Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Protecting Warm 'Blooded' Crops in Cool Weather

Now that the weather has started to improve, I have been more than eager to plant; anything and everything...I want my garden to flourish! Sometimes though, I'm a little 'gung-hoe' and begin to plant everything without regards to temperature forecasts or weather outlooks. Tomatoes, a warm weather crop; corn, zucchini, and beans all thrive and produce magnificent crops in warm sunny climates. So why then, at the first sight of sunshine and satisfyingly warm afternoons, do I immediately pull out my seeds, seedlings, a shovel, and begin to work, dig, and plant? Cognitively, I know better. I know that the sun won't be out everyday and the nights will still creep below freezing. But deep down I'm an eternal optimist...the sun is hanging high in the sky with only a few wispy clouds dancing across the horizon; a gentle breeze carries the melody of the birds across my yard and through my windows; I can finally emerge from my winter 'cave' and into the fresh air - perfection in my book. I can't contain my enthusiasm at the prospect of working in my garden, so I jump right into it! And every year...I regret my hastiness.

This year was no different. At the first inkling of nice weather emerging, I swung open my garage door and got ready to plant! This year since I've gotten my early spring crops in (some are ready to be eaten, others still have a ways to go yet but are none-the-less quite established!) I was much more secure with my decision to move back my planting date. But on the last week of May, I went for it. Everybody (plant or seed) was carefully tucked into their new home on a very warm and sunny morning.

As things tend to go in the High desert, we had a week of gorgeous weather, a week of nasty high winds and LOTS of rain, and now, this week, we have cold weather...nights are supposed to reach lows of 33-34 degrees.  My poor tomatoes!

I figure since it's only going to be cool for a little wile longer, I didn't really want to drag out my wool blankets, risk breaking my plants, and then have to wash them all when the evenings begin to warm back up. So my solution, a greenhouse tepee! I made it with scrap wood we had laying around our house, standard medium duty clear garden plastic, screws, staples, and rocks. I had everything I needed at my house and an idea...now I just needed to initiate my plan of action!

I cut my 1"x1 1/2" posts into three foot lengths (making six of them total). I took two at a time, brought them together and made a two sided tepee or an upside down 'V'. I placed a screw at the fulcrum of all three sets. I took one more of these 1"x1 1/2" posts and kept it at about the 6' length. I placed each inverted 'V' on the pavement and placed the 6' board on top (the three sets of inverted 'V's created the legs to support the long post across the top creating the top of my tepee greenhouse). After securing them all together with screws, I cut down my plastic to fit and stapled it into place. Now I have something that is light, easy to move, and should provide enough of a barrier against the nights' elements to protect my tomatoes (I used rocks to act as stakes to keep it from shifting or blowing off).

Eagerness doesn't have to end in disaster...we just have to adapt. Make the most of what you have and you will be pleasantly surprised what you can come up with!


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