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


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!

March brings second sowing

Hoop house update: March 7, 2012

3/7 second hoop house planting

On Sunday, March 4, I made the second planting in the hoop house. I pushed back the row cover, and added some wood ash for a potash boost to the soil.  I seeded the 18 ft row with three types of spinach, early maturing carrots, radishes, and baby-leaf lettuce.

light application of wood ash













I also transplanted several arugula plants that I started in the house. I wanted to see how well they would take to the transition from inside temps (70-75), to garage temps (40-45) to hoop house night temps of 23-32. I’m happy to report that they are doing well.

radishes and spinach to the right

The first row that I planted on 1/28 has been growing, oh so slowly, (to be expected) but it is amazing that they can tolerate nightly temperature below freezing. I would say that I have had nearly 95% germination. Many varieties are growing their true leaves now.

Today, with the temperature pushing 55 degrees outside, the hoop house reached an all-time high (since early January) of 88 degrees! I think it’s time to provide a little ventilation.

On Monday, Dad traveled to Griffin’s Greenhouse in Gray to buy some oasis cubes for starting the hoop house tomatoes. The oasis is just like the oasis used in a cut flower arrangement. One tomato seed will be inserted into each cube. After the seedlings are a week old, the cubes will be separated.

oasis planting sheets

Dad also stopped at Skillin’s Greenhouse in Falmouth to buy 3″ peat pots which will be used to transplant the tomato seedlings when they are three weeks old. I have three varieties of hoop house tomatoes that I will be starting very soon. They varieties are Geronimo, Clermon and New Girl. The plan is to have 8-12″ plants ready for the hoop house by May 1-10. That’s less than 8 weeks away!

Geronimo, hoop house variety

Garden of Weedin

March 3, 2012

One thing that I have come to know is that farmers love to share their knowledge. This doesn’t mean that they will tell you all their trade secrets, but if you show them that you are interested in the farming trade, you’ll be surprised at just how much a farmer will tell you.

It use to be that the only farmer I would take time to talk to was my dear, old dad. Of course, out of respect, I would listen to his words of wisdom. I didn’t always agree with his philosophy but I would listen and ponder and keep most of my young-maturing ideas to myself.

Over the year, when I took a stab at gardening, I would recall a thing or two that my dad had taught me and put it into practice. Most of the knowledge was good plain ol’ common sense, after all, farmers have a lot of it (sense) after years and years of trial and error.

If my gardening failed it was not because of my dad’s words of wisdom, but more of my own failure to carry through with what was required of cultivating a good gardening.

dream garden

How many of you, have had the ‘big idea’ to grow a garden? So very ambitious from the start, plotting the garden, sowing the seeds, watering and waiting.

First, the excitement of the sprouting seeds keeps us content to come back for another look, but by the time the weeds are taller and more numerous than, let’s say the bean plants, our interest has faded. It’s summer, it hot, and who want to pull weeds when you can sit by the lake and read a book. I often choose that opinion, telling myself that I would come back in the evening when it was cooler. Most time, I would not. So summer went by, and the plants produced a mediocre crop despite the knee-high weeds.

What you would expect Dad's garden to look like. Weed free.

I remember one year, I had planted a garden up at the family farm where I grew up. It was suitable in size, in that it included a sample of most crops from radishes to tomatoes; broccoli and carrots; and cabbage and beans. Everything came up and grew along with the weeds. I was a busy mom at the time and gardening (mainly weeding) was not high on my list of things to do most days.

I had planted the garden and expected it to grow on its own without my help. I neglected to weed the garden plot. It was pretty hard to tell that anything edible was growing in there and by mid-summer my dad had vowed that he would not till me a plot the following year


What my first garden looked like that summer! Weeds, weeds, weeds!

One afternoon during that summer, I was wandering through the weedy garden looking for some collectible produce. Just when I was about to give up finding anything worth picking, (only finding greens beans with seeds protruding through the sides, radishes the size of turnips, and yellow cucumbers swelled like footballs), I found cabbages the size of basketballs!

Alleluia! I put two hands around one of the monster cabbages and tried to pull it out of the ground. I pulled and pulled. (Remember the childhood story, The Tale of the Turnip, when the farmer and his wife who had to get help from the boy, the girl, the dog, the cat and the mouse to pull out the turnip!) Yup, that was me, (minus the help). Ha-ha!

Tale of the Turnip

Once I got the long tap root out of the ground, I lugged that beast down to the farmhouse porch to show my dad.
“Look dad, look what I grew!”, I said, thinking he would be impressed with my green thumb (weed thumb, more like it!). He smiled and chuckled.
“Where’d ya find that, in the weed patch”, he said with a grin.
“That’s right, I think the weeds helped it grow this big”, I said smiling.
We laughed and joked about the weed patch producing anything worth eating.
I often wondered how much the weeds helped those cabbages grow. My dad will never agree with what I”m about to say about those good for nothing weeds. My dad despises weeds. He hates to see one weed growing in his vegetable garden or berry patch. The weed, which includes many types, is a resilient plant. It has grown for hundreds of years and has adapted to many climate changes, diseases and insects. It is what seed growers call, resistant, resistant to most environmental-type weed killers. The weed as we know it, germinates, grows, goes to seed and reproduces itself year after year. It has a purpose like most living things. It has a strong root system to support itself, but more importantly, it help keep moisture in the soil and helps keep the soil from eroding. And, many insect love the sweet nectar and pollen from the weed flowers.
So, why do I think those cabbages grew to the size of basketballs without my help, well maybe it was…the weeds! Sorry, Dad.

Well, I think as those young cabbages grew, the weeds grew a little faster. The weeds helped support the growing cabbage, helping to retain the moisture it needed (’cause I wasn’t watering) and eventually, provided shade for the cabbage in the heat of the summer. (They are a cool-weather crop). I also think that the insects, cabbage moth and cabbage loppers, had so many other choices of things (weeds) to eat that they didn’t bother to make their way down through the weeds to find the cabbage.

Now, any farmer would probably tell you that this is hog-wash, but I know something, (um like, common sense, maybe?), helped those cabbages grow. Ha-ha, have I convinced you yet?

My dad would say it was the fertile soil or it was just plain luck. It was the ideal growing conditions, cool summer weather and average rainfall. To all my dad’s availing sense, he would be right. It was NOT by the help of the weeds that those cabbages grow so big.

So why did the man, who despises weeds, let my garden go to the weeds that summer?

I’m sure it was a struggle for him to not go in that garden and pull the weeds. He must have put a blind eye to that plot on top of the hill just to the right of his strawberry field. I know he saw it everyday.

If he had pulled the weeds for me, what would have happened? Crops would have produced and would have needed harvesting. He would have had to call me to say…”the beans need picking, the cukes will be too big tomorrow, or the cabbage moth is laying eggs on your cabbages.” I would have come, from my home a half a mile down away, and collected the vegetables and would have been proud of what my garden produced. And what would I have learned about gardening? Nothing.

My dad told me later on, that he had been in the weed patch quite regularly and had seen how nice those cabbages were growing. If I hadn’t come back to get them, he was going to bring them home to mother. He knew what he was doing all the time.

Fast forward twenty years…. I have returned to the practices of gardening. I must say, I am much better at it (gardening) now then I was 20 years ago. The difference is, back then I wanted a garden just for the novelty that it would grow vegetables. Today, I grow vegetables because I WANT to grow my own food and I WANT it to feed me. It has a purpose and an end result that is of importance. It plays into my ability to be self-sufficient. It feeds into my love for the land, and into my love of knowing I can produce the food that we eat.

One thing for sure, I have a long way to go before I know what my dad knows about gardening. It is a learning process every time I open a packet of seeds. No two growing situations or growing seasons are the same when it come to Mother Nature. That is the challenge I love, or hate when a mid-July hailstorm ruins your garden.

Today, my gardens are not filled with weeds. There may be a few that get ahead of me but for the most part I take pride in a well-managed garden. My garden is my art work. It changes shape and color from day-to-day. Gardening is not work if you love what you do. It is the job that gives back to you in the cold winter months when you can go into cold storage and grab a couple of potatoes and carrots to make dinner with.

Farmers are a wealth of knowledge

There is still so much to learn from what farmers know. In a way, they have paved the roads for many of us wanta-be-farmers. They have been through the trials and tribulation. They all have valuable stories to tell. Where would we be without them. They have been the source of our food for hundreds of years. We can’t let them be a thing of the past.

One thing my dad said recently is, (in regards to his children taking over the farm), “I want to be needed.” Farmers want to share what they know. They want others to be enthusiastic about farming. Who is going to promote the life of farming, but a farmer.

New farmers growing crops with hoop houses.

Today there is a growing interesting in farming, and it’s not just from the younger generation wanting to work the land. Many people are thinking about where their food comes from and how they can incorporate this idea into their retirement years.

Dad says, “retirement is when they put you in the ground.”

It’s true, if you retire from your life long career and don’t have a daily purpose, your body and mind is going to stop. You need something to do to keep you active and to keep you thinking.

Recently, at a New Farmers Workshop, there were more people over forty in the room then there where younger people. Collectively, these people were there to learn ways to be self-sufficient and find ways to make a little income to get them through those so-called retirement years. Now, farming is not for everyone. You have to want to do the work and love what you do.

winter storage crops

That brings me to where I am today. Five years ago, I wanted a garden to have fresh vegetable, today, I want to plan a garden that will produce year round. One that will feed Jamie and I, and one that will create some income. So dad, thanks for sharing your wisdom, it has encouraged me to go in a new direction. You are a smart man and I learn every time we talk about growing things. Hopefully, someday I’ll have my own farming stories to share with those who ask questions like… ‘how do you grow cabbages the size of basketballs?”.

Hey Mister, how'd ya grow those cabbages so big?!

Poor Man’s Fertilizer

March 1 is the 61st day in the leap years with just 19 days until the Spring Equinox.

March 1 snow storm

What could be better that a good old fashion, 24-hour, snow storm on the first of March? Well, having the day off was a good offering but knowing that the finish line of winter is (or was) in sight, I wasn’t too excited about this storm. After all, the hoop house is waiting to flourish in a wave of green and the seedling trays in the south window are stretching to soak up the warmth of the ever increasing daylight.

Daffodils getting ready to bloom. Little did they know they poked their heads out of the ground too soon!

But nothing can change the fact that March has definitely comes in like a lion but looks much more like a lamb out there in the yard. Twelve inches of snow has fallen making all that WAS hinting of the signs of life, now non-existent, buried under what old timers call, poor man’s fertilizer.

snow drift on the south side of the hoop house

The claim is that a late snowfall is good for the soil and helps to green everything up when the snow melts away. Snow contains nutrients such as nitrogen, sulfur and other trace elements and of course lots of moisture. So if I have to wait a week or two for the brown earth to appear again, I feel better knowing the heavens have blessed the soil with something nourishing. Until then, I’ll keep planting those seeds!

Hoop house first planting

January 28, 2012

1/28/12 first hoop house planting

2pm, 39 degrees out, 75 degrees inside the hoop house, 70 degrees under the row cover

After using Eliot Coleman’s books for reference and researching the particular growing requirements of selected cold hardy seeds, I selected today, January 28th as the first planting date in the hoop house.

Equipped with a hand cultivator and a basket of seeds, mostly from Johnny’s Select Seeds, I began the day I had finally been waiting for, (minus the spring-like mud, ha), since late December.

Seeds to plant...arugula, spinach, radishes, carrots, mache, claytonia, tatsoi

I pulled back the row cover on the first raised bed and cultivated the soil, removing stones and root fragments.

While using the tines of the hand cultivator, I made shallow furrows about an inch apart. When growing greens for early harvest (think baby leaf lettuce), the seeds can be seeded closely in wide bands.

shallow furrows for the seeds

The first seeds to be planted are Space, spinach. Normally, it matures in 40 days, but I expect that it will take twice as long due to the low levels of sunlight this time of year.

small spinach seeds

With the use of Johnny’s hand-seeder, spinach seeds were dropped into the furrow every 3/4 -1 inch. Using the seeder is much easier than trying to pick up one seed at a time out of your palm and dropping it right where you want it.

The trick is to not tilt the seeder down too far or the seeds will come out in bunches. By holding it at a slight slant and tapping the cover with your pointer finger, you can get one seed to fall out at a time as you move slow down the row. That’s the idea anyway. It doesn’t always work.

To load the seeds, remove the plastic insert, added the seed and replace the cover. The seeder’s clear insert has small holes at the bottom edge to selected the seed size that you want to dispense. Notice the numbers 0-5. The 0 is in the closed position. Each numbered hole, 1-5, is a little bit bigger then the one before. Twist the edge of the insert to the size hole that allows the seeds to just barely fit through.

Johnny's Select Seed-hand seeder

After seeding 9 narrow rows of spinach, I seeded, Rover radishes, claytonia (salad-mix green), Nelson carrots, Rocket arugula, mache (another salad-mix green), tatsoi (similar to bok-choy), and scallions. This filled three-quarters of the first row.There was a sense of satisfaction with the first planting complete but also a strangeness of not knowing if and when any of the seeds would germinate and grow. Research says it can be done, but I need the proof to believe.

75 degrees in the hoop house, too warm for a jacket

I replaced the row cover and collected my basket of seeds. It was 4pm,  outside temperature was 34 degrees, inside temperature was 56.2, and under the row cover 52.7. Now we wait.

Spring time mud in January?

January 2012

muddy track

Spring time mud in Maine usually arrives in mid-late March and is a sure sign that Old Man Winter has given up on making our lives miserable, or at least for those of us who see winter as a cold, dormant time of year when nothing grows but the fuel bill.

Mud Season, as we call it ’round he-ya’, is the time when the days are getting a little longer, the sun a little stronger and the temperature gets above freezing during the day. This causes the snow to start melting and run off to start puddling up everywhere you go.

spring time mud in Maine

Tipicditocreps.” That’s not a dinosaur but a scientific term applied to a soil (a clay type) that is widespread in the state. Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh is a professor of Environmental Science and policy at the University of Southern Maine. She says certain properties of the clay favor production of the sticky stuff, unlike other soil types.

“You get mud when the water can’t infiltrate into the soil fast enough, if you have very sandy soil water can run off so you never have mud. You need water staying on the surface of the soil, if run-off is greater than infiltration, that’s when you get mud.”

Why is this important…, it’s only January, and it hasn’t snowed in weeks, so why am I talking about spring time mud?

Since wrapping the hoop house in plastic on December 23, I have been waiting, checking and recording. Waiting for the right time to plant some seeds, checking the hoop house soil to see it if was warm and DRY and recording the day and night temperatures. I knew that it would take a few weeks for the ground to warm up but I didn’t expect the soil to turn to mud!

Well of course, why wouldn’t it be mud season in the hoop house. The temperature inside was rising above freezing everyday and the moisture in the ground had nowhere to go with the ground being frozen outside. By putting up the hoop house in December, I had created my own mud season in January. How ’bout that!

On cloudy days, when the daytime high reached 29.4 outside, it was 33.3 inside. On sunny days, when it reached 36.7 outside, it was 60.4 inside. Pretty impressive sun power, I think. Something would surely grow with these temperatures. However, it was the night-time temperatures that concerned me. Several night recordings showed temperatures around 18.1 outside and only 23.9 inside.

hoop house with two layers of plastic

On January 8th, we decided to add a second layer of plastic to the inside of the hoop house. A majority of hoop houses are built with two layers of plastic on the outside with an inflation fan that keeps the space between them filled with air. The inflated space between the two layers of plastic serves as a layer of insulation. I didn’t have a power source out in the garden nor did I want to run a power cord out there to run an inflation fan. Seeing that there was almost always some air moving up here on the ridge, I figured we could use the wind to our advantage.

Adding the plastic on the inside was a bit of a chore, no, better said, it was a chore. Something that should have been attempted with four people instead of two. We spread the plastic out and worked our way under it while trying not to let too much of it resting on the mud. That might have been the easy part.

While I tried to hold one edge of the plastic up to the top of end wall with two hands, Jamie tried screwing a strip of wood to the collar-tie (piece of tubing running across from one side to the other)  to secure it. Nothing was going well. I was standing on my tippy-toes and getting tired. I couldn’t keep the plastic straight with the weight of the remaining plastic hanging down across my back. My arms were aching, and Jamie was having trouble holding the plastic and the strip of wood with one hand while aligning the screw bit and screw with the other. Funniest home video, maybe, but it wasn’t funny at the time. Once we got the first strip in place, the other ones got a little easier  but still not having fun. At least when we got to the side walls it didn’t feel like we were trying to fight our way out of a deflated plastic bubble.

making adjustments

Okay, so with the second layer of plastic in place, I thought the mud would be a thing of the past. Eventually, the ground would absorb the water, or it would evaporate during the day, right? Mmm…no, not so right. After several warm days nothing had changed, in fact, things got worse. Condensation was building up on the inside and raining down like a spring shower on a sunny day. Nothing but squishy mud from end to end. At night, the muddy ground would freeze, making the inside temperature colder than it was before we put the second layer of plastic up. Frustration was setting in.

I went to the internet, thinking I could find a remedy. Surely, someone out there must have encountered this problem before. A quick Google search for ‘mud in the hoop house’, ‘muddy hoop house’, ‘spring mud in the hoop house’, got me nothing but “The Mud House Cafe”, a song called “Mud in the house”, and houses built with mud. I was beginning to think putting up a hoop house in December was not such a good idea after all.

Then I relied upon some prior knowledge.

In years past, I remembered having a spot in the yard that I wanted to utilize for a garden  but it did not drain well. I had brought in some railroad timbers and raised the growing area with 6-8 inches of soil. This proved to be a good solution. Although, I didn’t want to bring timbers into the hoop house, I could certainly move the soil (the mud) around to resemble three raised beds. It was nearing my first planting date. I needed this to work, or I’d have to be defeated until the real spring mud season past.

What fun, what fun, workin' the mud.

With hoe in hand, I entered the hoop house and closed the door with a good pull to latch it. Immediately, several large droplets of water hit my head. I looked at the plastic overhead laden with hanging water droplets and then to the ground below. I could see boot impressions in the mud from the last time I came in to check for improvements.  Another drip fell silently and hit the soil leaving a pot-mark in the mud. With a sigh, I began in one corner, hoeing the soil away from the side wall. By the time I reach the other end (20 ft stretch), I had sweat dripping off my brow. Laborest work, it’s good for the soul, and the heart! It drives my ambition. Mud or no mud, I would get to the end of the this!

I took a tape measure from my pocket and measured 30 inches from the ridge I had just made. Working back in the other direction I dug with the hoe and pulled the dirt up towards the middle forming a raised piled of lumpy dirt. In some spots the ground was more like taffy then it was pudding. It didn’t want to move without my insistent demand to conquer the force of spring-time like mud.

I worked from one end to the other, while the wind outside shook the droplet down upon my head, playing a tune something like Tommy Petty’s song, I Won’t Back Down“I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down. Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out, I won’t back down.”

When I was through, I had managed to

raised bed with row cover

make three raised beds, 18 ft long, 30 inches wide and raised 4 inches high with a 10 inch path between them. If this worked like I had imagined, the raised beds would dry out and any remaining moisture could gather in the pathway or along the sides.

1/25/12 Update: It worked! My persistence paid off. In just a matter of days, the soil was moist but not wet. We made some wickets (arches for support) and added the row cover. With the addition of the row cover, the temperature beneath the cover will be as much as 10 degrees warmer than the air temperature in the hoop house. It’s like giving the soil a nice cozy blanket. three row coversSmiles galore from me and the soil!