Hoophouse winter greens, transplanting spinach, crocus flowering

Russian kale, yukina Savoy and lettuce from our winter hoophouse .
Photo Wren Vile

Our hoophouse is bursting with winter greens. We just decided to hold back on harvesting our outdoor Vates kale and focus on the greens  which are starting to bolt in the hoophouse. That includes the last turnips (Hakurei, Red Round and White Egg), Senposai, tatsoi, Yukina Savoy, mizuna, Ruby Streaks, Scarlet Frill and Golden Frills mustards. Big but happily not yet bolting are the spinach, Rainbow chard and Russian kales. A row of snap peas has emerged. Time to stake and string-weave them!

The lettuce situation is changing as we are eating up more of the overwintered leaf lettuce in the hoophouse. The lettuces in the greenhouse have all gone, to make way for the flats of seedlings. Plus, we needed the compost they were growing in, to fill the flats. More about lettuce in February next week.

We have also cleared the overwintered spinach in one of our coldframes, so we can deal with the voles and get them to relocate before we put flats of vulnerable seedlings out there. The voles eat the spinach plants from below, starting with the roots. We had one terrible spring when they moved on to eat the baby seedlings when we put those out there. After trial and error a couple of years ago, we now clear all the spinach from one frame, then line the cold frame with landscape fabric (going up the walls a way too), wait two weeks, then put the seedlings out on top of the landscape fabric. The voles by then have decided nothing tasty is going to appear there, so they move on.

Spinach over-wintered in our cold frame
Photo Wren Vile

Outdoors, we have just started transplanting new spinach. We have four beds to plant, a total of  3600 plants, so we have to keep moving on that! We are trialing several varieties again, as we did in the fall. We have the last Tyee, alongside Reflect and Avon this spring. Inevitably things are not going perfectly according to plan. Yesterday I forgot to follow the plan, and we started with Avon and Tyee at opposite ends of a bed we had planned to grow Reflect in! Anyway, we are labeling everything and hoping to learn which have best bolt resistance. Watch this space.

We have grown our spinach transplants (as well as kale and collards) in the soil in our hoophouse, sowing them in late January. I wrote about bare root transplants in early January this year. You can find more links and info in that post. Growing bare root transplants saves a lot of work and a lot of greenhouse space.

For those relatively new to this blog but living in a similar climate zone, I want to point you to The Complete Twin Oaks Garden Task List Month-by-Month. It includes a link for each month’s task list. I notice from the site stats that some of you are finding your way there, but now there are so many years’ worth of posts it’s perhaps harder to find. Happy browsing!

Following on from last week’s mention of harbinger weeds of spring: chickweed, hen-bit and dead-nettle, I can now report that I’ve seen a flowering crocus (2/17), another marker on our phenology list. The average date for first crocuses here is February 8, so they are later than usual. I did notice however, that the foot traffic over the patch of grass has been heavier than usual.

Anne Morrow Donley sent me a link to WunderBlog®, the blog from Wunderground, my favorite weather forecast station, to an article by Bob Henson: This is February? 80°F in Denver, 99° in Oklahoma, 66° in Iceland, 116° in Australia. It includes a map of the Daily Spring Index Leaf Anomaly, Figure 1.

Image credit: USA National Phenology Network via @TheresaCrimmins.

Figure 1. An index of the seasonal progress of leafy plants shows conditions 20 days or more ahead of schedule over large parts of the South and Southwest as of Sunday, February 12. Image credit: USA National Phenology Network via @TheresaCrimmins.

The post has lots of other interesting weather info too. Thanks Anne!


I remembered another of the items lost in the hacked post a few weeks ago: My Mother Earth News Organic Gardening Blogpost on Heat Tolerant Eggplant Varieties made it into their 30 Most Viewed blogposts for 2016. I’ll be writing up more about those varieties, linking the 2016 results to the weather each week (especially the temperatures) and adding what I learn in 2017.

4 thoughts on “Hoophouse winter greens, transplanting spinach, crocus flowering

  1. Regarding peas planted in the hoophouse in February… Rodents gobble them all up. We soak them to give them a head start, coat them in cayenne pepper, spray rabbit repellent, cover with row cover to no avail. Very frustrating. We are thinking of lining a furrow with hardware cloth, but for 100′ that is a lot of work. Have you any tricks to get them started?

  2. We do soak the peas for 8 hours (overnight) before sowing. Those rodents you have do sound frustrating! I imagine you are also trying to trap them? And you haven’t got “bird-feeders” full of seeds hanging nearby?
    I’m surprised the cayenne pepper doesn’t work to deter them. Something smellier? Garlic spray?
    Then there is the cat question. Having cats in an organic food production place is probably a no-no, but if you are not certified and you’re careful, maybe you could have a cat making supervised visits? Obviously you don’t wan the cat leaving any deposits, and I know there are nasty viruses that can be caught from cats, but there are nasty viruses that can be caught from mice and rats too.
    If you find a solution, do let us all know!

  3. Thanks for making the monthly task list so easy to use. I am SO grateful for your book and all the great advice you give here! This is our first winter with a hoop house and we’re still harvesting and enjoying lettuce, spinach, Siberian kale and turnips. When the radishes were done we followed them with Tokyo Bekana and it’s coming up nicely. We even put out a couple of flats of chard in there and it has germinated and is coming up. Really looking forward to seeing what the upcoming seasons bring!

    • Thanks Bill! Aren’t hoophouses fantastic? Not sure where you live, but watch that Tokyo bekana for bolting, and be sure to harvest before you have a bunch of yellow flowers. It tends to bolt early in the year. Having the chard will carry you through, as it’s biennial and won’t bolt (well, unless we get too many temperature reversals, I suppose). Pam

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