Winter Newsletter 2013

Heating.  Big snowfall all around the Santa Fe area last night and today. With the temps dropping to 20, its time to take action for sustaining the frigid onslaught of Winter. The  2 cover system is a given. The Summer cover serves as the insulation layer, and the Winter cover is the waterproof layer. Together, they act like a double-paned window. The heavy-duty 6 mil plastic cover goes OVER the polypropylene Summer cover. If you don’t have a Winter cover, then a tarp or heavy blanket will do. The heat pot and light is a most important second option. Heating the ambient air inside the covers keeps the plants in a more stable environment, rather than the overnight swing from heat to cold. 

Putting a third layer on top of your plants inside the covers is the third. You can use a piece of row cover- polypropylene, or any other lightweight fabric. Its like getting into bed and pulling up a blanket on yourself, or trying to heat the whole room. The third layering holds the heat against the plants, and they are much less  ‘shockey’ waking up to a nice layering on top of them. We have produced a ‘thermal’ cover that is a 2 ply space blanket/black rubberized coat. We tested it for 5 months last Winter, and the height of the result was 84 degrees inside, with 24 degrees outside, and crops of basil bushes, red jalapenoes and sweet green peppers, and tomatoes the size of baseballs!

\The man who conducted the experiment used a 150w bulb inside the one 10” pot. He put the thermal blanket on instead of the Summer cover, with the Winter cover on top. Toward mid-afternoon, he would set up this system, and in the morning after things warmed up, he would put on the regular Summer/Winter layering. The thermal cover ‘locks’ in the heat, and won’t let it escape. You must make sure that the cord and socket that you use with a 150w, or any other bulb that isn’t rated to your cord, IS rated for the bulb wattage that you are going to use. I have seen situations where folks have used a 75w bulb in a lesser rated cord, and it melted the housing for the bulb!  Other users have tried  to put the cord and bulb down through the top ½” hole of the pot, by breaking out the top of the pot. DON’T do this!! You simply tip the pot back at a 45 degree angle, slide the cord with the bulb underneath the pot edge, and lean it against the side of pot. The pot heats up and radiates the heat. We drill a 1-1/4” hole through the side of the bed that is the closest to an outdoor receptacle, below where the cover slips underneath the top, outside strip, that it tightens against. In this way, the cover will tighten against the strip without running the cord over the edge of the wood bed, creating a ‘gap’ in the cover where cold air and critters might get in.We use an EZ Heat 38 plug in the outdoor receptacle. It has a sensor on it that turns on the power to the bulb, underneath the pot, at 38 degrees. So even though the temperature inside the covers isn’t as cold as outside, the EZ Heat is forecasting for colder temps outside, so that the inside temps don’t get too low. The plug cuts off power to the bulb at around 45 degrees. This system enables the grower hands-free, and energy-free interaction with the operation of the unit. If you set up this system, be sure to tape the ‘joints’ where extension cord meets extension cord, and also at the receptacle- over any secondary plug-ins, and around where the extension cord meets the EZ Heat. DON’T cover up the sensor strip in any way. Now you’re ready to heat your bed with peace of mind for the rest of the Winter and cold times. You should be able to buy the EZ Heat plug at a plumbing or electrical supply store. It is used in conjunction with heat tape, that they wrap around pipes to prevent them from freezing. Its yellow. You can’t miss it! In Santa Fe, the only place I’ve found to buy it is at Big Jo Hardware.

   Zippers. For a time, we had problems with the zippers on your covers. We found that in the manufacturing process, that they didn’t ‘pinch’ the upper holders of the zipper, resulting in separation and opening after continual use. In 30 seconds, I have fixed most of these zippers by using a pliers, and pinching the top right and left sides of the zipper. You must zip the cover all the way to the top first, and then pinch it. If you have a problem doing this, call or email me and I’ll come fix it for you! Again, I’m sorry this has been a problem for some of you.

   Tape. Oh will it never end?!? In the beginning…. we used a clear tape that the cover manufacturers told us was the most compatible with the polypropylene fabric. It gradually degraded and disappeared over time. The reason we were taping the undersides of the covers was to try and extend the life of the fabric. The fabric we use lets in 85% sunlight, as well as rain. The next heaviest material lets in 46% sunlight, which is not enough to grow plants. So, we are left with a Catch-22 option of using the fabric that will grow plants better, but has a lesser life span. That is the reason for using the tape, and we are still trying to find the best possible solution to this problem. We next tried out a yellow tape, that the supplier assured us was better. It wasn’t. When it rained on the outside, the tape separated on the inside. So……. we started using a heavier-duty black tape. So far, it is standing up longer to the wetness abuse. If there is any slight peeling away or separation, you can use duct tape as a temporary fixative. Don’t try to iron on any kind of tape… it will melt the fabric before you get a seal! We continue in our search for a tape that will hold up the longest, and give you the most life out of your Summer covers!

   Strings. I can’t tell you how many times I go to someone’s house to fix their strings, which they have pulled back into the bottom sleeve of the cover. We are going to start using ‘cord stops’ which slide up and down, and when released, hold tight against the strings and prevents them from going back into the sleeves, even when folks forget and pull too tightly, or before they tie off at least one side of the covers. If your strings do wind up retracted back into the sleeves, you can get a wire coat hanger, straighten it, and then bend one end with a pliers into a short, fairly tight but slightly open hook. If you then push the hanger into the sleeve, and rotate it so that it catches the string, you can usually pull the cord out if its not TOO far in. I’m sure my name has been mentioned in vain more than once, and for everyone’s ease of usage, we’re going to start putting the cord stops on our covers. If you have this problem and need help, once again, just call me and I’ll help you remedy the problem.

   Plants. We are putting in chards, kales, arugulas, spinach, lettuces, herbs, onions, garlic, leeks, kohlrabi, sorrel and tatsoi starts, and radish seeds at this time of the year. Agua Fria Nursery has all of these starts, bulbs, and seeds, and it enables growers to have more instant gratification, as well as a huge jump on seed propagation. Most seeds germinate at 60 degrees and above, so in these cold times, it will take much longer, even though there will be hours of 60 degrees and above inside the bed during the day, but colder temps invading at night. Agua Fria has 2 examples of Grow Y’own’s, growing, that you or your friends can view. They also carry Age Old Growth products, for boosting growth, as well as any other liquids and granules for other problems. I just bought a variety of about 80 tulip bulbs, which I got in just before this storm!

   Watering. Now that the days are shorter, darker, and colder, the need for watering gets less and less. The best way to know if you should water is to stick your finger into the soil. If its damp about 1- 1-1/2” down, don’t water. If your plants DO need some water, or look droopy, water them sparingly. The covers will hold the moisture inside the unit for a long time- condensing and dropping, over and over. Also, since the daytime heat is dropping, the soil stays moist, longer. I am only watering about once every 6-7 days at this time of year. It varies, of course, depending upon where you are in the US. We have units in 28 states and Canada, so conditions are obviously different. When the cold really sets in for the Winter, once every 3-4 weeks is not abnormal. I have clients in and around Santa Fe who have gone 1-3 months, and many of their plants continue to grow and thrive. So don’t be concerned when its super cold outside if your plants need water, because they probably don’t! Just check your bed once it warms up during the day, and give them a little if they need it. 

Costs. I haven’t raised our prices for about 5 years! Costs on everything have risen during that time, necessitating a price increase in the coming year, starting January 1st. The gray, hoop conduit has doubled, wood has gone up 15%, the raised bed soil mix just increased, as well as the organic Metro Mix and fertilizers that we use, and even though the price of fabric and plastic has remained fairly stable, the labor to sew the covers has increased slightly to cover increased living constraints. The inflation will be very slight, but to keep on helping me help you keep on growin’, I’ve got to do it, unfortunately. 

For those who are questioning whether or not Winter growing is worth the time and trouble, let me assure you that it IS! The most life force you get out of your food is when you pick it and eat it within 30 minutes. So most food that you buy is well beyond this, and some if it isn’t worth buying at all when its been on the road for weeks. Whatever you do, buy local when you can. Grow locally with your own Grow Y’own raised, hooped, and covered beds for veggies and herbs that you KNOW how they’ve been propagated, watered, raised, and picked. Enjoy your healthy, organic free food for many years, sleep well, and have peace of mind about your food supply. I am here as usual to help in any way, or answer any questions about your growing experience. Either call me at 505 490-1849, or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I hope you have a fruitful Thanksgiving, and a joyous Holiday Season. May you stay warm this Winter, and eat very, very well!


  Holiday Special!!!    

To offset the impending price increases, or to give you other ideas for your loved ones or friends, I am offering 10% off on all beds and covers from now through Xmas. This will mean even more after costs go up January 1st! And, if you tell someone about Grow Y’own who buys a bed during the Holiday Season, I’ll give you an extra 5% on this offer! I have beautiful Gift Certificates that you can give out, if the actual setup for future beds isn’t wanted till later next year. You could even get together and pool monies for a communal gift. There are also wonderful causes, such as Many Mothers, the local shelters, retirement and assisted living facilities, youth hostels, and more, that would greatly benefit from your support.  So give the Gift of Food for Xmas- the gift that keeps on giving!! Hoe, Hoe, Hoe!!