In the Garden:
By late winter, my undercover salad garden has plenty of fresh pickings ready for the table.
If you have fall-planted hardy vegetables or flowers that have been ravaged by our recent ice and snow storms, you can bring them back to life way ahead of schedule by covering them with reinforced winter tunnels. All you need are a couple of tomato cages and a sheet of clear plastic. Whatever you grow beneath a plastic-covered tunnel will bask in conditions that are almost like spring.
Because we have plenty of blustery winter weather yet to come, it's important to make the tunnels as sturdy as possible. I bend my tomato cages, made from concrete reinforcing wire, into arches and secure them in place with a few short wood stakes. Then I fasten down the plastic on top. The plastic is prone to flapping in the wind if it's not battened down well. The best way I've found is to roll the edges of the plastic around heavy landscaping timbers and snuggle them up to the sides of the tunnels. At the ends of the tunnels, I use bricks or short boards to hold the plastic to the ground.
Parsley, kale, poppies, spinach, and butterhead and romaine lettuces enjoy spending the second half of winter under tunnels, where they're safe from harsh weather and hungry rabbits. You will also get a nice crop of winter weeds such as chickweed and henbit, but wait for a warm day to open your tunnels for weeding and watering. Check beneath the tunnels at least once a week to make sure that the soil is not getting too dry. And toward the end of the month, when lengthening days promote warmer soil conditions and vigorous green growth, douse your plants with fish emulsion or another water soluble fertilizer. As long as the soil is cold, nutrients from organic sources are often not available to plants.
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