Off-Grid and Free: Gardening North of the 56th Parallel (with Video)


The cool, rainy spring we had this year has set our garden back a bit and now we're trying to catch up. Unfortunately, summer has proved to be abnormally rainy also. Seems like it's either feast or famine since last year was unusually dry. We had a good 7 feet of beautiful sandy beach last year, and today, there is none. In fact, the dock is almost under water.

Being above the 56th parallel, we have a short growing season with potential for frost at any time throughout the summer months. Winter has a nasty habit of sticking with us even though the calendar may say "spring."

Start Early with Hoop Houses

One of the ways we get an early start to the gardening season is by setting up hoop houses. All planted seedlings get a fabric cover of N-Sulate Frost Fabric, a medium-weight, permeable, UV-treated cloth which raises the temperature beneath it by 6 to 8 degrees. We have found this product to be far superior to Reemay both in its durability (our sheets are going on 10 years old) and for its greater frost protection.

Even if you live in the milder climes of the United States, using N-Sulate will allow you to get your garden off to a much earlier start with earlier harvests. We suspend this material over wire hoops so it's not laying directly on the plants.

Finally, over the growing beds, we set up hoops of PVC pipe which are covered with greenhouse plastic to give a few more degrees of protection. A few years we've had the hoop houses partially collapsing from the weight of late spring snows and yet our plants, including tender corn seedlings, survived just fine.

8/8/2016 11:10:25 AM

Your video was beautifully done! Who took care of your animals while you were doing your Appalachian hike and biking trips? Do you still have animals at your homestead in Canada? (I assume you have chickens, at least, if you have cakes and cookies.) Was moving to Canada difficult in terms of citizenship and acquiring the land? I hope that's not too nosy, but I'm just curious.

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