Row covers and tunnels
I have this friend, Kathleen, who always shows us up in early Spring with the most amazing beds filled with lettuce and other greens, long before others in our gardening group have much of anything to show.
To try to emulate her success I've changed some of my gardening techniques and I'm "going to school" on the information she's sharing about how she pulls this off year after year.
For one, I have done away with my large main garden - that 36 x 16-foot patch of ground I've built up over the years. Instead, I built these raised beds over the winter and am now in the process of sinking 10-feet fence posts into the ground that will later support an electric fence to protect my crop from deer.
My compost pile has been doing it's thing all winter and I will soon have a truckload of organic matter ready to mix into the beds to provide needed nutrients for my early Spring lettuce, kale, arugula, mustard greens and spinach.
To provide protection from the elements, I'm building a tunnel system, using 1/2-inch PVC pile and gardening fabric. On each side of the beds, I pounded three-foot lengths of half-inch rebar into the ground. Eight-foot lengths of PVC bend quite nicely to span the beds, each end slipped over the rebar to anchor the hoop in place. I won't attach the fabric until just prior to planting, but this should give you a pretty good idea of how the system will look.
I thought about using floating row covers, which basically are the same concept, just much closer to the plants and the ground. I had some hesitation, though, as I didn't want there to be a risk of the plants making contact with the cover. As humid and wet as the air is here near Seattle, that just didn't seem like a good thing. So I opted for the tunnel solution instead.
I would be interested to hear from others who have used floating row covers or tunnels, along with any tips or tricks that may benefit the rest of us. Thanks for reading!