Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My horse-trough "Hab" lives on!

A I recently confessed, I'm a lifelong gardener. However, in the last few years Earth has had little need to "fear my botany powers." After a couple of bad falls on the ice a few winters ago, it was hard for me to get low enough to garden. I needed some kind of raised bed for easier access.

Signy and Pascal created a sturdy base for my project last May. Later, Ty filled it for me.

Well, thanks to my Beloved and my long-suffering adult offspring, I'm back, Baby! My Mother's Day present was a galvanized horse trough on a sturdy wooden stand, filled with rich, composted soil. This collection of creative solutions now sits on our back patio in easy reach of a hose, and I've been having lots of fun with it.

My cool-season crops (spinach, kale, and a leaf-lettuce blend from Morgan County Seeds) continued to yield regular crops of salads and greens well into what we Kansas Citians think of as "winter."

As cold weather approached, Pascal and I made a "dome" out of two basement-window-well covers, to protect my plants from the frost. On windy days (here at the edge of Kansas, we get a few of those), a bungee cord holds it down. It's not excessively elegant, but it works.

But then it snowed. It got really cold. I thought when temps hit the single digits that my horse-trough garden was a goner.

I was wrong. Under the dome, it's alive! How can this be? Fortuitous placement, it turns out. Back in May, we set it up right next to a furnace vent. The air goes out, and directly up under the edge of my makeshift dome. You can see the life-giving vent pipe at lower right in the photo below:

We've gone through two rounds of single-digits and snow, now, and each time I've gone out as soon as I dared, uncovered the garden, added a couple quarts warm water, and my crops have come back to life. In fact, I really need to harvest again.

Potatoes in the Hab, from The Martian: now that's extreme farming!

I've started thinking of my little survival-miracle on the back patio as "The Hab." (For Christmas, my son gave me a copy of The Martian, by Andy Weir. Thanks, Ty!). My horse-trough garden is not as amazing as "Martian potatoes," but who knows? At this rate I might be able to harvest spinach all winter long.

IMAGES: I took most of these images myself, except for the last one. Many thanks for it to NASA! It's from their fascinating article, "Nine Real NASA Technologies in 'The Martian.'" 


  1. Congratulations on the survival of your "Hab"! Here in Texas, we've had a couple of dips into the low 20s, and one morning I woke to find it was 12 degrees out there. Not your usual Texas winter. So far, though, the roses have all survived, as have the hardy Texas native perennials. The annuals have died, but that's why we call them annuals. All is well in my garden, too.

  2. This is an interesting project! The cool thing is that ice can actually protect your plants from the cold. If the dome is built correctly and the snow freezes on top of its surface, newly formed layer of ice can act as additional heat insulation. Placing the dome next to your furnace vent was also a great idea. Well done!