Do you remember when we built our hoop house last summer, Gentle Readers? I wrote several posts about the process, beginning with this one, so you can read all about it. Right now. Or, later. It was a big, expensive, time-consuming project. We called in favors from lots of our favorite people who actually didn’t even owe us any favors–my brother Matt, my brother-in-law Dave, my Dad, son Timothy, my Mom, daughters Bethany and Amalia, son Andrew, our nephews Adam, Davey, and Luke, and of course our little Mack, to name just a few. It was a huge group project. We all breathed a dizzy sigh of relief when it was finally erected and I could plant in it. Especially me. Except that my sigh of relief actually was a giddy sigh of happy anticipation, because I couldn’t wait to plant it full!
That was early August last year, when I finally planted a fall garden in my new hoop house. And then it all felt like a huge experiment, especially once we pulled the poly over the top, later that fall. I suppose that’s because it was a huge experiment.
I didn’t know what I was doing. A friend mentioned to me that there were lots of resources online for how to plant inside hoop houses, and that it would behoove me to study them before I started. I never looked at a one. I didn’t have the time. Imagine! I was too busy hauling manure and rototilling and planting seedlings in that vast protected space! I was in gardener’s heaven, Gentle Readers, ignorant and happy, and fine with it.
Plunk me down anywhere with some good soil, some well-aged manure, and a few seeds and watch me smile. 🙂 <—-like this!
That thick layer of plastic–it seems to be the key, of course, to why the hoop house is so valuable. It protects the plants inside from winds, storms, hail, and extreme temperatures that our Nebraska weather will invariably bring. It doesn’t protect from everything–I’ve been finding my younger chickens inside the hoop house, for example, and bugs still get in there–and the dogs and the kids can still crash about in there–sigh--but it does provide lots of protection against most perils. Here in Nebraska, our weather is variable and sometimes hostile, nearly always windy, sometimes very dry, and rainstorms–when they come–can do a great deal of damage. But the hoop house protects from most of that nastiness. AND I can control how much water my hoop house plants get. And how they get the water.
A nice drip system, for example, is so much gentler than, say, a driving rain (mixed with hail) that comes down in buckets. Mixed with straight line winds to make you cringe in your basement for an hour. Say. Or even scary swirly winds that could swoop down and just sweep it allll away. *shuddering*
Well. Nobody ever accused Nebraska of having boring weather.
So last fall, I planted a superb fall garden in my hoop house, although I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I was delighted to harvest the nicest turnips and the most beautiful carrots and leeks and winter radishes and so forth that I had ever harvested before. I was astonished.
Everything flourished. Every crop got so big. Everything was so healthy and beautiful.
I took a lot of pictures, if you want to see more.
But that was then. This is now. I was uncertain, at first, about when to even plant my seedlings into the hoop house this spring. We had an unusually cold and wet spring, and I kept waiting for it to warm up a bit . . . and waiting . . . and finally just said those words that all farmers eventually say with a shrug:
And now, enough yakkin’. I’ll let the pictures of the wild riotous mess in the hoop house tell the rest of the story . . .
These tomato plants are fully twice as big, in height and girth, as their brothers outside the hoop house.
Here’s a big yeller tomato I just picked this week.
I planted several kinds of blue tomatoes in the hoophouse. Take a gander:
I’m very excited about these tomatoes. This from the Baker Creek catalog description of the Blue Berries Tomato: ” . . . very dark purple color, which means it’s super-rich in anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants). Unripe, the fruits are a glowing amethyst purple. At maturity they turn deep red where the fruit was shaded; the areas that received intense sunshine are a purple so deep it’s almost black! The flavor is intensely fruity, and sugar-sweet!
Here’s another blue one:
Basically, from what I’ve read, if you see a blue fruit or vegetable, you really need to just eat it immediately, it’s so good for you. Every time I pop one of those Blue Berries tomatoes into my mouth, I feel myself getting younger. 🙂 Pretty soon I’m going to feel like a 15-year-old again, I just know it. 🙂
I planted over half of the hoop house in flowers, which I cut and make into bouquets for farmer’s market every week.
They are all doing so well. No wind to throw them around!
Everything else in the hoop house–peppers, kale, and a few other odds and ends–are similarly freakishly lush. The sweet peas are beginning to fade and the snapdragons are, too, and the glads are nearly finished, so I’m actually looking forward to pulling out that entire bed, and starting my fall garden in the hoop house. More about that next week!
I think this year’s experiment was a success. What do you think?