Anyway, the sudden demise of my fall seedlings put me in a funk that lasted for at least two months. I didn't do much in the garden. Didn't plant anything. Just recently I started the usual fall cleanup (late) and the new compost pile. I just assumed we wouldn't be planting anything till spring. But then I started a re-read of Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest and experienced a jolt of inspiration when he described a plastic tunnel design he'd come across while traveling in France.
The genius of this French tunnel is the edges aren't buried under the soil in the usual manner, which makes getting into the tunnel very awkward if you need to plant or harvest things. Instead, the plastic is cut at the soil line and held down with a criss-crossing pattern of string over the hoops. Getting inside to plant or harvest is a breeze. You just lift up the plastic and tuck it under the string.
I had the plastic in the garage. I bought some 1/2-inch PVC tubing at the hardware store and planted the hoops. Then I drilled holes and installed these eyelets for the string. Following the illustration in Coleman's book, it still took me a while to figure out the pattern of the string. It's like lacing your shoes--a little.
Here's a detail of the string, crossing over one hoop, then attaching at the bottom of the next hoop. I'm sure I got it wrong, because my pattern ended before I got to the end of the tunnel. Maybe I didn't have enough hoops. I used cinder block to hold the ends down. I'm sure that's not right either.
In any case, according to Coleman the end of November is way too late to be planting anything. "Don't even bother," he admonishes. There's not enough sun to get the seedlings going. But I'm noticing volunteer mustard greens coming up in the other garden beds. Something down there is germinating.
So today I lifted the plastic and planted a whole array of mustards, kales, collards, spinach, arugula, lettuce, tenderleaf greens and other stuff. We'll see what happens. If they don't grow now, I'm betting we'll see them in the spring. As Coleman says, if they can grow these greens in France in winter--actually much farther north than we are--there's plenty of sunlight here for them to grow as well. It's just a matter of protecting them. Not so much from the cold as from the wind.
Minimum soil temperature for brassica germination is said to be 40 degrees, 35 for lettuce and spinach. Stay tuned....