Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Arctic Storm Heading My Way... Quick Row Covers!

Update- October 2012- Hoop Houses are a great help for anyone wishing to extend their garden so I am re-posting this post from last fall.  The plants that I grew into fall and winter underneath the hoop houses made it through December and might have even made it longer, had we not forgot to close the ends one night...

An arctic storm is heading my way and I was NOT prepared... Last night my BFF Michelle- blog diva of Michelle's Little Piece of Heaven showed up in cold, windy weather to help me quickly throw a temporary cover over the center hoop to protect those tender baby crops overnight. THANKS MICHELLE!!!!  I love you!

I started my new hoop house row covers for the raised beds last weekend, but they're not finished, so my darling husband and I ran to the giant home improvement store and bought clamps and 4 mil plastic for some quick row covers.  I've lived in Tehachapi since 1985 and we do not usually risk freezing temps before Halloween, so, like our late May 21 ice storm, this is unusual.

We went from this...

80+ degree weather and sunshine two days ago...


to this... 

It's 43 degrees right now and its been raining steadily all day so far... Our clay soil is already saturated, just look at my slimy walkway.  I was sliding around as I secured these hoops.  Great exercise. 

If you've never used a floating row cover, cold frame, or hoop house before, they're simple to construct as you see.  just some cheap $2 half inch conduit electrical pipes bent over a wagon wheel and fastened to the garden bed with double sided conduit fasteners work  fine.  The plastic can be anything from 3 mil painters plastic to a good strong 6 mil plastic (which is more than 3x the price, but brittles just as quickly from sun, I know I have tried both).  The only thing to remember is that it must be clear- white or black will block too much of the UV spectrum (rays) which will prevent effective photosynthesis which is how your plants feed themselves.   

Ultimately, my husband will make these plastic covers stronger by tacking them to cedar furring strips along the sides of each bed.  These  strips will be screwed into the beds so they can easily be unscrewed and rolled to one side for bed maintenance and harvest.  What you see in the pictures will keep the rows covered through this storm, but is not good long term because strong winds will beat the plastic against the frame and tear it up.  In a pinch though, these cheap $1 spring clamps work just fine to beat the freeze.

 On days that don't reach 55+ degrees OUTSIDE the hoops, I will be leaving the row completely covered because I placed a radio controlled digital thermometer inside my hoops so I know how warm the climate is INSIDE them.  So far, as long as daily outside temperatures stay below 55 degrees, my hoop houses are hovering between 65-75 degrees INSIDE. That's perfect! This will vary daily and is affected by hours of sunlight, wind, ice, snow, fog, cloud cover, etc, and will be different for you, so place a thermometer and check if you want to know for sure.  Just keep in mind that most veggies have optimal growth at temps between 60-75 degrees so that's where you want your temps to be at inside your hoops or frames.  They will grow at temps above and below these numbers of course, it's just that they grow fastest and are happiest between these temps so you'll use less resources and time if you can keep temps within this range.

I am growing vegetables with optimum temperatures for growth between 55-75 degrees so whenever INSIDE temps go above about 78 degrees I will open the ends (maybe even just enough to keep temps between 65-75 degrees.)

 I just rolled the plastic up against itself

and spring clamped it to the conduit frame

You can see that the back end is still closed because this is just to demonstrate, it's actually too cold to leave this open today.  If it was warm enough outside today to get the inside temperature up to 80 degrees, I would open both ends like until about 3pm.

Ignore the ugly cucumbers in front, they are very tender plants and cannot handle temps below 50s well, I am just holding onto them for a few immature cukes, the plants will  be pulled this week.  This hoop is covered to protect those young transplants in the back.

If you have any gardening questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via email or comment below.  I am going to Farm School and it helps me to work on garden questions, so PLEASE bring em on!

I am sharing this post with farm girls everywhere...


  1. I see all the mud in between your sure is raining...stay safe.

  2. I love in Ridgecrest,Ca and want to take my family apple picking and pumpkin picking this fall and was wondering were is the best place in Tehachapi to do that at?

  3. This crazy weather sure is hard on those of us trying to garden! I hate having to rush out to cover everything up! Good thing Michelle was able to come help! :)

  4. Treasures Evermore-
    I kept sinking into the mud and losing my shoe. Clay gets saturated at the top quickly, but doesn't let the water down deep where roots need it. That's why my garden is in raised beds. Thanks for stopping by.


  6. Dear Ridgecrest,

    Tehachapi apple season is in full swing, so stop by soon. It runs through October, but with this early cold weather, it will likely end sooner because they will take losses and sell them in bulk to corporate processing farms down in the valley rather than risk losing the whole crop to mold and fungus.

    I have not seen a real pumpkin patch up here since DiRado's Brite Valley Farm closed a decade ago, but at the bottom of the hill on Hwy 58 at the General Beale Road exit, stands the Murray Family Farm (about an 18 mile drive from Tehachapi). It's worth a trip. They have pumpkins, a petting zoo, a hay maze, hay rides, food tasting, and all sorts of fun activities for kids. They're open now too.

    Google "tehachapi apple farms" and you will find many good ones: my favorites are Pulford, Knaus, and Moessner.

  7. Candy-
    You're right. Weird year. I thank God for Michelle every day. Have a great week. I hope it's dryer in the southwest tonight.

  8. SORAYA3-

    Here's the link to cut n' paste, let me know if it doesn't work:

    The website is, and in the yellow page bar on the top of the page, click on "categories", then in the drop down box select "fall." The first animation will be the falling leaves animation, copy the code and place into your blog design. Good luck! I look forward to seeing them on your blog next.

  9. Nice work! We have been meaning to build hoops for our raised bed for a while now. But after a year off of gardening, we have more pressing issues to deal with in the beds first. Ugh.

    I'm definitely going to be looking forward to reading more. Just found you via the Farmgirl Friday hop. I'd love you to drop by my blog and consider linking up there sometime for my Garden Life link up on Friday ;)

  10. Thanks for the invite Tiffany. I went to your blog and loved it. I am a garden geek. Your Garden Life Link Up mas made for em. See ya there!

  11. was made for me... I think I better cut down on the coffee breaks.


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