Preparing for winter

-Our friend the Polar Vortex is back.  It has brought an early winter to the mid-west and this week it is heading to the east coast.  Today as I write this it is 60 degrees outside, we know that this is not going to last long.  We have spent the last couple days trying to get the garden ready for the harsh freeze that is expected at the end of the week.  Currently, we have beets, cabbage, snow peas, turnips, lettuce, and broccoli in the ground. These veggies can tolerate cold temperatures but not the extreme colds and the frosts that are expected this week.  This is honestly our first year of trying to grow through the winter.  Normally, the only thing that we have in the ground is garlic and maybe onions.  We have tried to cover our raised beds in the past but we have found that heavy rains and snow would cause them to collapse.  This year we have tried a couple different types of row covers to see if we can find a system that works better. 
(I am sorry the pictures got all mixed up, but I am sure that you will able to tell which is which, sorry again)

The first is shaped like a tent and we have the plastic attached to a middle board and hanging down the sides.  It can be accessed from either side.  There are beets in this one, so we are mainly just trying to keep the snow and the hard frost off of the leaves.  Beets like the cooler temps and I think that it actually makes them sweeter.  We have a similar cover over the turnips and the lettuce, however I know that they need to be kept a little warmer than beets. 

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The second thing that we did was a thicker piece of plastic at an angle, this is over the broccoli and the carrots.  We also put this over an open bed and I am hoping to plant a batch of lettuce and spinach in that but I am not sure if it will germinate in the cold.  I feel like everything we do is an experiment. 

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We also have two beds that are under recycled windows.  This has been our most successful way of covering the beds in the past, but it is hard to lift them up without the snow falling in on the plants and I am always worried that the glass is going to break. But when we have used them in the spring to get an early start for the tomatoes, these always work the best! 

Last, we put our large plastic cover back on our bed of snow peas.   This is the cover that has had the largest problem with the snow in the past. For this cover I sowed pieces of vinyl together to make a slip cover for the raised beds.  We have tried this in the past to see if we can extend the tomato season and we needed something that was really tall. In the past, it has collapsed under the weight of rain and snow. This year we have put it on a bed that has more cross support pieces, I am hoping in the next week or so I can harvest these snow peas and pull up the plants, so it will not be exposed to much snow.   The problem is the kids are eating them before i can get them into the house.  I guess next year I have to figure out how to plant more snow peas next year. 

Right now we are still very much going through a learning process.  But I was once told my a good friend and mentor that the day you stop learning is the day you find a new job!  Between the kids and the garden I think that I will be learning for a very long time!!!

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