In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.


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And Just Like That, We’re Done

Today I Learned … don’t ever, ever trust the weather forecast.

It said the low would be 32 overnight. Everything in my winter bed is hardy to 28 or so. Says I to myself, if they are wrong by a few degrees, no big deal. I chose not to cover the bed with a row cover.

I chose poorly.

They were wrong by NINE degrees. The outdoor thermometer says 23 F. The bed survived one night at 26 with really bad burns on most of the kale. I can’t even bear to look at it today.

*sobs*

Well, next year by this time I will have a low tunnel installed over the winter bed, with actual greenhouse film covering it so I can leave it in place during the day. (The doubled row cover blocks too much of the weak fall sun.)  No experience is ever wasted if you learn from it, right?

Right?

*sobs*

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The Reveal

Two days ago, the forecast called for temperatures to drop into the 20s. In fact, the low hit 16 at my house. I had only two layers of row cover on my winter bed… Each layer is maybe good for 4 degrees, so it might not have been enough protection since I’d prepared it for “just” a low of 20.

Last night the temps reached 26. To be safe, I left the cover on all day yesterday. I finally removed it today, once the temps had warmed above freezing.

Voilá!

Winter gardening - following our first hard freeze

The beets looked pathetic – we’ll see if they bounce back in a few days – but everything else seems to have survived ok! A few burned leaves here and there, nothing life threatening! Much better than I was hoping for, given how cold it really got.


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The Official End of… Wait, What?

November 10, and we still haven’t had a serious frost in my immediate area. (Average date of first frost locally is October 15.) Got close a few times, but even my cherry tomatoes and pepper plants are clinging to life.

No more. Tonight, the temperature is forecasted to drop as low as 20. According to the radio reports, “Gardening season is officially over.”

…or is it?

Meet my winter raised bed! This is my latest (and so far, most serious) attempt at a “four season harvest”. Blame / credit goes to Nikki Jabour’s book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, which I found particularly inspiring as fall reading.

I planted the bed with cold hardy crops – shorter greens (like spinach and upland cress) on the edge of the bed, taller plants like kale and leeks in the center.

I’ve engineered wind breaks to help protect the box further – wind burn being even more damaging to plants than low temperatures – and tucked it in for the night with a double layer of row cover.

The pea gravel anchoring the fabric edges gave the tightest closure we’ve ever achieved. Landscaping staples always seem to leave slack which eventually loosens in the wind and allows deadly drafts.

Here’s hoping for mid-winter bounty!

P.S., the full list of plants is as follows: spinach, upland cress, beets, turnips, radishes (including daikon), lettuce, leeks and kale. I also planted carrots but they failed to germinate.


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Garden Progress March 2015

For some reason, I feel more urgency to garden this year than I have in the past. I was blaming the lingering cold and snow – nothing like being unable to start working to make you feel like you need to work!  I mean, it’s almost April. I am so. Far. Behind.

Then I checked my garden calendar from the past two years. Each of them, 2014 and 2013, had snows after March 21st. And in neither year did I even plant the first peas before the first weekend of April. So. This frantic feeling like I’m falling behind has it’s basis in… what? Possibly the shiny new detailed WVU Extension Service 2015 Garden Calendar I picked up for free at a local shop. (Local-ish, I’m near zone C in their map.)

The Calendar says right that I should be seeding things in cold frames or low tunnels, planting onion sets, seeding peas and radishes, and well, everything besides what I am actually doing: blogging about everything I haven’t started doing.

The fact that I did not “put away” my garden last fall is contributing to the panic because I am even farther “behind” considering all the clean up work I had to do. On the other hand, when I finally inspected the garden, I realized all was not lost!

Two caraflex cabbages survived the crazy winter in the cold frame. (The two left most plants in the photo – I still haven’t figured out what the rest of that is.)

Life lurking in the cold frame

Life lurking in the cold frame

I had a “low tunnel” – my first attempt at one – covered in plastic for most of the winter, though a bad storm in February shredded the plastic and exposed all the plant life. Somehow, parsnips (top) and leeks (bottom) survived the ongoing cold.  And yes, in the upper left, those are two carrots I pulled from the bed intact.  No, I didn’t try to eat them!

Life after the winter

Leeks and parsnips oh my!

This is all that remains of my strawberries. This is what happens when you don’t cover them with straw and deer netting (the netting you see there was added last week). The cold and the marauding deer population took their toll!

Nearly empty strawberry bed.

All that remains of my strawberries.

 

I have started some seeds indoors. Following the WVU Calendar. Apparently I started these tomatoes TOO soon though. I’ve got at least a month and a half before these guys can be planted in the garden, and they are already out of room under my grow lights.

Tomatoes outgrowing my grow rack

My tomatoes…compensating for my other inadequacies.

 


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The Limits of Repurposing Stuff

This spring’s lesson: don’t repurpose excess Dixie cups for starting seeds.

The wrong container for starting seeds

Man that’s gross

Seriously. Ewww. The last thing we want around baby plants is this much mold.

Now, emptied K-cups make a great holder for the hydrated peat pellets – they even have a built in hole, whereas I had to (carefully) punch a hole in the bottom of the water cups. But they were very small and all my baby plants quickly out grew them, making them almost more hassle than it was worth.

Maybe some year I’ll break down and buy some “professional” seed starting equipment… Naaaah, probably not.