Winter Gardening

Ready for the photo shoot.

Ready for the Park City Magazine photo shoot.

Wow! I can hardly believe how long it’s been since I blogged here at Becoming Beehive. To the five of you kind enough to follow me…I am sorry…I promise to do better going forward. My goal for 2015 is to grow this blog into something useful for you and me…gardening, cooking, sight-seeing, getting involved in the local community, and more. My time away from Becoming Beehive hasn’t been wasted, however. I have been busily working at various projects and putting down roots. One thing I’m most excited about is being featured in Park City Magazine this spring. Photographer Doug Burke, was here a few months ago taking great photos and writer Wendy Lavitt interviewed me this past week. Wendy said she will mention Becoming Beehive in her article, so I’d better get writing and give visitors something to read.

As you know, we are in the heart of winter. This is a time of dormancy for plants and many gardeners. Because I’m always looking for a challenge, I decided to give winter gardening a try this year. The two best resources I found on the subject came from: 1) the book Backyard Winter Gardening by Utah native Caleb Warnock; and 2) blogger Cathy Rehmeyer of Mother of a Hubbard. Caleb made me believe it was possible to winter garden in Utah and Cathy showed me how to do it.

What I particularly like about Cathy is that her posts on winter gardening are practical and informative. She’s not Martha Stewart on steroids…she’s much more down to earth. On her welcome page, Cathy writes:

If you’re here because you want to learn how to grow a lot of your own food, all year round, in a little bit of space, then you’re in the right place. I grow the majority of food that is served at our family table, an endeavor that many people assume is impossible for the average American family. But we ARE the average American family —  my husband and I both work full-time jobs (I’m a medical school professor), and we are raising two young children in the midst of a growing city.

After reading her welcome message and doing a bit of research on Mother of a Hubbard, I decided to go for it. The first step was to build a winter hoop house.

If you’re not familiar with a hoop house, it’s a simple design of rebar, pvc piping, clear plastic sheeting, and some clamps. In essence, you put rebar into the ground, put one end of your pvc piping over the rebar, bend the piping over to the rebar on the opposite side of your soon-to-be enclosed area, and cover everything with plastic sheeting. Cathy describes it in better detail here.

My hoop house is about 8′ long by 4.5′ wide. It took about one hour to build and cost about $50. It would have taken less time if I’d been just a bit more “handy” and mathematical. In other words, I struggled with my calculations!

Ideally, one would build the hoop house in late August when the time comes for sowing autumn seeds. I, however, waited much too late and so decided to build my hoop house over some existing plants that were thriving in the garden.

Kale, parsley, spring onions and lemon balm...going into the hoop house.

Kale, parsley, spring onions and lemon balm…going into the hoop house.

If you look closely at the second photo in today’s posting, you can see the plants inside the hoop house. To ensure they wouldn’t freeze over the winter, I bought two heat bulbs, like light bulbs but used for creating warmth, with clamps attached from Home Depot and secured them to the pvc piping inside the hoop house. The only other purchase I made was an extension cord to provide electricity to the heat bulbs. Here’s how it all looked in early December:

So…things were going along swimmingly for months until very recently. I opened the hoop house to discover something was eating the kale. And despite what the photo immediately above this text shows, I was not leaving the hoop house open. A few days later, I pulled up the plastic sheeting from the snow to discover the kale was gone. A few days later, the parsley was being nibbled on and so it went until, you guessed it, everything was gone!

I wasn’t prepared for the decimation. When I started this project, it hadn’t occurred to me that mice or voles would sneak their way into my lovely warm hoop house and feast. Having since done a little more research…I understand it’s a pretty common problem. I haven’t yet reached out to Cathy at Mother of a Hubbard to ask her how she avoids this problem, but I plan to and will report back the news.

I am disappointed by the results of this winter garden experience, but not defeated. On the upside, I’m ready for growing seedlings this year! When the weather warms up a bit, I’ll put some kind of a pot system inside the hoop house, with wire mesh underneath and along the sides to prevent mice and voles from chomping away at the tender plants. Of course, as I go along, I’ll take lots of notes and photos and share them with you.



About kaybecomingbeehive

Hi. Thanks so much for visiting Becoming Beehive. My husband and I moved to Utah a little over seven years ago with two kids in tow. Before taking the plunge, we used to spend about ten weeks a year visiting all around the state. Summer was our favorite time to be here because it was always so quiet…not at all like Jackson Hole. And, being skiers, we liked winter here too. So, we thought…why not live the dream? Well, “the dream” wasn’t nearly as easy to obtain as it looked on paper! Yes, we made a spreadsheet of "Pros" and "Cons" before packing up our belongings and moving. On paper the "Pros" won out…the reality was very different. What we didn't count on was how long it would take us to adjust. New schools, new friends, new environment kicked our butts. To be fair, my husband took to Utah like a fish to was me and our kids who did not. But, I'm happy to write, that finally, seven years later, the clouds of doubt have lifted and we're all enjoying our new hometown. We've got lots of friends, our kids have settled into their respective schools, and we love the weather because it's ideal for living large outdoors. And that takes me to the point of Becoming Beehive. This blog has evolved since it first started and it will continue to evolve as the months slip by into years. I'm still an organic master gardener and scratch cook...but that's not all I want this blog to be about any more. This blog is about what our family is discovering, what we’re doing, and how our life in transition is going (isn't everyone and everything always in transition?). I'm writing it for myself, for our friends who live elsewhere in the world, and for people who might be thinking about doing the same thing we did ~ making a crazy big move. I hope you enjoy what you read here. I welcome your comments and questions.
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