Greenhouse update

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Yes, that’s snow on the outside!

It’s been a (select an adjective) winter this year, which is news to nobody, but its severity has particular relevance for the greenhouse-wannabe gardener.  To you I say:  There is hope, but not much hope was to be found in the past two months.

img_0335This sad-looking celery is still actually holding on; I figured it would up and die, so it was a bit of a successful experiment.  I do pick around this plant often; it’s actually quite huge…and I will also let it go to seed this spring.

I have done a fair bit of cleanup and cleaning out of the new (Nov. 2008 ) greenhouse since my last update of it.  Many of the greens have been consumed by the turkeys, geese and us, but more than is usual (that is, maybe 10-15%) became worthless packets of green cellulosic mush.  Seriously gross slimy stuff!  I blame the wet weather we had in the fall…I don’t think the greenhouse ever got a chance to dry up before we put the plastic on.  (Normally, this is a fine thing:  one needn’t water in the winter, you see, if the beds are damp when the hot weather stops.  The greenhouse doesn’t let any of that moisture escape…and there’s my problem in the new greenhouse this winter: the beds were sopping.)  I also believe that larger plants (most of the lettuces were fairly large when the frosts came and stayed) do less well than smaller plants.  It’s too bad I can never tell when the cold is going to come and stay or I would plant small plants accordingly.

The old (Oct. 2007 ) greenhouse was underplanted this winter and many of its beds were allowed a season’s rest.  But the cold has affected this stalwart (high and dry) greenhouse as well, as the seeds I had planted in November and December are as yet no-shows!  Likewise the garlic hasn’t made much of an appearance.  It really must be cold in there, and, checking my records, it is:  it’s not that it’s necessarily colder (both winters experienced 18*F lows) but it hasn’t gotten as hot…the hottest day in there being only 80*F, averaging 50* during the day.  Last winter it was regularly in the 70-90* highs, with a 60* day average range…so this winter, on top of being cold and snowy has been dark and cloudy, too.

Okay, mostly bad news, right?  Well, there are some highlights.  And mostly these highlights are calendar-based:  the earth is tilting, and with that change comes more sun, and with more sun comes warmer greenhouses.  In the interim, we’re all still eating plenty of…salad!img_0348-1

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12 responses to “Greenhouse update

  1. I had some lettuce that turned to a slimy mess as well (but not in a greenhouse). Oh well, makes me appreciate the delicious spring lettuces.

  2. My small polytunnel (got second hand from a nursery whose owner was retiring from the business) will be put up later this winter for early summer crops – and next year winter gardening. So nothing growing under the hoops. Everythin is outside: While in the past two winters that I have gardened here, I have been able to count on some of the cole crops under reemay, this year it’s kale and mache. That’s it! It’s been so cold with the termometer going below 0F. The Asian Mustards – while harvestable – have a lot of mushy inedible stuff, the chard died a slimy death, even the parsley looks thoroughly unhappy etc.

    Mache however is reliable!

    But yeah! things will start growing again

    Sylvie

  3. Good gravy! Is that snow piled up on the walls of the hoop? Is your snow uniformly that deep or is that the stuff that came off the roof? And I thought we had a lot here in Maine. I apologize if you answered this somewhere, but what are the dimensions of your greenhouse? What zone is SW Michigan?

  4. Hold on…spring will be here before you know it. The weather here will be unseasonably warm this week, so I’ll be able to have some pre-gardening fun.
    The thought is making me giddy.

  5. Its hard to wait! We’re supposed to have temps in the high 40F-50F this week, so its a tantalizing taste of the spring to come. I hate this time, so close and yet so far.
    The weather is such a variable, regardless of the best planning, it seems to always have the upper hand. Wishing that I could come and help eat some of that salad! No fresh greens here since November, and they are sorely missed.

  6. What have your temps been outside the greenhouse?

  7. How many days so far this winter have you had that remained below freezing? We are at a near record 28 so far, counting from December 1st. In the 2007-2008 winter we had only had 9 by this time.

  8. Mrs Chiot, uck, the only thing worse than seeing the lettuce that way is touching it. Yik!

    Sylvie, I think you will love the greenhouse. I know what you mean, though: normally the kales survive uncovered here, along with collards, and I do have some things under reemay and even plastic, but it’s been a bad winter. Oh well! Still beats the store.

    Chris, hah, nope, we have (had) just over 2′. My two greenhouses are both 16′ wide, and about 8-9′ in the middle; the older one is 20′ long and the newer one is 28′ long. The beds in both of them are 3′ wide by 6′ long. I *love* them. It’s weird: even if they were 100′ long I am sure I could fill them up…

    Pamela, well, I hate being teased by 50* days before April. But April is coming closer every day…

    Oh boy MC, yeah, I would miss them too. And I agree with you that weather is the ultimate “decider” in most situations…so it’s why I try so hard to diversify.

    Hiya Emily. We probably haven’t been as cold as you because the lake acts like a warm blanket (and a cold blanket in the spring). Our lowest overnight was -1* but our daytime temperatures at their lowest were in the 20s. Pretty typical here.

    Oh Scott I want to live where you live. Every day dips below freezing ’round here. But I see what you’re asking: the majority (80%) of our days have been below 32* between Nov-Feb. It’s been pretty cloudy too.

  9. Thanks, El – that gives me some good perspective. It’s been super cold here this winter; we usually get one stretch of 3-4 days when it’s below zero at night, and this year we’ve had weeks and weeks of it. The lowest temp at my place was right around -20, and we hit that a couple of times so far this year.

    My ground is unfrozen (or nearly so) after these last couple days of warmth (and watering with warm water!) so I’m hoping we’ll be able to gain and keep a few more degrees on the outside temp from here on out.

  10. Emily, it’s a good time to seed stuff in there too, like spinach and lettuce. And more warm weather is happening today!

  11. your greenhouse(s) rock! that is excellent use of extending the seasons. i need to get serious about doing one this winter. just planted lettuces, roquette, carrots and radishes in my tshirt yesterday, but today its back down to really, really cold wear three layers kind of weather. ah, mother nature teasing us!

  12. Thanks, Riana! I think they’re pretty darned cool. My husband wasn’t so convinced of this fact until he spent his first mid-January 90* day in there…when it was 20* outside. Yay, I am glad you got some things planted! Early spring salad coming your way…but first we have to deal with a bit of winter.

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