Garden Lifestyle

Grow Tunnel Update

Here it is the last day of November and I am still harvesting lettuce, spinach, arugula, cilantro, parsley, chard, kale, mustard and collard greens in my zone 7 garden.

  • Although there is snow on the ground, the greens protected in this grow tunnel are thriving--it is truly amazing how one can extend the growing season without much effort and reap such rewards as this lovely green salad in cold weather! Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • View from beneath the floating row cover... lettuces and kale happily growing in grow tunnel in late November.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Arugula and parsley are thriving under cover even with temps in the 20s!
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Peaking into the grow tunnel--collards, frisee and cilantro grow amidst a carpet of chickweed.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Besides cilantro, hardy greens like chard and collards seem to grow really well in the grow tunnel.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Hard to believe this salad of baby lettuces, arugula, spinach and cilantro was just-harvested in 30-degree weather.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Here it is the last day of November and I am still harvesting lettuce, spinach, arugula, cilantro, parsley, chard, kale, mustard and collard greens in my zone 7 garden. This is due to the fact that it is growing in a small grow tunnel under floating row cover–this gardener is a happy camper. The tunnel was erected and installed in late September and I wrote about it then. /item/16221/floating-row-cover-and-grow-tunnels-extend-the-growing-season.

Since then we have had many freezing nights–even in the mid 20-degree F–and we have had a couple of inches of snow. Without the tunnel, these welcome and wonderful greens would not be alive in the garden. The heavy snow did weigh the row cover down, however by lifting the row cover carefully, the snow was easily removed.

In between the planted transplants there is a magic carpet of chickweed (Stellaria media) which volunteered on its own. I am delighted to have the unexpected, tender and nutrient-rich green to add to salads and soups. /item/12111/green-goodness-soup-weed-soup This time of year you can make this quick-and-easy soup with any kind of seasonal green(s) that you might have in your garden, greenhouse or can find at the farmers’ market or grocery.

I am definitely an advocate for using a grow tunnel for extending the growing season; it is so worth the small effort to be harvesting homegrown greens for the holiday season. I did lose a few of the more tender crops like the nasturtiums and dill after a few freezes. Some of the more tender lettuces have a little tip burn, however most of them go through a freeze surprisingly well without a change of texture to the leaves, which I find amazing. If there is a hard freeze in the forecast, I usually harvest what I need for a few days. And I plan on opening the tunnel for harvest after midday–in the afternoon–after the sun has shone for awhile. So far so good… perhaps I’ll have greens into December!

Meanwhile, who knows what will happen come early spring? … greens that I harvested by cutting back to the ground might even regrow. And where I have pulled out heads of lettuce and other greens, there are places to sow seed when the earth warms. As we go into the cold, longer nights and days with less light the thought of green growing plants under the grow tunnel, warms me and already I am thinking of spring…. Here’s a good thing to put on a gardener’s wish list! Happy December!



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