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Jan. 25, 2011

Cold-house, Indeed

by Carl Flatow

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I went out to my cold-house, last night, to pick arugula for our salad. We have been having a visit from some Arctic air and the outdoor temperature was in the low teens.

I use the two layer method of protection in my cold-house. The outside layer is the hoop-house skin, itself, with a second, inner layer of plastic sheeting held a few inches above the plants. No need to water anything under these conditions. the water that does evaporate, condenses on the plastic and falls back down after a while. At deep winter temperatures during the shortest days of the year the plants don’t do much growing, anyway.

As I lifted the inner sheeting to pinch off a dozen leaves the frozen condensate on the inside of that sheeting crackled and rained down on the plants. I went back into my kitchen with leaves that were clearly partly frozen and put them in the sink. By the time I was ready tear them up into small pieces for the salad, they were defrosted. Some were translucent, at places, but looked ok and tasted fine.

I checked my remote readout of the wireless thermometer probe that was still out in my cold-house arugula bed. It read 20.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Today was a warmer, sunny day. The cold-house bed temperature was a balmy 58 degrees. No ice on the inner plastic sheeting and the plants all looked just fine, revealing no apparent damage from the cold nights.

About Carl Flatow

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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