfully year round.


Country Girl said...

Do you heat the greenhouses in the winter? My goal is to 4 season garden but we need to get set up with some green houses and/or a sun room.

Anonymous said...

Yay on the asparagus!! Last year was our first year too and it was so worth the wait. And I am also so excited you also posted pics of the greenhouse. I always think I'm the only fool out there blathering on about mine! I also think your method means ANYONE can have one, so...go ahead to the hardware store. (A minor geeky correction: it's #4 rebar, and it's, what, 12' long? or 10'? stuck into the ground a foot or two? Just to give folks a shopping list is all. Gotta get more folks DIY.)

Danielle said...

No supplemental heat, which is why I try not to call it a greenhouse. Sometimes I slip though. We're very low-tech here. A friend once told me that we looked straight out of Mother Earth News, and I think that was a compliment. ;)

El, actually it is 4' #4 rebar. We bought short rebar because it's so friggin impossible to bend and notorious for shattering while trying to do so. It's driven into the ground about 2' with 2' sticking out to anchor the pvc. It would certainly be stronger if the rebar went the whole way through, and there are ways to bend it even without a rebar bending tool. We just didn't do it here. I think that would be one great way to reinforce it for snow weight in regions that get more winter precipitation.

You used a kit didn't you? Your's looks so nice and upscale in the photos. And yes, I geek out over high tunnels—why do you think I gush over your blog. *grin*

Ren Allen said...

I love it.
We were talking about doing a small tunnel for winter protection, in addition to a cold frame but now I'm wondering if we could do a large one. That is awesome!

Danielle said...

Ren, a really great book if you don't already have it is Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest. He grows up in New England, so it's very possible. He talks about using row covers within the high tunnel, which I think El might do too. We didn't need them here, so I can't imagine you would either.

The biggest challenge of growing in the winter is the lack of light. Plants just kind of hunker down and don't do any active growing, so you need to be sure that you have stuff in the ground early enough to establish itself before the short days hit.

My recommendation would be to go for the high tunnel. I had both low and high tunnels here this year and absolutely hated my low tunnels. I won't do them again. Cold frames might not be quite as much of a p.i.a., but I'd still go with the high tunnel given the choice.

Another advantage to the high tunnel is that it's one of my favorite places to be in the winter. It's peaceful, out of the wind, like a little cocoon, and it smells so yummy with all the greens. Jim said in Japan nearly all the homes had tunnels and huge gardens in the backyards.

Madeline Rains said...

That's right! I'd forgotten that about Japan. Seeing them from a train window helped inspire Nicolas to get them years ago. Congratulations on the third year of asparagus. I think that is as exciting as it gets. I can't wait for ours (finished next year).

Ren Allen said...

I showed Bleu your tunnel and he has it in his head that he wants to build a wood frame and cover it...something permanent like. We'll see....I still think the tunnel is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Great blog! I came over here from El's blog. About the asparagus--I planted two-year-old crowns earlier this Spring--does that mean I can start to harvest next year???

Danielle said...

Connie, unfortunately no. The rule of thumb when planting or transplanting asparagus is 3 years to enable the roots to become well established.

There's a little rhyme that goes something like: year 1, touch none; year 2, just a few; year 3, be free...or something like that. It's hard to wait, but I didn't harvest any the first or second years.