March Madness

Seeing green!

Since late December, I’ve had my head wrapped around growing something, anything, inside the realm of winter. The fever all started with the raising of the hoop house. An early planting in late January has not yielded very much. Feeling a bit drained, I went back to reading, research and waited for a new opportunity. Luckily, time was on my side. The hour of daylight was lengthening and the nighttime temperatures were rising.

With March came the second planting and much better growing results. Two week after sowing the seeds, the spinach is already the same size as the spinach of the first sowing. (Cold soil, cold temperatures, and low pH levels may all have contributed to the lack of growth from the first sowing.)

Planting from a month ago. Not growing very well.

Eight-one degrees in March! In the hoop house that is.

Temperatures in the hoop house were now reaching into the seventy and eighties. Vigorous growth is becoming evident despite the hands of Winter clutching to his last chilling spell, but not for long. March may have come in like a lion (a foot of snow on March 1st), but Spring is moving in with leaps and bounds. With two days in the fifties, I was eager to fill another bed in the hoop house.

Third row ready to be seeded.

However, I had new concerns. It is my goal to have veggies to sell at Sanford’s first farmer’s market in May. If I was going to make that first market, I needed plants to grow for a timely harvest. I also needed to sow seeds at regular intervals for a continuous harvest. More seeds=more produce.

But how was I going to do this when the hoop house was reaching it’s growing capacity? I have trays full of seedlings waiting to be transplanted. Do I dare say I need another hoop house already? Ya maybe, but not before I can prove this venture is going to be profitable.

seedlings in the dining room

seedling by the wood stove

Problem+thinking=solution. I needed more growing room. Temperatures were rising. The ground was thawing. What could warm the ground, create an environment for cold weather crops and protect young plants from cold nights? Answer: A caterpillar tunnel!

What in the world? Have I really gone mad? No, not at all. The definition of a caterpillar tunnel is…a segmented tunnel — constructed of PVC pipe, re-bar, and rope. They can be up to 300 feet long, and don’t require flat ground. An inexpensive variation of a hoop house!

So with nine pieces of 10′ plastic electrical conduit, scrap piece of re-bar cut to 18″, a 12′ x 52′ piece of plastic and a spool of orange marking string (something we had on hand) a caterpillar was morphed.

10' plastic electrical conduit

There may be 4 inches of mud out here, but we were determined to build a caterpillar!

Pounding in the re-bar through the mud and frost.

The pipe slides over the re-bar pins.

Nine hoops spaced six feet apart.

A tension rope is secured at one end, wrapped around the top of each hoop and secured at the other end to a pin in the ground.

12' x 52' piece of plastic draped over the top of the hoops.

All it takes is a string to hold the plastic in place. I love simple construction.

tying the string to the hoop.

The end of the caterpillar is gathered and tied to the end post.

With just a few materials and a couple of hours (first-timers) a caterpillar tunnel was born.

The March Caterpillar

From madness to gladness. 😉

After the mud dries, it will be planting time!


3 thoughts on “March Madness

  1. This guy is a freakin genius!n Did you see this plan somewhere? This is just to start them right? How do you get in there to tend to them? Do you plan on building more down the road or just use that one? Many questions but so fascinated over what you and Jamie are doing up there. Love reading your stories and sharing your “Dreams” J.

  2. I planted some lettuce and brussel sprouts last Friday and just noticed today that a few have popped up out of the soil. So exciting!! After reading your posts I want to get things planted outside as soon as I can.

  3. How cool is this?!! I have the same question as Jeff…do you have to crawl in on your belly or do you lift off the plastic to work and then put it back on? This is amazing! Love ya! DeeDee

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