Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27, 2008

Well, hectic day.  Work was frantic and stressful because it was a short day for me. I left at 2 to get my car and go to a dentist appointment.  Afterwards I took the kids to Sky Nursery to buy racoon deterrent, and then to Dunn Lumber to check out pricing on composite materials for the deck I'm building this spring.  Trex is cheaper, but Aztek is lighter, more stain and wear resistant and looks nicer.  It may be $400 more expensive for the project, but it may be worth it in the long run.  We'll see.

Anyway, when we got home I started reading all the comments I got today.  Thanks all! Keep them coming...

However, with all the vast experience helping me out, the verdict is still out on the impact this cold snap will have on my seedlings.  Judy thinks the cool-weather crops will be fine, but GardenGirl put the fear of dead seedlings in me.  Funny thing is that Alberta stopped by and commented today.  She's the one that recommended I try winter sowing.  Not sure what the difference is between winter sowing and direct seeding with a cover over it, but I decided to err on the side of caution.  It's forecast to get down to as low as 28 degrees in the next few days with a chance of snow.  In late March in Seattle... Mother Nature is not on my side right now.

So in the middle of answering a comment, I panicked and raced out to Lowes.  It was 6 pm and sundown is 7:30.  I really don't like Lowes, but they're closest and one of two megamarts open.  So after a while found the PVC in the plumbing department and got help from an electrician that worked there (/boggle).  We determined that the thinnest walled 1/2 inch pipe was 315 PSI, and he was nice enough to bend it for me into a "C" that would work.  10 feet was the way to go to give me the heigth to go over mature plants down the road (optimism speaking here).  I grabbed 5 of them and headed to find more materials.

After finding a cart that would fit 10 foot poles at the opposite end of the store I was directed to the tarps.  Well, I could choose from blue, brown or silver, but no clear...  So I head to the concrete isle and see nothing.  In garden supply at the other end of the store, a very nice employee that ended up being from paint, walked me all over the store to finish up my order. 

First off, the clear plastic WAS in with the concrete, go figure.  It was in rolls and boxes rather than flat bags.  Nothing was perfect size for what I needed.  I had figured I needed 15x20 to fit my bed and drag on the ground so I could weigh it down with bricks.  The best I could find was 10x25 in 4 mil plastic.  Actually I could have gotten 6 mil plastic for twice as much, but I went cheap since everyone has said go 3 mil or better.  4 is better... Problem was that 10' would just barely cover my beds if I made my hoops out of 10' poles.  Well, it was going on 6:45 and I didn't feel like putting this up in the dark, so I figured I'd just staple it down tonight and figure out something better later.  Lastly, I picked up zip ties to connect the top support pole to the Cs.  I didn't feel like pre-drilling and screwing them together tonight.  Further, I decided, at least temporarily, that I'd just dig them into the soil and let the walls of the beds hold them in shape. 

Before racing home, I had to pick up teryaki for the family. I dropped it off and ran outside at 7.  The PVC pipes went in easily and nicely, but unfolding the 10x25 tarp was a b*tch.  Trying to get the tarp over the frame caused it to collapse when working alone. Though after a mini-argument with my wife, she graciously came out and helped me with the tarp. Note, she was right, she shouldn't have left the kids eating dinner alone to go help me, but everything worked out and I appologized for my panic.  She loves me :)

It only took 5 minutes to do this with her help, and another five minutes to locate my stapler and staple the tarp to the bed with about 2 inches of overlap.  Note that I left the extra 5 feet on it because I didn't want to try cutting it off in my waning light.  But the more I think about it, since I don't plan on touching this set-up for several days (until the cold snap is over), I need a way to water under it, so I can just remove the bricks I used to keep the excess down and spray the bed down. 

I don't like using staples to hold it down, but the wind would whip it up and I didn't have the time or the creativity to solve the problem for the long term.  Ultimately, I'd like to be able to remove it quickly, be able to store it easily and put it back up solidly.  This isn't permanent, but it hopefully will hold up to whatever nature throws at us over the next few days and protect my carrots, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach. When I use it for extending my season and fall/winter gardening, I hope it can keep my tomatoes producing and give me 40 SF of gardening space to harvest healthy, home-grown produce in January!

So here is what my garden looks like in preparation for some cold and possibly snowy weather...

I used my last coldframe big enough (in this case slightly too big) to cover my middle bed, which has my peas and broccoli.  Since neither is very tall at the moment, I won't cook them in the sweltering 50 degree heat of the days.  Note I have left the duct tape on in case I have another oopsie.

The smallest bed got one of my 4x2 windows that could cover 2 SF sections of my beds if need be.  It's covering tiny radishes and unsprouted onions.  Again I don't think the glass is too close. 

Well, it's 10pm and a roasting 38 degrees. It may or may not snow, may or may not frost over, but I'm ready.

Lastly, after seeing Judy's Yukon Golds (they're beautiful!), I had to go up and check on mine. They're in a storage room upstairs that's currently unheated but will eventually be one of my kid's rooms.

They're beginning to sprout from the eyes, but as you can see, there are very few Buttes in a pound, so I may cut some of the bigger ones in half.    Sorry the picture's so dark. Part of the remodel will include better lighting, and it's dark outside.  I would love to plant them this weekend but with the potential for 28 degrees, I think I'll wait.

So today was very hectic, but I got a ton done, and I'm ready for anything that comes my way. Now I'm going to go outside and make sure its still standing. hehe


  1. Well, I'm glad for my microclimate. :) I'm leaving my seedlings out to the mercy of the weather. What doesn't kill them will make them stronger! Or something. Mtlk Terr definitely gets more extreme weather than being tucked up near the Ballard Locks.

  2. Wow Sinfonian! You got alot accomplished in a very short period of time! Kudos :-)

    How high is it from the bed to the top of your PVC pipe? That looks very tall. I was just thinking that with a mini-greenhouse that size, you'll be able to extend your growing season right thru the winter!

    Great job :-)

  3. Judy, I was actually debating on 8 or 10 foot pipe to make it while driving to the store. Thankfully when I got to the pluming section, all they had were 10 footers, so it was easy. I honestely didn't think it would be quite that high, but yes, it's nearly 5 feet from bed to peak.

    I had hoped to use a hoop cover to extend my growing season, and this will make it much easier. Of course, I may set up a bracket system on the outside of the beds for ease of installation later, but for now this works.

    Toasty, yeah, the closer you get to the water the milder the swings are for sure. I'm just east of I-5, so about 5 miles from the Sound. Ballard huh? I spent a great deal of my childhood there. I love the Locks. I bet you love it there! The only thing I've got going for me is a quarter acre lot, which is unheard of in the city.

    As for letting the strong survive, you've got experience, I've got a fragile confidence going here, ROFL.

  4. Its amazing what a little fear can do to a gardener. You will be very happy soon. Make sure you secure the plastic pretty tight. Looks good. Real good.

  5. Hmm, I didn't actually get the plastic too tight. I just stapled it in several places to tack it down so it didn't blow away. It's certainly not air tight yet. I'm trying to figure out a simple cheap way to get it secure when it only hangs over by about 2 inches. Grrr that I couldn't find wider plastic.

    As for fear, yeah, it's funny, but the beds seem to like the covering. And we're currently getting more snow (not sticking) and it's about 33 degrees. Fun! :(

  6. Sinfonian,

    I've read before where folks have used a couple foot lengths of rebar, or thinner diameter PVC to drive into the ground. Then you can just slide the ends of your hoops over those "stakes" to secure and orient your hoops. That might get them to line up a bit better.

    Also, you can mail order (or perhaps find locally) PVC C-clamps that are semi-circular sleeves of a slightly larger daimter PVC that can snap onto the PVC tubes. You can use those to secure you plastic or shade cloth or whatever to the PVC.

    I just got some for blueberry net frames. Last year my girlfriend sewed netting, but I think these will be faster and more convenient.

  7. Murky, I'd like to see those blueberry net frames. I may very well need them if my blueberries produce this year.

    As for the clamps, I plan on using binder clips. They should work for a while.

    For the rebar, that'd be dangerous with the kids around so I'm going to use slightly larger PVC pipe that I clamp to the bed and stick an end into it to hold it like a flag pole.

    Thanks for the comment! I try to learn from every source I can think of, but trial and error is still my nemisis.