Feeding the Caterpillar

let the sun shine in!

March 18, 2012

The weather this past weekend and this week has been unbelievable.  As I’ve been walking out to the South-East garden to vent the hoop house in a short-sleeved t-shirt, I have had to remind myself that it is only mid-March. The sky is a brilliant blue, the air crisp and clean, the buds on the trees are beginning to swell, and temperatures in the seventies and eighties! This is hard to beat. A gardener’s dream.

For a few weeks now, daily temperatures in the hoop house have been rising into the eighties and budging ninety. It’s so wonderful to step inside the hoop house and feel the warmth. The little plants are loving it too. However, too much of a good thing (ninety degree temps) can stress the plants. That’s when I knew it was time to let some of the warm air out and the cool air in.

On Sunday, Jamie and I, took down the inside layer of plastic in the hoop house. While I held one end of the plastic overhead, Jamie unscrewed the screws. As the first section came down so did the condensation. A little rain shower on Jamie’s head! Jamie poked the remaining overhead sections bringing down the water droplets as he sang, “I wonder what it would be like to be the rain maker…..” We both laughed as I reminded him that this (the plastic) was coming down a lot easier than it went up.

With the second layer down, the inside of the hoop house was a lot brighter. It’s surprising how a second layer can block an additional 30% of sunshine. But that is the trade-off for an extra layer of warmth.

adjusting the string that will hold the window open

I pulled the vents open on the north side as Jamie lifted the windows on the south side. A nice gentle breeze flowed through immediately.

Two kale plants that wintered-over in the hoop house. Now they are growing new leaves. They are so good right off the plant.

In the afternoon, I went to the shed to dig out an old Garden Weasel tool.

Garden Weasel

I’ve had this tool for years but never found it to be very useful. The summer soil was always hard and dry and the weasel did very little to loosen it up or remove the weeds. When we put up the caterpillar last week, I had hilled up the soil within the caterpillar so it would dry out.

Now a week later, the soil was moist and clumpy. I thought I’d give the garden weasel a try. And try I did ,with much success! It broke down the clumps and evened out the planting surface. I worked from the outside edges of the caterpillar, moving it back and forward towards the center.

Garden weasel doing a fine job.

With the soil ready, it was planting time.

Seedlings and Dr Earth Organic fertilizer

seedlings inside the caterpillar tunnel

A little fertilizer goes into each hole.

Somewhere around 120 transplants in the caterpillar! Everything from lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, broccoli. cabbage, arugula, tatsoi and joi choi (both are Japanese greens).

With the expected heat this week, I added a row cover to the underside of the plastic to act as shade cloth. I wanted to give those new seedlings a little shade from all this intense heat that is coming our way.

Every morning, I open up the hoop house and pull up the sides of the caterpillar. Every evening, I give them a little water and cover them back up for the night.

Three days later everything is doing well expect for the cat’s thinking that the caterpillar is their new digging ground. Today, I found five holes where plants should have been. I was hoping the cats would help out with the rodent watch instead they’re de-planting! Naughty kitties!

Busby likes hanging out in the garden


7 thoughts on “Feeding the Caterpillar

  1. It’s so fun to read about all your gardening. Sounds like it’s been a successful spring so far! But tut-tut to those naughty kitties! 😀

    • Thanks Ada, it’s been a new adventure trying to out beat the winter here in Maine. But I must say it’s been a lot of fun watching and waiting to see what will grow. I think we’ll see some good results very soon. As for the cats, they are avid hunters so I’ll have to take the digging in trade for a captured mouse or vole. ;-0

  2. Any concerns for the seedlings now that the cold weather is coming back this week? Or will the plastic covering be enough to protect them. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around this winter gardening. 🙂
    My peas that I planted last Sunday are just popping through the soil…but we have had 80° weather this past week. Hoping for the best!

    • The plastic should protect the transplant but I am going to take another precaution. This afternoon, I’m going to lay some row cover fabric over the plants. This should give them an addition 8-10 degrees of protection. Hopefully, the night temperatures will improve later this week.

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