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In the High Tunnel with an Extra Layer
of Warmth for Cold Nights

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Lettuce, Greens in High Tunnel this Winter

Gardening
in these days of climate warming
has become year-around
work. Ann has been gardening
all winter.
Lettuces and greens
have grown better
in the high tunnel
than anywhere.
We’ve also been eating
carrots, beets, broccoli
grown in the high tunnel.
Using a cloth over the greens
on the coldest nights
has kept the temperature
almost 10 degrees warmer
than the rest of the space
in the unheated,
but toasty,
greenhouse.
She’s enjoyed working
in shirt sleaves
in the warm high tunnel
on the coldest, windiest days.
Recently, she planted potatoes
and strawberry plants
in the high tunnel
and seedlings in the house.
When the time comes,
some seedlings will be planted outdoors
and some in the high tunnel,
which will be covered in shade cloth,
and the sides rolled up
as summer’s scorch approaches.
We’re hoping runoff
from the current rain
and snow (it may be a blizzard)
will fill the Big Pond again
so she can garden
in the raised beds this spring.
Unless the pond fills enough
to cover the water pump
that serves the outside faucets,
she won’t be able to water
plants in the raised beds.
(There’s one faucet
on the house water system
that is close enough to water
plants in the high tunnel.)

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Tomato Seedlings

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Seedlings

The seedlings
are growing well
under the grow lights.
In the past,
their bright, new greenness
has heralded
the coming of the growing season.
It’s different now:
there has been no down-time;
gardening has continued.
So the seedlings
herald the coming
of a different growing season,
producing different foods
than the cold-weather ones.
It will be a busier season,
since there are more summer plants
(beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants,
squash, basil, melons…)—
and more weeds growing
and more insects chewing
and more need for watering
and times of heavy harvesting,
we hope.

Gardening for the pleasure
of seeing food grow
and eating the freshest food
are reasons enough to garden.
But gardening year-round
is about securing a food supply,
and has begun
because summers have become
so hot and dry
that the traditional growing season
has changed drastically.
In what used to be the height
of the growing season,
photosynthesis seems to stop:
plants don’t set fruit.
It isn’t always possible
to harvest enough food
in the summer
to preserve for the entire winter.
On the other hand,
winters are warmer too.
So, with layers of protection,
foods can be grown year-round.
Dehydrating, canning, freezing
as much summer food
might not be as necessary—
which might actually be better, nutritionally:
food grown in winter
is fresher,
less processed.

Perhaps the sprouts
are symbolic too. While unsettling,
and sometimes frightening,
this time of transition
might also be a time of new ways,
nice surprises.