On gardening adjustments


Chive blossoms

On Saturday I pulled  a monster (4.5″ diameter) leek out of the greenhouse for dinner, and a friend says, my gosh, what did you do to that thing?  Nothing much, just the coddled life in the greenhouse.  So, she said, they’re like the Kobe beef of the vegetable world.  Oh yeah, I say:  I massage my leeks with sake daily.

She was on to something, though.  In point of fact, those greenhouses of ours are taking some getting used to, like all good tools.  My garden and food-preservation life has also needed to adjust.  With effort (mostly in the form of forethought), I will need to do a LOT less canning and freezing this year.  This, incidentally, is not the best news if I consider how much time was spent and how much food was preserved last year.  Well, it’s still good news; it’s just quite a bit of an adjustment.

So, I have had these greenhouses (hoophouses, polytunnels) for a year and a half now.  This is therefore my second spring with them and I now have my first full year of harvesting under my belt.  Like any beginning gardener, I am completely learning, completely figuring out how to manage (in reality, I’m flying by the seat of my pants).  But here it is, early May, and we definitely have had a salad for nearly every dinner for the last year.  We cleaned out the rest of last autumn’s veggies from the greenhouses within the last month.  And recently, we’ve been able to pull new (planted since Feb.) vegetables out of the greenhouses and gardens:  Asian veggies and brassicas mostly, like pak choy and broccoli and napa cabbage, as well as asparagus from outdoors.

This is great!  Preferring fresh produce whenever possible, I can really plan on doing a lot less canning and freezing over the summer.  Yes indeed I will still be chained to the stove for fruit and tomato season, and I’ll still freeze some green beans; for the most part, though, the garden and greenhouse contents need to adjust.  Less cabbage in the root cellar, less sauerkraut, time the fall and winter plantings to add more root crops, stage the production of staples like parsley, carrots, onions, and celery.

It also means I don’t need 70 tomato plants  again.  But the leeks?  Oh yeah:  about 100!

12 responses to “On gardening adjustments

  1. Go ahead. Gloat about your greenhouse. It’s killing me.

  2. So the greenhouses must be great. For those of us without (for a host of reasons) I think this is terribly clever, and will be making use of my own cake plate / punch bowl combo for this new greenhouse purpose:

  3. Thanks for the seed saving/heirloom info El! Looking forward to getting educated through your journey!

  4. I’m with Ed here…your “gloating” is killing me! 🙂 All I want is to simply be able to go out into the garden or greenhouse and pick something fresh to eat every single day of the year…is that asking too much?! I keep trying to convince my husband that it would pay for itself in a season or two….

  5. Thanks for the interesting posts and pictures and collecting all those links! Good luck in your frst full extended gardening season. I like your thinking of the green house as a good tool that takes getting used to.

  6. I’m excited to read about planning with a greenhouse 🙂 It does sound amazing, not being so dependent on the traditional methods of storage. Good luck with the season! How has it worked in the summer – does it get *too* warm for the plants sometimes?

  7. So happy to read that I’m not the only greenhouse rookie. Other than my library, meager knowledge and several blogs I too am flying by the seat of my pants. I completely agree that a greenhouse is a wonderful tool but like all tools there are some who will try to drive a screw with a hammer. I just would prefer to keep my misuse to a minimum. It has been fun learning.


  8. El, please post a glamor shot of the monster greenhouse leeks! With something like a Toyota for scale…

  9. Oh Ed! I hope it wasn’t perceived as a true gloat. The only gloating I really do is to my husband, who didn’t really like the idea of getting the first one. (And it’s he who wanted the 2nd, go figure!)

    Paige, that’s cute! Watch it in the sun or you’ll cook ’em all; they might be fine in bright shade. Cloches are best used when it’s really flipping chilly or for overnight. Check out Wintersown and you’ll get even more ideas. Make it a project, like your strawberries; it’s never too early to cultivate a gardener, you know!

    Mim, you’re more than welcome. I have had no problem saving my heirloom tomatoes from year to year, even those with extended styles like my Hillbilly/Flame tomatoes or the Brandywines.

    Blaithin, tell him it will pay for itself in less than a year and you’ll get his attention! Really, mine did, especially since I share my goodies. If I actually put an organic pricetag on all the produce dang I would be a rich girl. But it is really gratifying (and delicious) to harvest something daily year-round 🙂

    Hi Ron, you’re quite welcome. I hope the links were helpful. Do you see one in your future? Granted, Georgia is a lot warmer than Michigan, but I would bet you’d find some great uses for it.

    MC, yeah, maybe for two weeks in July last year my peppers dropped their flowers, but otherwise the heat-loving plants just thrive in there, you know? You just kind of have to keep an eye out on what the weather is going to do. Right now the greenhouses are fully open, and will remain so until it cools down again this fall, but right up til last weekend, I was closing them at night to keep them warm.

    Woody, you crack me up. Yeah, I just figure I have to keep my eyes open. What has been the toughest thing to learn is how damned quick everything grows in there when it starts to heat up in late winter. The timing just gets trickier (still manageable, but more balls in the air). And if you’re like me you NEVER have any open soil in there!

    Rebekah, will do, especially since I have to grill a couple this weekend.

  10. This is your captain speaking … we are experiencing some turbulence … please do not adjust the seat of your pants …

    I love it that you are able to produce fresh greens year round in a “cold” zone without anything more than the heat of the sun and satisfaction with seasonal eating patterns. Whenever I visit this blog I feel I’ve seen a little part of utopia in action.

    It even kinda redeems plastic, which I always regard as a bit of a nemesis. 🙂

  11. sigh…. I am getting there, or so slowly. We got the two low tunnles frame on, ready for next winter. For the summer, they’ll just be planted, and we’ll put the plastic cover on top in the fall. Yeah… it radically change how one plans things.

  12. Firefly, you’re a dear, but utopia? Perhaps I only show the shiny bits here! I suppose that’s my prerogative as the author of a blog but you did hit on two things that absolutely must “be” if one tries a greenhouse. One, seasonal eating (no corn in March, no tomatoes in January) and two, the hate/love of that plastic film that covers the things. I am just fine with that first thing but the second has required a bit of a justification: the stuff lasts 6 years, for one, which, had I actually purchased all the goodies I grew within it (in plastic bags and containers of course) would easily exceed the plastic used to skin the greenhouses. So there you go.

    Yay Sylvie!! My advice: find all kinds of babies in July to stick in there in Sept-Oct., like things you’ll eat all winter. Little herbs (thyme, chervil) and even bigger ones (parsley) are a must, as well as chard, lettuces, leeks and broccoli. Seed them heavily with carrots in July too. And find some room for a celery plant or two, as well as some seedling onions!! Nothing like fresh goodies like this in your vinaigrettes in January. And then there’s all those lovely chickories…

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