The weather in my part of the US has not been friendly to many of my seedlings. Too many cool (and sometimes cold) days since the middle of May have stunted their growth. In fact, I lost cucumber seedlings, the first time ever.
Hoop house enclosure for raised bed (see pics below)
We constructed a hoop enclosure after a few days of this weather, and that helped them survive. It was constructed with 5 pieces of 1/2″ PVC pipe, attached about every 4 ft., to the sides of the raised bed with 2-hole galvanized straps. The plastic was 8×25 ft., 4MM thick, and purchased in the paint department at a local store. Since the bed is 4×16, we trimmed the 25ft. length to fit with a little overhang so that it covered the ends. We stretched the plastic out and cut reliefs on one side so it would not be caught in the pipe when we rolled it. We placed one 20 ft. 1″ PVC pipe centered along the long end, about 3-4 inches above the edge. Then we measured 8 ft. from the center of the pipe on both ends (16 ft. total) and made a slit that went from the edge up about 8 inches into the plastic. The 2 ft. overhang of pipe on each end was used for the handles. Then we folded that part that was slit out of the way so as not to get glue on it. We sprayed the adhesive (contact cement) up and down the pipe (the 16ft of plastic between the slits as well) and about 6-8 inches of plastic (from the edge) total and let it set for 5 minutes to get tacky. Then we carefully folded the edge over the pipe and stuck it to the rest of the plastic we had sprayed with the contact cement. We used pressure along the whole edge so that it was adhered. Once dry, we rolled it up and carried it to the planter box and placed it on one 16 ft. side of the planter box. We found the opposite side of the plastic and attached it to each 1/2″ pipe with squeeze clamps. It was then easy to pull the opposite side with the glued pipe up and over the hoops. The weight of the pipe keeps the plastic in place. The excess at the 4 foot ends were secured with 1x4x4 pieces of wood. It works equally well to roll the plastic with the handles up and over the hoops.
I mulched heavily, fertilized, and made sure the plants had plenty of water. And it wasn’t until a few days ago, when temps finally climbed into the 70s and 80s, when they began to grow instead of merely existing.
Adventures in Potato Planting
I decided to grow potatoes this year using grow bags, and they are doing well. I planted russets and yellow gold potatoes the beginning of May, and I’ve already mounded the dirt around most of the stalks and then mulched heavily. My husband constructed a bench to put them on since a couple of our dogs tend to nibble on either the mulch or the dirt underneath.
The last bunch of seed potatoes, a red variety, were planted about 10 days ago-actually half of them were planted, and the other half were planted a few days later. The first set is already sprouting above soil, and the rest are just beginning to peek through the mulch. To save time (and money!), we used old doors (encased in 2 garbage bags) and set them on some wooden supports and extra concrete blocks we found in the barn.
Because cucumbers and squash come in 3-cell plastic containers, I had excess plants. I placed these in grow bags, too, and discovered that those in the bags fared much better than those in the raised bed. The black bags seem to retain heat, thus keeping the soil warm. Next year, we will cover the raised bed that contains cucumbers and squash for a few weeks before planting to warm up the soil.
I had overlooked many cucumbers last year because they were intertwined with tomatoes and squash, and they were quite large. A few weeks ago my husband constructed an obelisk out of rough lumber to train them upwards. Of course, we had to remove it when we covered the bed with the plastic.
We haven’t had a lot of rain lately, and after one day in the 80s, the temps will plummet again into the 60s for the next few weeks (with lows in the 50s), so we will definitely need to cover the squash and cucumbers with the plastic.
As to the tomatoes, I purchased less, but still had enough left over to place in grow bags. Eight of them were planted in the concrete block raised bed, less than last year, to ensure better air circulation. I planted gourmet lettuce seeds in the corners of the planter.
In Part 2, I will write about the flower end of the 2022 gardening season here.
Thank you for reading!