Greenhouse update, New Year’s edition

9 of 12 beds in the “new” greenhouse:  I took the rowcovers off to show you

It’s technically still the beginning of winter for us, and the days and nights will continue to get colder, but there’s a little more sun shining every day.  The greenhouses, however, are still productive.  My challenge?  Pick things fast enough to use things up, but slow enough to allow the lettuces to continue to grow.  This harvesting remains a challenge because I am picking for my family…and four others!  (Everyone in the CSA gets a gallon-sized bag a week.  And we eat what we want, which is probably more like 2-1/2 gallons.)

“Old” greenhouse, looking at 8 of 9 beds:  empty beds have garlic in them

This has been a fairly typical winter for us.  “Typical” includes the 50-degree day of torrential rain we had on New Year’s Eve which thawed every flake of the 8″ of snow on the ground, as well as the regular weather ups and downs…if anything, I would say it’s been cloudier than usual.  Heh.  Climate change = change, all right.  At least the greenhouses nip off the extremes and we’re just left with “winter” in there.

This is a typical mixed bed:  3’x6′, cabbage, kales, lettuce


The lettuces are happy for the most part, snug in their beds.  I do experience the occasional die-off of a plant.  Notice these two in the picture above.  The center has not died on the plants, but the outer, lower leaves have.  It’s been my experience to just leave it and it might recover.  Only when it’s totally mush does it go into the compost.

I can pack things into the beds pretty well too, including things that hate being crowded like these cabbages.  I harvest the outer leaves (that also keeps the growth down) to give to the bunnies…and then occasionally I will eat a whole head.

Hope springs eternal

And those “empty” beds that you saw?  They’re also riddled with seedling lettuces.  Seedling weeds too!  But yeah, lettuces and onions can tolerate really low temperatures and still germinate.  It will just take them a loooonnnng time.

18 responses to “Greenhouse update, New Year’s edition

  1. Jealousy Jealousy. Oh, how I’d like to have some fresh greens right now!!
    My kingdom for a greenhouse!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Jealous here too, but also encouraged. A tiny hoop house is on our project list for this year. Maybe this time next year I’ll have a very miniaturized version of what you’ve got there. Everything looks great, especially the brassicas.

  3. Ditto the jealousy. Now if i can just harness it for good, by next year I’ll have fresh greens and a chicken run (separated, of course). And if I don’t I’ll have an even worse case of greenhouse envy.

    Very inspiring!

  4. Wow! It all looks great. We’ve had a hard frost every night for the last week or so, and everything that should survive a frost looks pretty done in. Makes me wish I’d done a better job with my loopy hoop-de-don’t house, which has an unwieldy flap, instead of a proper door, so I’ve let things go in it.

    Does your hoop house stay up all year or do you do something with it during the summer months?

    • Hiya Paula. It’s permanently up. Goodness, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I moderate the heat (high summer only) by removing the plastic entirely in a middle section in the end walls and utilize the roll-up sides (one side per greenhouse; it’s the entire length of each, rolls up about 3′ high). And yeah, it’s hot in there, but if I lived somewhere warmer I would use shade netting to bring the temps down. But yeah, it’s great for tomatoes and the like; I start ’em earlier and harvest ’em later because it’s hot in there.

  5. What are your average lows? I think my hoop is too exposed and my microclimate colder than yours…I certainly have no results like yours! 😦

  6. I have salad envy. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might dig my new article.

  7. Very, very nice. I love seeing your under cover winter garden. Happy 2011.

  8. Sigh… I won’t compare this to my sad little low hoops, and I will remind myself that this is my first winter, and you’ve had a few more years of experience.

    Still, I might go try and pic some chard today….
    Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  9. So inspiring. I’m starting cold frames this February for swiss chard, peas, and lettuces. I’d love to have a hoophouse up by this year, but I might be getting my first topbar beehive by late March… Decisions and priorities… So far my local Farmer’s mkt has been keeping me in lettuces, collards, root veggies and apples. It’s fun to show off “new” recipes using seasonal produce!

  10. Hello El, four years in a month. I did it, just ended the full blog read. Now i will follow the updates. You gave me tons of ideas, thaks you very much.

    João, from Ijuí – Brazil

  11. Happy New Year El! Still so dang proud of you for following your dream.

  12. I’m still waaaaitng for my onions and lettuces to show up. It’s still chilly, but of course no snow here. Just gray and rainy.

  13. Just found your inspiring blog! I’m an artist & mom to two school-aged kids. I also have 6 chickens, 2 dogs & several modestly sized raised garden beds. Looking forward to following your posts!

  14. Sue! give it a whirl. Greenhouses are great fun, and induce jealousy too, if that’s what you’re into 🙂

    Kate, I knew I could eventually convince you. My fig trees live in them in the off season…actually, one’s gotten so big I don’t even bother to move it any longer. Anyway, they save us lots of money in the long run by using them as drying sheds and the like so, yeah. I am glad to hear it’s on your list!

    Bev, you, too…you’ll like it. You can do a cheap one for the chickies by using cattle fencing…making basically a low tunnel if you use it one way, or a high(er) tunnel the other. I know they appreciate un-frozen dusting ground year-round.

    Paula, I wouldn’t hang up the hat on everything in the house. You will be surprised I think in Feb. when the light picks up more: there might still be very alive and thriving plants in there.

    Emily, could be we’re warmer here closer to the lake; we’re supposedly 6B. Could be too that these things are just bigger than your schwanky greenhouse too…they moderate things better or something. But you got me curious, so I checked. Our lows at night are in the low to mid twenties, consistently; the lowest yet was 10. The lowest the greenhouse has gotten was 25. It’s usually in the upper thirties to low forties in there when it’s cloudy, and “dips” only to 30 or more at night. If it stays sunny, the temperature spikes to 70-80 but as you know it’s been a cloudy couple of months so that hasn’t happened.

    Peter, I did read your article (I read all your articles of course). My only quibble, not that it is much of one, was with the idea that that guy called it winter harvesting: in my humble experience everything is still actively growing, it’s just doing it at a really slow rate. It does, he’s right, act like a big refrig keeping things fresh though. Outdoors under the snow, no dice, that’s winter harvesting I am doing, mos def.

    Thanks, Mike, you too!

    Sara, the chard might be a tad sad but that’s fine if you’re doing a gratin. I like chard turnovers at this time of year. Actually, anything under a crust is great now, isn’t it?

    JoAnna: great that you at least have access to an active farmers’ market now! Yeah, what’s old is new again on the dinner table; eating locally will do that to a girl 🙂 Good luck with the bees AND the hoops!

    Joao, I am humbled. I hope I was helpful! And I hope my crazy gardening applies to anything you’d attempt in Brazil…wow.

    Dream, Annette? Bumpy bruised reality! Hah! You too, my dear: finest wishes for the new plans in the new year.

    And frosty, Ms. S. There should be some good things coming up. I still think you’re really in toasty ground if your peppers are still alive and kicking!

    Hi Giselle, welcome. Great art! I’ve got a BFA in painting too not that I am really doing anything with it now…sigh. Of course, you don’t need to garden to read this bloggy thing but I always like to give gardeners new ideas, so…I hope you come back.

  15. Beautiful greenhouse. Very inspiring. Thank you!

  16. When do you start your row covers? Got mine out too late and everything froze, even in the gh.

  17. It’s so awesome to see things growing green in the winter. 🙂

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