View from the deck on a glorious morning in early June.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Bent out of shape. A learning curve with PVC.

This post was started early in July. I realise tablets have been slowing down my bloggery. I used to work on blogs in the evenings while relaxing on the couch, watching spouse's TV with half an eye. These days I take the iPad into the living room, while the laptop stays mainly plugged in on the kitchen table, there to provide entertainment during drudgery.
__________________________________________I am finally catching my breath after a frantic two months. Progress report of actual gardens with pictures next, but first I want to finish this tidbit that has been sitting in draft. 

When it comes to practical matters involving spatial insight and fine motor skills (or any motor skills) I am a bit learning disabled. The  kindergarten teacher had asked my mother, in all seriousness, if I would not be happier in a school for special needs children. She was flabbergasted when I went on to test highly gifted and attended university. There are days when I can see where she was coming from.

The days I wasted messing about with PVC structures were some of them. I am writing this as a reminder to self of where the H the time went. Be forewarned, it gets boring. 

Anyone who enjoys garden porn has seen nifty hoop houses made out of PVC pipe. They always start with: pound some rebar into the soil. Now my soil is rocky. Augers for drilling fence posts are useless in it. Years ago I had tried to use that oh so handy T-post, AKA as T bar. Forget it. 
As you can see above, T post is three sided. It gets snagged on obstacles. Hardwarese is a foreign language I have not mastered. It took a while before I found out rebar is not the same as Tbar. Rebar is just one straight round piece of metal, see below. (Pictures stolen from Google.) It comes in 20 foot lengths and the hardware people cut it to size.
I bought one stake cut into 7/7/6 to take home. Hallelujah! It could be pushed into my soil! There was much rejoicing. Visions of shovel free fences and nail free hoop houses started dancing in my head.

As reported, last year's experiment with straight rebar poles with deer fence netting attached to them was disappointing. 
The netting sagged in the absence of a horizontal element.
Next, take all rebar posts back to the store and have them cut in half, and start playing with PVC in the section below the greenhouse. This is the part I would like to start gardening intensely. It has been neglected for a while. I did not feel like spending the money it would cost  to enclose the whole garden, some of the beds still have perennials in them that need to be moved, there is too much to do already, so I decided to protect a few beds individually. 

The first one was easy. Start potatoes, protected by Remay, with wire hoops I already had. Will keep off flea beetles as well as deer. 

The second one posed a dilemma: Hoops, or posts? In order to play with the stuff I bought some  10 foot 1/2 inch pipes, as well as a snipper to cut them with and a variety of connectors. 

Great was my joy when I found out I could just bend one whole pipe, slide it over the shortened rebar spikes and voila, instant hoop, almost tall enough for me to stand up in. I am not much over 5 feet. Never mind the connectors, we'll just sling floating row cover over this and call it a day!

Readers familiar with floating row cover will know that it comes in rolls 7 feet wide. The deer netting ditto. The beds are 8 feet long and we also need extra fabric to cover the sides. Readers with more spatial insight than yours truly will immediately grasp that we have a problem and just slinging a length over will not work.

Remay is fragile stuff and PVC is slippery. I have no idea how to attach them to each other. Something 7 feet wide will obviously not cover an arch made by a 10 feet pole. (obvious in hindsight, see what I mean by being LD?) 
Solution: use the deer netting instead. Deer netting can be attached to PVC pipe with handy twisty things. 
Now at this point I became obsessed with the notion of adding a horizontal ridge to the structure so I could attach the netting to it. Cut poles in half, use the right connectors, add a horizontal pole. Excess fabric could just be bunched up at the bottom. I felt very clever and in theory it was a perfectly fine idea, BUT! It was not that easy to keep the bendy hoops in their connectors. They kept wanting to pop out. The force of a hoop wanting to go straight again even broke one connector.
With much struggle I almost  had all hoops in when the very last one popped out of its spot. The whole works went SPROINK! and fell apart. Grrrrr.
I understood the problem. The tension was too great. That bent hoop wants to go straight. The very sproinkiness of the PVC pipe that made it work while whole worked against the structure when it was composed of parts. When the hoop is whole the pressure is sideways, against the boards of the bed. It is not going anywhere. But in pieces the easiest way for the hoop to go straight is to slip from its connectors on the top.
The only way I can learn this stuff is by standing there and fiddling with it. I have NO theoretical insight in practical matters. Friends who tell me they can visualise a structure and turn it around to see it from another angle in their mind completely baffle me. They must have a different brain. 

I messed about a bit more with my five foot pipes, just trying to figure out what length of pipe would cover what width. Fifteen feet would made a nice hoop over two beds side by side. The picture shows three pieces of five, but two plus a horizontal would work well. Turn 4 beds into a second greenhouse? But then you have to deal with the sides and need doors and figure out how to throw the cover over and attach it. Maybe not, but it is nice to explore the option.  

PVC is such a forgiving medium! A bent pipe can be made straight again by inserting rebar and sticking it straight up into the ground. 

At long last some of the pipes went over the potatoes after they outgrew the wire hoops. I slid them over the rebar till they were exactly the right height to still hold deer netting.
From now on all my potatoes, even those inside Fort Knox, will get floating row cover in their infancy! Look how gorgeous these look, without flea beetle holes.  
One more effort that came to naught: Try horizontal structure in the middle only and make a tent out of deer fencing, one width on each side. Not. In practice trying to get in and out of excessive amounts of deer netting makes one understand why the Roman gladiator armed with net and trident was such a formidable opponent. 

Finally, some of the freshly straightened poles were used to make a trellis for cucumbers in the greenhouse. This is the first time I had a decent trellis with a net for cukes instead of improvised poles, and what a difference that makes!
I already know where they will go next year, at the far end of the greenhouse in the boxes, following early snow peas. The trellis is wasted on tomatoes.

I will take the risk of planting the same crop year after year. I know several good gardeners who do not rotate because they don't have the space. They just make sure the needs of the plants are well met and grow great peas on the same trellis year after year.  
Ah, NEXT YEAR! Always the perfect garden!


  1. I agree---no matter the problem, it will be solved NEXT YEAR---LOL!
    It's the only thought that keeps our sanity intact.
    Have fun in the garden

  2. Twenty feet lengths of 1/2 inch PVC works best on 11 feet apart rebar. It makes a bow tunnel big enough to walk in. Now that took several years of bow tunneling to figure out. And even when you glue connectors will come apart. And I had a happy accident this spring in that last year I had purchased the wrong size of drip irrigation hose. It was too big for my system so this year I cut it into four foot lengths to do bows on my narrow beds. And 1/2 inch PVC in six foot lengths makes a bow across my four foot beds with a one foot walk way beside it.

    So under my big bow I have two sizes of little bows so get to double cover in early spring and fall to protect plants. Wish I could say there is a mathematical formula for this but if their were my right brain would not understand it. It is trial and error largely.

    And one thing I have noticed about hardware stores is they are very helpful to women these days. Mine read hand signals and my sketches. And I have been known to take in pieces and parts and say, "this but not broken."

    Recent studies have shown women are the biggest customers just below contractors at the hardware stores. And we are ever so grateful when they translate for us. My other invaluable source has been YouTube. It is not just music any more.

    1. Somehow, I never saw this till now. I have never seen PVC in 20 ft but will keep an eye out. I also recently found out about snap clamps for fastening cover to pipes. Like short pieces of pipe cut through lengthwise. Unfortunately I have not located any yet around here. They are available very affordably from Ontario but the shipping is insane. Will have to get creative and see if another obsessed gardener wants to share an order.


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