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A very interesting question from a young gardener
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

March 11, 2018

An example of Remay cloth used to cover veggie crops. Author photo.





The letter in question came from Springfield, Ontario, which is located about 30 Km southeast of London, Ontario. And only a few Ks west of Tillsonburg from whence my radio vignettes are broadcast daily. Here is the letter:

“My name is Erick Rempkens. I am 16 years old and I live in Springfield Ontario. I enjoy listen-ing to your program on Tillsonburg radio. I have backyard chickens but always wanted a few more. I currently have just over 100 Sq. m (1100 square feet) of garden and was starting to plan my garden this year when I had a thought. I have the opportunity to buy a pop up tent green-house that is almost the same size as my garden. So I was thinking if I bought the pop up greenhouse grow my garden in it but in pots and plant my garden in a perennial rye grass red clover mix and run a chicken tractor on it. If you don't know what a chicken tractor is, it's a wood frame with a tarp over resembling a chicken coop but it has wheels. You simply move the chicken tractor to fresh grass each day and they eat mostly grass and hardly any pellets. Not to mention the fact that you are directly putting the manure back on the ground. What are your thoughts on this? Would I still be happy with my garden? Just something to think about.”

Isn’t that an interesting question? I think it is an idea Erick might wish to pursue but perhaps he should just think about doing it over about half the area this year; then next year do it on the other half of his garden.

I should have started out by saying that in fact I did not know just what a chicken tractor is!

One of the problems to consider is watering the crops. If the plants are to all be in containers it would mean watering them all by hand (watering can). The only other alternative would be to install a fairly expensive drip irrigation system that would ‘feed’ each individual container.

I would personally be concerned about the aesthetics of the garden, although Erick might be all right with that.

Weeds and weeding would be another concern—I do believe weeds would be a greater problem under the plastic than out in the open air.

I do know some keen vegetable gardeners who grow a number of their crops under cloches. With the lack of insecticides to kill such insects as carrot rust fly and onion maggots, this is be-coming even somewhat more popular as the insects cannot get at the soil to lay their eggs, and thus the insect damage is entirely avoided.

But I believe you would find there would be some vegetables that would not do as well growing under the plastic as they would out in the open air. Even tomatoes (considered a warm-season crop) will not produce fruit if the temperature rises above 32o C (90 F) under the plastic. Check a number of websites for further information on this aspect. Definitely a thermometer is a must, as likely are a barrage of fans. Just search Google for something like: “Growing vegetables under plastic”. Amongst many others you will find: .

Before concluding I should add that most people look to a plastic (or glass) setup for vegetables for winter growth. In that case, however, you would need all the sides closed in as well as some additional heat. Veggies such as Brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, kale etc.) would do well with the very minimum of heat, whereas tomatoes, okra and beans are considered warm-season crops which would need considerably more heat. However, you may not even be considering your garden for winter growing.

In any case, good luck with whatever you decide to do, and if you do use the plastic idea, do let me know how it all goes.


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