If you follow our story on Instagram then you've gotten a glimpse into our battles against the cold in the hoop house.
Our job in the nursery is to start plants that are healthy, pest & disease free, and available to you right on time.
It's the right on time bit that causes so much trouble because in order to maximize your growing time we're starting plants out of season. That means our process -- not the seed, soil, or fertilizer-- is an unnatural process, right? We're using seed mats and grow lights to spark germination earlier than a plant naturally would. And once those little baby seedlings get big enough to end up in the hoop house, it's still a little too cold at night for their little roots.
Knowing that, it won't surprise you to know that we're somewhat obsessive about the conditions where we're starting seeds and in the hoop house where they are maturing. All day we are monitoring the temperature and adding more fresh air, adjusting fans, watering, making sure things are just right.
Then at night we like to tuck it all in, turn the heaters on, and just let everything chill.
That's the struggle we are in here in February. My goal is to keep the hoop house about 40 degrees at night so things keep growing. (Not ideal but it'll do.)
For the past several weeks our night time lows have been 32-38, which is totally fine with the electric heaters we currently have set-up in there as they can raise the temperature 6-8 degrees. But the past two nights temps have dipped into the low 20s, which literally sends alarm bells off on my phone, waking me up from happy dreams of sowing the perfect summer garden.
When things get too cold, my plan for now is to fire up our generator so that I can run the heaters at 100%, which allows us to raise the temps 12-18 degrees above outside temps.
Other Ways We're Keeping Things Warm
Humidity domes. Our most sensitive plants are getting covered each night with a dome. That helps keep any residual heat from the day time in a little longer and if all goes bad, hopefully buy us a little time before it freezes.
Row cover. Each night that it's forecasted to be below 40 we're covering all of the sensitive plants in row cover. When working with the domes, this gives us 4-5 degrees of help, which again helps us keep the roots above 40.
So far it's working and everything in the hoop house is kicking butt!
As we add hoop houses and get ready for next winter, I want to have a much better plan with regulating heat in there so that I can sleep at night. Waking up every 2-3 hours to check... not ideal.
Right now we're thinking that might be some propane heaters or small wood burning stoves or maybe even a central boiler that sends warm water to the different hoop houses to keep them cozy all winter long.