Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lettuce watch

The wind is howling and the temperature outdoors has been a steady 18 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours. The day started with a temperature just under 40 degrees F, a stiff wind and cloudy skies that were intermittently clear as the temperature dropped all day.

Although the outside temperature is in the teens, our lettuce is sitting at a relatively cozy 30 degrees inside the plastic tunnels.

Yesterday afternoon, when the temperature hit nearly 60 under mostly sunny skies, I opened all of the plastic tunnels housing our winter lettuce. They needed ventilation because the temperature inside had hit 91. I harvested twice as much lettuce as usual, so that we would have plenty, in case there were no survivors after this weekend. Tonight's low is suppose to fall to 10. Tomorrow night they say it will drop to 2. All with a brisk breeze with gusts possibly to 50 mph. Not only will the hardiness of the lettuce be tested, but so will the durability of our plastic tunnels. I hear them rattling.
Lettuce tucked all snug in its bed.

While harvesting, I did find a number of leaves that had been hard hit by the cold, The romaine and salad bowl varieties fared the best. Even the Sergeant oakleaf, which was in the bed that got exposed to the teens on the night before Thanksgiving, had quite a few good leaves. Buttercrunch is a tender, tasty loose heading variety that I really like, but it is too tender for the winter garden. A lot of it had turned to mush and slime, although many of the little hearts were good. I like the tender, pale hearts.

After harvesting the lettuce, spinach and arugula and pulling all of the radishes, I put blankets over the lettuce and pulled the plastic back over the hoops. The FedEx guy just happened to arrive that day with my recently ordered shade cloth (for the summer) and, most important, clips that I was able to use to attach the plastic to the hoops. All the better to survive the wind.

About an hour ago I put buckets of hot water inside each tunnel. When I picked up the rocks anchoring the edges of the plastic, my slightly damp gloves immediately froze to them. That's how it is when it is just 18 degrees outside. While the howling wind didn't give me much trouble with the plastic, it kept me from putting sheets over the tunnels for extra heat-holding ability.

Two buckets of steaming hot water in each tunnel hardly seem adequate to fill the area with heat, but I hope it works. Tomorrow night, I will repeat. However, it will be Wednesday or Thursday before it is warm enough to open the tunnels enough to see whether we will have to go back to buying lettuce.

Stay tuned.

No comments: