Winter Vegetables in Your Hoop House


| 12/24/2014 8:46:00 AM


Tags: vegetables, gardening, Virginia, Pam Dawling,

We are amazed at how incredibly productive our hoop house is, infinitely better than a cold frame! The rate of growth of cold-weather crops is much faster inside; the crop quality, especially leafy greens, is superb. Plants can tolerate lower temperatures than outdoors, as they have the pleasant daytime conditions in which to recover. Salad greens in a hoop house can survive nights with outdoor lows of 14 degrees Fahrenheit (–10 degrees Celsius). Winter gardening in a hoophouse is much more pleasant than dealing with frozen row covers and hoops outdoors.

Hoophouse winter lettuce mix

Hoop House Winter Veggies

We grow mainly salad crops, cooking greens, turnips, radishes, scallions and bare root transplants for setting outdoors in February and March. We aim to harvest greens from the hoophouse after the outdoor crops slow down, and the turnips after the stored outdoor fall turnips have all been eaten, or as an occasional delectable alternative.

Daily Hoop House Tasks In Winter

We reckon on two hours work each day in winter in our 96- by 30-foot-high tunnel. Aim to keep the temperature in the 65 degrees Fahrenheit – 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius – 27 degrees Celsius) range during the day, opening the windows and doors as needed. If the sun is shining we usually open the windows around 9 am and close them around 2:30 pm (a few hours before dark) to store some of the warmth. Even in cold weather, plants need fresh air! High-density cropping can really use up the carbon dioxide in a closed hoophouse very quickly. When this happens, photosynthesis crashes and plant growth becomes limited. Soil high in organic matter contains high levels of organisms that produce carbon dioxide, which helps. Dense plant canopies can trap this near soil level, where it is most useful.

Our main task each day is harvesting. In the winter of 2009–2010, we had frozen soil or snow on the ground outside for a month (very unusual in central Virginia). Despite this we were able to keep a hundred people in fresh salad and cooking greens (with turnips and scallions for variety) for the whole month. Aside from harvesting, jobs include planting new crops, clearing old ones, spreading compost, hoeing, hand weeding and supplying water as needed. We have drip irrigation. In the middle of winter, not much water is needed, and we try to only water when a relatively mild night is forecast.

Tatsoi




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