Oh normal Minnesota spring, you’ve been vexing me. I started seeds in February. The plan at that time was to get the hoop house on top of the stock tank in early March, to give it a few weeks of protection from snow and hope that it would thaw quickly.
Then we had a flooded, frozen garage, and couldn’t access the hoop house (or my bike) for a good part of March. On Easter Sunday, with seedlings quickly outgrowing their starting containers, I bought some bagged compost (my pile is still frozen) and went out there with my shovel. The top 2-3 inches were fine, but the soil was frozen solid beneath that.
All week long I cursed it, pleaded with it, poured water on it, and generally picked at it with my shovel, waiting for that ice to clear up. It finally *mostly* did overnight last night, and we had a beautiful 50 degree (F) sunny day today, so in went the plants!
My junior master gardeners took a break from making mud pies and helped me with snow peas at the back of the tank. I’d been soaking the seeds in a wet paper towel for a few days in the refrigerator. I get much better germination rates from peas when I pre-soak.
I laid out my toilet paper roll plants, which did end up holding together OK in the end. Back row is peas (not yet sprouted), then winter density lettuce, a highly-recommended (by me) romaine-type. Third row from the back is swiss chard and spinach mixed together. Front row is mesclun lettuce. (For reference, this tank is 6 feet long.)
I planted a few winter density lettuces in their roll, but I quickly realized they would probably be happier if I unrolled the roll and plopped just the root ball in. Some held together better than others. The wild arugula, in particular, was a disaster. I don’t think it’s worth it to start that stuff inside—it does not thrive under artificial light.
Everything planted, extra mesclun lettuce seed scattered, watered, and hoop house added to the top. The plants were overdue for transplanting; as you can see many of them look rather floppy and pathetic. But, in the past, I’ve seen them mostly recover from this state. They are in an environment that is protected from wind and pouring rain, but will still get plenty of sunlight (around 6-8 hours a day).
I am SO happy to have this done. Now… when will I get my first harvest? Also, will they survive this week? (Forecast is a bit on the cold side.)
April 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm
Sounds like you’re off to the races! Those tanks are so great, I’ve always liked the look of what you’re doing with them. Here’s hoping your seedlings flourish.
April 8, 2013 at 6:54 pm
I’m doing the Elliot Coleman method of micro-climates and have kale, pac choi and other lettuces thriving in no heat in very northern VT – the pac choi is flowering!!! (Also zone 4) They just need to have a low hoop over them, inside the greenhouse, to become more able to withstand the cold.