Fresh greens from the garden in February? Of course!
Michael Pollan writes in his book Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual under Rule #22; Eat Mostly Plants, Especially Leaves that ”in countries where people eat a pound or more of vegetables and fruits a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States.” A pound of fruits and vegetables; can you do that or does it sound overwhelming? To make it seem more reasonable, here is what a pound of fruits and vegetable looks like:
Surprised? While you might not eat a whole pepper or zucchini in one day, I think you can easily imagine substituting in a banana, a carrot or a nice big salad.
If you have any doubts as to the health benefits of fresh, colorful food or just need some extra incentive, this TEDx Talk by Dr. Terry Wahls really puts it all together very nicely. Watch Minding your Mitochondria at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc. It could change the way you shop, eat and ultimately your life.
Dr. Wahls does make the point that your grocery bill is likely to increase if you are eating fresh food all the time. By growing some of your own you can cut down on the expense, particularly in the off-season. We grow spinach, kale and lettuce year round and you can do it too! Making your own small hoop-house is really pretty simple, inexpensive and will extend your growing season. Maybe the money you save on the items you are growing, not to mention any vitamins and supplements you might be buying, will free up some of your food dollars for other purchases such as grass fed meats.
Materials list for 4’x4’ hoop house
- 4 2×4’s, each cut to 4’ long.
- concrete reinforcing mesh (4’ x 8’ panel)
- clear plastic sheeting, 4mm (for around $25 you can get it in rolls of 8’x 100″ or 12’ x 100’ rolls).
- Wood screws and a staple gun for fastening
- Heavy dowel or a 4’ length of a tomato stake
- 4 heavy rocks for each hoop house you make
First, fasten your 2×4’s together at the ends with wood screws, forming a 4’x4’ frame. Next, insert one end of your concrete reinforcing mesh inside one side of your frame, gently bending it to tuck the other end into the other side of your frame. Fasten this to the inside of the frame if you wish. (Otherwise, be careful to disassemble it before you move the frame again). Spread your clear plastic sheeting over the concrete mesh, stapling it to the outside of the frame on the same two sides that the wire is tucked into. Be sure to leave enough hanging over each open end to reach all the way to the ground.
This year we fastened a length of tomato stake along the bottom of the open end of the plastic sheeting. This weighs down the ‘door’ and also makes it easier to prop open the door while you are harvesting or weeding.
Fold over the wings or corners that form when closing the door, securing these with rocks about the size of your hand.
We keep the outdoor monitor from our weather clock inside of the hoop house when it is in use. This allows us to vent it by opening one or both ends when it gets too hot inside. It stays surprisingly warm and moist. It got up to about 45 degrees outside yesterday and was 88 degrees inside the hoop-house.
Be sure to plant in the fall when there is still plenty of daylight (more than 10 hours) to allow your plants to get established before it gets too cold and dark. When you open it up to harvest or weed, the smell of a greenhouse adds to the benefits of the experience of growing your own fresh greens in the winter!