protecting warm weather crops
- Just thinking of ways to extend our season a bit. I'm wondering if
making walls of straw bales around our tomato/heat loving crop beds
would help keep the temperatures more even?
One year I grew the tomatoes in a large plot which was surrounded by
a wall of plastic to keep the wind out and heat up earlier in the
day. This was due to an experiment in keeping meat chickens warm in
cold weather, which showed that the plastic surrounding the pasture
house at night shot the temps in the house up past 90 before 5AM in
the morning in May. Result, I had to get up early to get the plastic
off before frying any birds, but they didn't die in our week of
freezing cold weather :<).
Anyway, that year our tomatoes grew phenomenally well. Last year I
attempted it, had a severe wind storm which blew my walls down in
the beginning of summer and never got them fixed as I couldn't bear
to buy more plastic. We didn't have as warm of a summer, so I am
sure that is one reason the tomatoes/squash etc did not grow well.
This year, I'm tossing around different ideas with more natural
methods (or at least things I don't need to purchase) including
1. moving the tomatoes to a different spot which doesn't have trees
10 feet away to the south so they have more sun
2. building a tire wall on the north of the plot and filling it with
soil or even water (in bags or something) which should retain more
3. building straw bale walls all the way around a narrow bed,
minimizing exposure to horizon, hoping it will keep the frost away
as per Bill Mollison's Permaculture guidebook
4. building a tire wall on the north and straw bale on other three
sides which will enable me to throw a tarp or something else over
the top to make a mini-greenhouse in spring, etc.
I'm wondering, if I do use straw bales which are supposedly better
at holding heat than reflecting, would a layer of something black
over the inner surface do anything to attract more heat, or would
that be a waste of time and money? (apologies if it is a dumb
If I did build the black tire water wall on the north (which will
help retain heat and make it a mini-greenhouse), would the
temperatures get too high during the day? It would be excellent for
giving off that little bit of extra heat before sunset which might
help them mature a wee bit faster.
No, this isn't necessarily the most natural method of growing, but
if we were restricted to what would grow well without help in our 2b
season, we would not be growing a lot.
Also, raised beds might help somewhat? How high is sufficient to
raise the soil temps so I can get a bit of a jump start in spring?
Right now our beds are naturally raised due to me walking in the
paths. I am going to try one bed just normal and one raised, but
don't know just how high it should be. I don't want to buy anything
for the bed edges, so I am most likely restricted to a shorter
raised bed so it doesn't disintegrate. Or is there something natural
and inexpensive a person can use for the edges of a raised bed?
- One way to make a season extender, and there are many, would be to use cob as the main supportive structure. Cob is a mixture of sand, straw clay and water. It is simple to build with, but requires extensive labor and some easily learned skills. The materials are all organic and natural and will decompose into a mound when the structure is abandoned. Yet, the material is surprisingly stable, if it is protected from the weather and standing water. It would be an excellent heat sink for incoming solar radiation.
A big compost pile could be built on the tall side of the structure to provide a heat source for part of the winter months. We compost leaves we get delivered form the city, stacked many feet thick on top of our pig huts. They can stay warm for months from the heat of the decomposition process if everything is operating properly.
It would be a fun starter project to learn about cob. There would be an end in sight to the work, and the need for precision and fancy finish would not be necessary. There are lots of websites about cob. Go to google and type in cob construction.
A very simple roof of 2x4 roof could have 6 mill plastic green house plastic stretched over it. Use strips of wood screwed to the 2x4 frame and weighted with gravel or dirt to anchor the plastic in place. I think you will either have to get one of those heat activated, bi-metallic door openers, or get up every sunny morning to open the ventilation to regulate the temperature.
Cob could also be used as the mud plaster for a strawbail structure, but I think you'll run into stability problems unless your really careful and lucky.
I drew a sketch of a cross-sectional and floor plan for the simple structure I envision. I'll attached to this message.
Prairie Dock Farm
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2003 4:19 PM
Subject: [fukuoka_farming] protecting warm weather crops
> Just thinking of ways to extend our season a bit. I'm wondering if
> making walls of straw bales around our tomato/heat loving crop beds
> would help keep the temperatures more even?
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]