On what’s in the new greenhouse

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Bed #4 of 12 in the new greenhouse:  I thought I would show it to you because it’s a typical mixed bed of veggies and salad stuff.  Cover on, cover off.  The monster plant is an Early Purple Sprouting broccoli:  supposedly, these are winter-hardy (but never have been for me) and produce small purple shoots during their second spring.  Considering the crappy seeds I got from this company, I kind of doubt I will ever see a bit of broccoli from it, so I am treating it like kale.

As you can see, this 6’x3′ bed is pretty tightly planted.  There’s no real stress inside the greenhouse, you see, so you can plant pretty thickly if your soil is decent.  There are 13 rows in this bed with the bottom three being Swiss chard and sorrel, and most of the rest are lettuces.  The lettuces are typically planted at 7-8 plants per row…my calculations then are that there are about 70-80 lettuces in here.  All the lettuces are from the transfer bed, and the transfer bed was seeded mid-August.  I transplanted the babies into this bed around the middle of September.  They’ve tripled in size since then.

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While showing you the typical size of the lettuce plants, I thought I would show you my favorite:  Amish Deer Tongue.  It’s kind of a romaine but kind of a buttercrunch too.  These are from seed I have saved.  It will get bigger but not by much.

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Left:  slug damage on Brune d’hiver  Right:  frost damage on Grand Rapids (the darker area)

And while I am at it I thought I would show you a couple of problems you can expect.  Neither one of these things is a dealbreaker, if you ask me:  the slugs die once it stays cold, and the plants do toughen up after it stays chilly.

So, before you really start scratching your heads, not EVERY bed is planted with 80 lettuces.  Only 8 out of 12!  Yep, that’s a heap of salad fixings.  I give a lot away, we certainly eat our share, and the turkeys and geese eat quite a bit themselves.  Other things growing out there:  a bed of carrots, a bed of leeks, a bed of broccoli and kale, a bed of garlic.  Various herbs like parsley and thyme and chives are scattered throughout.  The old greenhouse is mostly planted with lettuce seeds, garlic, and multiplier onions.  These lettuces above will be spent by March, and the seeds in the old greenhouse will then be ready to be eaten.

I really enjoy eating fresh stuff year-round: home-canned stuff is great, but there’s something wonderful about walking outside in January and harvesting dinner.  These greenhouses have been great investments.  A friend told me that, at $5 a bag of organic salad, these babies will pay for themselves in no time!  Considering I have only been a greenhouse farmer for a year and a month, let’s see…I would have needed to sell about 380 bags (or come up with your own calculus if you consider the peppers and tomatoes, leeks and non-salad veggies).   I know I have easily recouped my investment!

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15 responses to “On what’s in the new greenhouse

  1. I’m so jealous of that beautiful bed of greens! My yard is very small, so there’s no green house in my future, but I am enjoying yours.

    Can you say a bit more about the crappy seeds? I ordered from the same company this year, and got a real mixed bag. Some things did well, others didn’t. I’m a new gardener, so I don’t know if it’s me or the seeds, but I suspect the seeds because while a variety of (for example) chard I got from a different company did fantastic, a different variety from this company, planted right next to it, did horrible. I’m trying to figure out if I should order from them again or not.

  2. Well, Katxena, my experience from them is both what you experienced (poor germination) and also really mixed-up seeds. Different varieties in one seed packet (cherry tomatoes in a Brandywine packet was one rather disturbing discovery, but it also happened with a melon and a broccoli so I know it wasn’t just me being a flaky gardener). My opinion: the company is growing too fast and really don’t have reliable producers. They also don’t necessarily stand by their seeds. Their two saving graces are a deep catalog (of mixed-up seeds, be forewarned) that are really cheap (gee I wonder why they’re so cheap?).

  3. okay, here’s where I have to officially tune out for the winter if I’m going to maintain my sanity. See you in the spring!! (J/K LOL!!)

  4. El, Do you harvest the non-lettuce vegetables all winter?

  5. Angie, that’s still not going to stop me from tempting you!

    Pamela, yes. I usually do one braised or sauteed green veg from the greenhouse every other dinner in the winter (broccoli, beets, carrots, chard, radicchio, sugarloaf chickory, kale, endive). Otherwise, it’s frozen beans or winter squash as the main veg. There’s also “flavoring veggies” like scallions, leeks, celery, sorrel and cutting celery out there which usually get picked every night for the main course. So, well, I have a “management plan” that starts with seeding stuff in mid-August or so for transplanting into the garden later to either mature later (I have staggered broccoli growth, for example, with babies seeded in Sept. and some bigger ones from July) or that were planted in the greenhouse beds back in the spring (scallions, onions, leeks, carrots). I guess what I am saying is my refrigerator is absolutely empty except for leftovers! If I need something I go out and pick it.

  6. This may be my last non-gardening winter, if that is the case. I do miss real broccoli in the winter.
    Resisting greenhouse temptation was a snap when it sounded like lettuce was the only crop, since I dislike lettuce.

  7. Man do I have a lot to learn.

  8. Geez, I am salivating. I know I am not prepared to maximize my hoop house’s potential this year, but next year….

    I would LOVE to see your timeline of when/how you start seeds to maximize the two greenhouses. Since I happen to have a second piece of greenhouse plastic.

    I can hardly WAIT to be eating from the hoophouse, although we still have a bit of lettuce in the fridge from the garden, so I can’t really complain.
    Ali in Maine

  9. Okay, Pamela: you really don’t like lettuce? Wowza. The greenhouse is kind of chilly so hardier veggies are needed. Most of the brassica family works, though it probably won’t be sunny enough in there for the cauliflower to head up and cabbage might freeze. All the root crops do fine. Of course hot-season crops that don’t like to be transplanted (beans, squash, cucumber) would have to wait until spring. But you definitely can get a leg up by transplanting the solanacea crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) early to the greenhouse as a way-station.

    Jules, me too!

    Ali, don’t sweat it. I only had the time to plant 6 out of 9 beds last winter in mine, and even then I didn’t quite maximize things. It was a great lesson though and it helped me plan better for this year (and the 2nd greenhouse). As far as a timeline goes, well…I admit I am kind of slipshod there. I have two beds in the regular garden that are ONLY transfer beds where all stuff that doesn’t mind getting moved gets seeded successionally. It’s about mid-July when I get started thinking about the fall/winter greenhouse. I make 2nd plantings in those beds (1st ones are already growing for summer) of broccoli, kale, leeks, onions, radicchio and the like. IN the greenhouse itself at the same time I will plant carrots and other long-growing root crops. I wait for mid-late August (you might aim for mid-) to do a first planting of lettuce/arugula. They’ll get moved to the greenhouse in mid- to late Sept. when they have between 4-8 leaves.

    The only real juggle is waiting for the greenhouse to cool down enough for the cold-loving lettuces to be in there and not bolt. Cross-ventilation is pretty key here…but you will need to figure out how to make yours chicken-proof until you seal it up tight! I take the plastic off my doors in the summer and substitute bird netting.

    But the great thing about the lettuce in your greenhouse? It’s got a LONG growing season, so you won’t feel rushed to eat it. The rush comes in Feb/Mar when the longer daylight signals new growth!

  10. Thanks so much on your further thoughts about seeds from that company. I’ve been working on a spreadsheet comparing the prices of the seeds I want to buy in the spring from various companies (including their shipping and handling costs) and that company is actually on the mid-to-high side of what I’m looking for right now. I know that cheap isn’t always the best deal, but I was kinda surprised by that outcome.

    Of course, I am not taking the number of seeds in a packet into account, since I have a small garden and need only a few seeds (which means pinetree’s mini-packets are perfect for me). On a per-seed basis, that other company might come out ahead, but that’s not the relevant metric for me.

  11. Hey Katxena, I am not sure where you’re gardening, but I agree Pinetree is a pretty good company to work with. If you are wondering about comparing seed companies, Dave’s Garden Watchdog is a great source (especially if you are ordering things bigger than packets of seeds). Good luck with the spreadsheet! Wow, that is ambitious…but I suppose it would be helpful if you kept it updated.

  12. I’m with you, when I see how much less canning I’m doing with the greenhouses going full swing. I’m hooked. I got by this year canning mostly fruits and green beans, (which I like canned) fresh is better any day of the week. Can you really get a decent $5.00# organic salad there? Around here it is about $8.00. Which just means my greenhouse got paid for sooner. 🙂

  13. Nita, I have no idea how much bags of organic salad are going for around here 😉 ! This was just what she had told me she paid for those bags…which I am sure are even less than a pound. But isn’t it great, just knowing the thing is out there? I would love to learn what you do in the winter with yours…I know you turn one of them over to turkey/chicken brooding, and then I know the sheep get to get in there and eat the summer crops, but are you getting lettuce stuff too? You get pretty cloudy as well and so I was wondering what kind of slug or whatever problems you get.

    But yes I love canning too…but it’s a multi-pronged approach that works best, don’t you think? I’m just so glad I can go out and pick what I need, especially things like parsley and scallions to sex up the (canned or frozen) dinner fare.

  14. Ooooo! Thanks for the link! I’ll definitely check that out. My crazy seed spreadsheet lets me day dream about gardening all winter — since I don’t have a greenhouse to keep me busy! 🙂

  15. I am experiencing real greenhouse envy

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