December 5, 2016

Winterizing the Quick Hoop

I woke this morning to a delightful snowfall here in central Connecticut; a quick dusting that delayed the school opening and gave a taste of winter.  I peeked at the garden and noticed that the quick hoop low tunnel covering my beds of winter greens was sagging under the weight of very little snow. The tunnel, constructed of 1/2" PVC electrical conduit hoops draped with agricultural row cover, needed an upgrade to survive heavier snows to come.
Ag row cover quick hoops sagging under the weight of wet snow. The sagging material between the hoops illustrates the need for ridge support. This photo is from spring 2016.

A trip to the hardware store fetched me a 100' coil of 1/4" poly clothes line and a 100' roll of 10' wide, 6 mil thick polyethylene sheeting. I removed the row cover and stored it for next season. I then ripped a scrap of pressure-treated 2x4 stud into two sturdy stakes with the table saw. I pounded these in on both ends of the low tunnel, then proceeded to string the clothes line across the tops of the PVC hoops to create a ridge beam, so to speak.  The clothes line instantly frays at the cut ends so I found it easiest to pre-melt the area to be cut with a lighter, then cut in the center of the melted area. I then sealed the ends with an additional torching.

Cutting the clothes line in the middle of a pre-torched section to limit fraying. The cutting tasks went super quick with my new $10 razor sharp Mora sheath knife!
Finished rope end.

I tied the line to the first stake with a bowline, then fastened it to each PVC conduit using a clove hitch. 
Bowline attachment to the first stake.
Adjustable clove hitch on top of each PVC hoop.

I adjusted all the clove hitches so there was no rope slack between the conduits and then tied the line to the second stake using a trucker's hitch for quick tightening. The idea with this design is to structurally integrate the stakes, conduit, and rope to form a continuous support for the cover so that the weight of snow will not pull down the cover and bend the hoops towards each other.  
Trucker's hitch connection to the second stake
The low tunnel with clothes line "ridge beam". The rope appears slack because of the uneven heights of the hoops, but it is actually quite taught between the hoops and stakes.

I rolled out and cut the poly sheeting to length; leaving it a few feet longer on each end of the tunnel to follow the rope to the stake.  I weighed down the edges with rocks and called it a day.  The whole project took about 30 minutes and that included some time to harvest arugula, spinach, and radishes before covering them up! On a whim, I also seeded a few rows with the last of the spinach seed.  They'll either rot over the winter or sprout into super early spring greens. 

The finished product sheltering the winter greens. To the left is the garlic bed mulched with leaves and to the right is a stand of oat and pea cover crop that will winter kill leaving a mulched bed for spring planting.

The quick hoop seems fairly sturdy though I will still have to be diligent in brushing off snow; no sense in pushing my luck. I'll harvest greens periodically throughout the winter and hopefully there will be an early spring flush of growth.  Until then, time for wood stoves, Nordic skiing, and planning for next year.  Only another couple of months before it's time to sow onions indoors and start grafting apples!

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