My First Harvest of the Season

Using Low Tunnels Home Garden

 

I’m excited to report that I’ve already harvested from my garden twice this season! If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen the photos I’ve been posting of the front yard hoop (or low tunnel) I built this winter.

After reading The Year Round Vegetable Gardener last summer I was inspired to create a low tunnel for my fall crops to see how long I could get them to survive into winter. Each year I overwinter spinach in my garden because it can survive the extreme low temperatures of Wisconsin, but not much else lives past November in the garden. As you can see below I had good success keeping arugula, baby bok choy and turnips alive.

 

Winter Vegetable Gardening

The hoop on November 15 after a snow storm.

We were hosting Christmas dinner last December and that morning I went out to the garden to harvest a salad for our guests. What I found was not a fun Christmas surprise. A neighborhood rodent, probably a vole, ate pretty much everything under the hoop and left mounds of dug up soil in her wake. I was able to harvest a small amount of the leftovers for dinner, but my experiment was ruined so I removed the greenhouse plastic to discourage anything from taking up residence in there for the winter.

 

Growing Vegetables in Winter

My harvest on December 1 – salad greens and turnips.

After using the low tunnel for a few months last fall and winter I already knew I didn’t like the design.  It was difficult to get in and out of it when harvesting. I always start with the most simple solution in the garden, but in this case it wasn’t functional so I decided to get a little more complicated.

I did some research and consulted an old handout from a class I took several years ago and redesigned the hoop.  I set it up on one of my raised beds in early March and planted eleven different crops in the bed as a test: spinach, two types of salad mix, carrots, peas, radish, turnip, tatsoi, mizuna, arugula and cilantro.

 

Garden Low Tunnel

My new hoop design.

A week ago on April 21 I harvested my first large bowl of salad greens. It was so much fun to have a big harvest so early in the season! I have since harvested another large bowl and should be able to do so more frequently as things start to grow more quickly. The photo at the top of this post shows what the bed looks like under the hoop this week.

 

Early Spring Planting Vegetable Garden

My first harvest of greens on April 21.

 

I’m still working out the kinks in my design and with my timing. As I learn more about this process of extending the season I’ll definitely be sharing it here on this blog.

 

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