Sep 7, 2010

Ghosts or Guardians?

These ghostly figures descend upon my garden every fall. In a normal year, we don't see them until late September or early October. This year, however, they have come early. Three times in recent weeks we have seen frost on the rooftop of our house in the early morning. A couple of days ago the forecast was especially grim, and I gave in to my fears, dug out my supply of old sheets and row cover, a new package of clothespins, and set to work crafting protection for as many of my late-ripening tomatoes as I could. Thankfully, the temperature at garden level didn't drop below 40. But it will. This early trial has shown me that I need to invest in more row cover, or head to the thrift store for more bedsheets.

Traditionally we have a long, gorgeous, 'Indian summer' here. With the exception of a few nights in the low 30's or high 20's, the garden grows happily on well into November. But those little dips in temperature spell doom for the tender likes of beans, squash and my zealously-nurtured tomatoes and melons. So I take the trouble to cover them with ghostly raiment and I usually harvest a huge crop in early October. I don't know about this year, though.

It has been a terrible year for tomatoes and other warmth-lovers here. Late, late arrival of warm weather, many cool nights all summer long. Wah! After last year, the greatest tomato-growing year I can remember in 30+ years, a lot of us longtime Bend gardeners were spoiled. I, for one, thought, 'well super -- here's a side benefit to global warming' ......... but I guess it was an anomaly not to be relied on for future years. Back to frost covers and ......

.... well, I recently splurged on a cool new lean-to cold frame/hoophouse, built by my friend Duane. Duane is a local cabinet-maker who got creative during the downturn in the building boom, and began creating custom chicken housing, runs, and superstrong hoop cold frames/mini hoop houses for local gardeners. He built my chicken house and run, and now I have this beautiful little cold frame to play with. The commercial grade plastic should be good for 10 years or more, and the house itself is well-crafted and strong. The front cover rolls up by day and folds down to fit snugly at night.

With the assistance of 2 manly neighbors, we managed to slip the whole thing down over a pre-existing trellis full of cucumber and melon vines. We didn't rip the fabric and the plants are quite excited by their new home. It was 95 in there yesterday morning when I went out around 8:00 am to lift the cover.

I am already thinking ahead on what to plant for overwintering.

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