Open the door and look right (and yes, that’s snow outside the plastic)
Now look left. You can’t see the front two beds, though. And sorry the angles make you seasick.
Welcome to my bonsai greenhouse garden. Nothing is allowed to get big, what with my compulsive outer-leaf harvesting. In the main, though I am growing vegetables in the greenhouse this winter, I am growing them for their leaves. Kohlrabi, shallots, beets: they may not be getting enough energy to make their bulbs, such is my fondness for their above-ground outputs.
Before breaking ground on the greenhouse, I seriously looked over the winter-approved list of hardy lettuces and salad findings, and, yes, I even planted these. But as I readily admit, I am not one to follow directions to the letter. My family, for example, really adores Amish Deer Tongue lettuce: it is a kind of cross between upright romaine and head-forming bibb lettuce, neither of which is especially cold-hardy. Nor is lime green leafy Grand Rapids, but I grew a lot of that too: we LIKE it is my stubborn answer. And you know what? They’ve both been okay in there, even if the mercury dips below 20* nightly.
In fact, everything is doing well. (I should clarify that my standards might be low: by “doing well” I mean “not dead yet.”) Nothing is robustly growing: there’s not been enough sun to make that happen. With the lack of sun there’s been a lack of heat, too. I have followed others’ questioning of heat-retaining methods like black plastic water-filled barrels, freshly manured hot beds, etc., to add to the greenhouse and I kind of scratch my head. Any plant will grow when its needs are met, and the top of any plant’s needs is sunlight, not warmth. I happen to live in a rather cloudy corner of the globe. Those clouds dump lots of snow on us, it is true, but those clouds also blanket us to keep us relatively warm. Global warming fears aside, this is a typical winter for us. Yes, it’s been chilly and dark in that greenhouse this last month or so, but the greenery is hanging on. I would say the secret to my success here is raised beds, deep/well composted soil, and a 24/7 covering of the agricultural cloth (Reemay), and not something high-tech.
The one botanical rock star of the greenhouse, though? Arugula. I transplanted a couple of my wildlings (they of the slim leaves and the yellow flowers) and planted a row of fleshy Italian salad arugula, too. I love arugula, but I stand alone in my admiration. So I have been making fairly decent warm-served pesto with it (warming it slightly in a pan before serving takes a bit of its bite out that my family finds offensive); thank you dear Cookiecrumb for the suggestion.
Other eager plants include mizuna, chard, radicchio, tatsoi, broccoli, and parsley. Perennial scallions have kept us in onion-y greens; they DO look sad, but just wait until the weather warms up. Cold-loving herbs, too, are having a field day in there. I have a huge, ever-expanding patch of chervil just crying out to be cut up and tossed with scrambled eggs. Even the thyme, rosemary, sage and marjoram in there have never really gone to sleep: they’re at the back of the greenhouse, uncovered, in the old herb garden that I didn’t have time to relocate.
So experiment, is my advice. Go with what you like, avoid what you don’t. Your greenhouse needn’t just be cold-approved mache, spinach and kale, but if you love them, it should!