The one thing the greenhouse is at this time of year is hot and dry. I take advantage of this: drying beans in buckets, paprika peppers hanging on the back wall, and curing winter squashes to the right. The bell pepper plants as you can see are still kinda large.
Not that I am running away, or opting out, of the problems of the world, but…the greenhouse cares not about economics, about presidential debates. So I am quite happy to go in there and throw dirt around.
This weekend I finally (finally!) emptied the old greenhouse of its summer contents. The one exception was the sweet peppers, as I mentioned before: they were happy, so they got to stay. (The monster tomatoes were happy too so obviously I play favorites.) Other than some newly-planted alliums, the beds are empty. I figured I needed a small period of empty beds to give the damned voles the message that there is no food here, please go away. Whether that’ll really work or not is debatable; Little Edie is on the job though and I have about 20 mousetraps set in there just waiting for little rodent feet.
My experiment with undersowing the hot crops with green manure was a rank failure. Yes, the beans produced and were fruitful, but the clover absolutely hated the hot greenhouse, and who can blame it. So next summer I will need to assess my choice of green manures and go with somebody who actually appreciates the heat: hairy vetch maybe, or buckwheat. I might even look into using my usual grass mulch, though I do worry about slugs. In July-Sept., it might be too hot for them too.
So Sunday I pulled, yanked, cut and cleaned; I spread 1/2″ of compost over every bed, and 2″ dried grass clippings, and then I forked things in. I watered heavily. It now sits.
My first greenhouse is now a year old. The first winter of the greenhouse, I used only 6 of the 9 beds currently in it. Harvests, then, were precious, and the salad stuff before growth kicked in again in March was positively bonsai in its nipped outer leaves. Why 6 of 9? Well, I ran out of time (my usual story) and the 9th bed was my old herb garden, uprooted finally when I found the snakes on Mother’s Day. By late winter, I had planted beds 7 and 8, and believe me, having even that little digging to do in January and February was so. very. gratifying. I love this bubble of plastic, I do.
One thing that I realized on Sunday, when I was digging? I am really looking forward to obsessing over the small scale of these nine-plus-twelve beds of dirt. Last winter, I got to know every inch of dirt I gardened. It was quite fun, this shifting of scales. Most gardeners appreciate the shutoff of the tap that is winter in the northern hemisphere. Me? I appreciate the steady drip that is the greenhouses’ contents!
Jealous of my broadfork? I’m jealous of your hoophouse. But yes, I am looking forward to the brief respite of late December and all of January before it’s time to think about the next seed order and starting the seeds indoors. Still. I’d love to have a hoophouse. Yours looks nice, El. Hope you can get rid of those voles!
Okay, if you can get away from all the crap of the world in that thing than I’m definitely sold on them!!!
It is your hoophouse that pushed me over the edge, El! I’m looking forward to doing my own February digging this winter. 🙂 What’s the first thing I can plant, and how early can I plant it? (I’m in Ann Arbor, so just about the same temp/light as you.)
Thanks, Kate! Yeah, I’m going to keep hinting that you get your own, though 😉 and hey there are even incredibly frugal ones in my “greenhouses” tab above to try!
Angie, likewise: your man is so good at creating and building things, maybe he needs to make one for you too, if only as a place for you to clear your head!
Hiya Emily. Congratulations on your new purchase!! Goodness you must be excited. Well, because the new greenhouse space is now rapidly filling mostly with salad seedlings that I started in Sept., if I still had just one greenhouse, I would get some seeds started tout suite. Do you have the beds prepared? If you don’t, just take some space in one of your other gardens and plant some cold-loving yet transplantable seeds of lettuce and arugula. Arugula, especially, LOVES greenhouse life. I also seed minutina (a relative of plantain) and some chickories as they likewise love the cold. So go ahead and erect the greenhouse and then transfer things to it later. Once you have the greenhouse beds up and going, it’s time to plant things that hate being transplanted, so will therefore grow in place, like beets and spinach, orach and claytonia. Look to your gardens too for things that might like greenhouse life, like parsley, chard, kales and any small-ish lettuce plants, or any herbs like chives and thyme and rosemary (the latter especially loves life in there). I would also go to your pantry and find some shallots and thin garlic cloves: you can eat the greens of these guys during the winter, and you might be rewarded with bulbs in the early spring. Next spring, though, definitely you should find some bunching onion seeds (scallions) as these are perennial, and just need your help by dividing and harvesting them all winter.
Curing winter squash? Please tell me more!!
Ah, Jules, that’s easy. The garden was wet after Friday’s first frost; these puppies need to both dry off and cure (harden) before long-term storage. Most storage veggies need darkness to cure, but winter squash is an exception. Organic Gardening has a nice go-to section on winter squash, and more fall stuff besides (root cellars, winter gardening) to get you going.
I’ve found buckwheat works well in the greenhouse. I would think the beans would fix plenty of nitrogen, and adding buckwheat would add lots of organic material.
Thanks, Edward! I will give it a try. It sure does well enough for me outside. My reasons for undersowing are two: helping the soil and adding some matter that I can turn under between crops. So yes, buckwheat would work; just gotta make sure I hack it down before it seeds itself.
Which greenhouse kits did you buy? My husband built a fair sized PVC greenhouse in the spring, but it didn’t hold well, the poly ripped at stressed joints and now we have a blaring white frame with no more poly after a couple windy days.
Our soil is also worse than I thought. The only success was herbs, which doesn’t say anything at all!
What did you do to your space before putting in the raised beds and trucked-in soil?
Hi Jennifer. I bought our kits from Growers’ Solution. It’s a complete kit (plastic, frame, plastic hold-down system) and I also bought two roll-up sides. The things you need to supply are the wood baseboard and the 2×4 lumber for the end walls. Altogether it was about $1000 including lumber for a 16×28 greenhouse, and another $150 for the roll-up sides.
Our soil is pretty crummy too so I built up the beds with our soil and lots and lots and lots of compost, leaf litter, and grass clippings before putting in the new plants or seeding. I keep adding more compost and grass clippings etc. every time I change out the crops, which is about twice a year. I also add compost to the top of the soil if I have it handy. It’s helped a lot: the soil is really truly hand-friendly: I can dig it with my bare hands, which I certainly cannot do with our plain earth.
hope that helps!