We planted lettuce in the hoop house today. Devil's Ears and Buttercrunch lettuce, a mesclun mix, Space spinach, and Red Cored Chantenay carrots. YUM! I am drooling in anticipation.... The soil temperature in the hoop house this morning at about 10 o'clock was 60F. We have room for 3 additional rows of lettuce to plant in a few weeks. Last year we celebrated Beltane with lettuce for dinner, I hope we will be doing the same this year.
We love the hoop house so much that we added a second house this year. They are simple and quick to make, using 1/2" PVC pipe, 18" pieces of rebar, and a sheet of translucent plastic. In all, about $40 and less than an hour to install. We will warm the soil early to start tomatoes in the new house. Our soil is heavy and slow to warm, so this will help extend the season quite a bit. We'll take the plastic off during the summer, and on again in the fall to protect the tomatoes from frost and extend the greens season. During the summer, the lettuce bed will get covered with a shade cloth, which slows bolting, and more importantly, reduces the likelihood of the invading groundhog hordes eating the lettuce -- apparently they don't like to go under the hoops.
I tried a technique I saw in Rodale's Gardener to Gardener Seed-Starting Primer & Almanac. I used strips of moistened toilet paper to create seed tape. I measured a 4' piece of t.p., misted it, placed the seeds in the center at the suggested spacing, then folded the t.p. over the seeds in thirds, and misted again. The damp t.p. mushes together and holds the seeds in place. I then carefully placed the strips in the prepared rows in the hoop house. I hope this will result in neat rows of nicely spaced plants and less thinning than in years past.