Category Archives: greenhouses

On home vacations

One of the vacation projects was putting cement board siding on the outside of  Loven.  Ick; that cement board is nasty, but the cladding needs to be fireproof.  Now to paint it all and put the galvanized roof on…maybe I need another vacation?

Ah!  A week off from work.  The place looks really spiffed up (projects begun, projects completed, chaos swept away).  And:  I have bruises in strange places.

About a third of my work as an architect is designing second homes for Chicagoans keen to have a spot on this, the better, side of the lake.  You’ve heard about second homes, right?  They are acquired because the first home is wanting.  But me, I find it hard to ever leave my first home!  And why should I?  I would rather be home than anywhere else.

And it is just as well. There’s plenty to do.

Greenhouse #3 is even big enough to have a place to sit.

The new greenhouse layout is perfect for growing long rows of indeterminate tomatoes.  It is no secret that I abhor staking tomatoes; I have devoted many posts to this dislike, yet I still grow and stake them.  So I tried a new method on Thursday morning, as it was the best time to do it:  cloudy, breezy, and the Supreme Court was due to make its final rulings.  Instead of sitting by the radio being pissed off, I took to the greenhouse to change what I can.

This is 17 gauge fence wiring.  There are many uses for a roll of this stuff; in point of fact, I have never set a current to this wire…and I have gone through an eighth of a mile of it since I bought it.  I stretched the wire between the bows, using self-tapping screws held off from the bow just enough to allow a wrap of the wire.  Then, I stake the tomatoes by tying sisal twine to the base of the plant, stretching the twine up and knotting it over the fence wire, then draping it back down (for when the plant gets taller/more unwieldy).  Pretty simple all around.  I have plenty of screws, plenty of wire…but I ran out of sisal.

I trim to one main stalk, and am maniacal about trimming all future suckers until the plant gets about five feet tall.  Wrapping with the sisal is fairly easy.  Up twisty up, avoiding the fruit branches, loose enough to allow it to grow.  At its biggest point a plant might require up to four strings to hold it aloft but sisal is cheap.  The wire shouldn’t bend much under the weight; between the 4′ span of the bows there are only two, maybe three plants.  And they will all grow to hit the roof sooner than later.

And by the time I finished with this task (yes, doing 76 plants takes a bit of time) I turned on the radio and surprisingly wasn’t angry by the rulings!  Ah, a morning well spent.

On closing the harvest gap

Spanking new potatoes with herbs for tonight’s roast chicken

Well, that’s good:  it was for only six short weeks that potatoes were off the menu here.  These Yukon Golds made a fine accompaniment to the roast chicken we had to celebrate Father’s Day.  Potatoes this early in the season can only mean two things:  one, they had to have been volunteers (indeed), and two, the freak-warm winter had a lot to do with their early maturity.  So into a parchment paper envelope they went with butter and salt and…a stapled edge.

In order for me to repeat this gap between one potato harvest and the next, I just need wacky hot weather and to miss harvesting all of last year’s potatoes.  Uh, no thanks.  Keep the weather; Ill work on my harvest skillz.

But everything’s a mite early.  Cherries, first blueberries:  normally strawberries alone command our fruity attention at this time of year.  Roses come and gone.  First garlic pulled.  Peas done (thankfully:  we harvested 3 gallons (!) of them this weekend).

All this earliness doesn’t mean I am any happier that the new greenhouse remains a month behind my schedule.  But it’s now planted at least.  I suppose I ought to be glad the scalding temperatures of February killed my first tomato, eggplant and pepper seedlings off because it’s the second round of the same that are planted here at what fortuitously was the perfect size for transplanting.  Small mercies.


And yes, it’s only I who could think that 76 tomato, 15 eggplant, and 6 pepper plants (and 6 artichokes, 4 sweet potatoes and dozens of chard and basil plants) mean the new greenhouse is underplanted.  It’s the layout that’s throwing me off.  The other greenhouses are oriented N-S and this new one is E-W but the beds are continuous (and all point E-W in all cases).  These beds are all 4′-0″ wide, running the greenhouse’s 32′ length.  The beds in the other greenhouses are wee 3’x6′ things for the most part with lots of paths between.  I still think the E-W orientation of any bed is best at this latitude; had the other greenhouses been planted like this one there’d be too much shadowing of the crops in the center beds.

Greenhouse building aside, mid-June is actually a not-too-busy time in the gardens (pea picking excepted).  I’m just watering and weeding now; first crops are coming out and new ones follow in the empty spots.  It’s a nice pace, frankly, just standing with the hose in one’s hand, watching things grow.

On timing (not) being everything

Sabine is doing well:  the splint (not shown; she wears it at night) has helped straighten her right front leg…this pic was taken last Tuesday.  She and her mom are integrated with the herd now during the day.

I often have believed the world would run more smoothly if it ran on MY schedule.  And on MY schedule, things need to be done sooner than later.

I am not quite sure what happened (motherhood?  the onset of middle age?  moving to the country?) but my usual foot-stomping impatience has waned!  What is it, have my expectations diminished?  Have I just run headlong into that closed door called reality?  Whatever the cause, I have accepted a lot more leeway in my schedule.  “Take a deep breath and get over it” seems to be the new m.0.

The apiary.  First hive has been split; we added two more this spring; and the first hive yielded just shy of 27 pounds of honey from the first harvest

Most of the pressure that I have put on myself revolves around getting food for my CSA people.  It’s been almost two years now since I have transitioned from bartering my extras to running a year-long, once-a-week box scheme for my friends (6 full shares, one partial share).  There have been weeks where I panicked that there wouldn’t be “enough” but I have set up the shares in such a way that flexibility is a key to it all.  Yes, bread-salad-greens-milk product-eggs is standard per week, but weeks like this one (honey, chive-blossom vinegar, fresh sauerkraut, and no eggs) work for both me and for them.

I spent my Mother’s Day morning assembling the greenhouse frame.  Ah, the life of the weekend warrior-farmer.

And that’s a good thing.  I do have a life, after all, and can’t spend all my days puttering around the garden or whipping up bread and cheese in the kitchen….much as I would like to.  Sometimes, work interferes with my farm life (actually, that happens quite often); sometimes, a child must be chauffered to and fro; sometimes, I just want to get away or just sit with my book.  Having some flexibility built into the schedule is key to it all.

And with that flexibility?  I don’t do nearly as much foot-stomping.  I leave that to my crabby goats.

Willow and Sabine.  Willow is a fairly patient mother, all things considered.

On year-round harvests

salsa fixings, Aug 2011

We ate our last potato last night.

It was a huge Red Norland, a “spooky” potato (according to the eight-year-old) with finger-length sprouts emerging from it; it was added to a soup of leeks, celery, parsley root and cream, blended smooth and served hot with fresh bread and herbed butter.

That last potato got me thinking about staples and seasonality.

After one hangs one’s garden hat on providing a year’s worth of (name your vegetable), there are logical next steps that a gardener usually takes.  What else is out there, what else can I put away?  Are the items destined to be eaten in the same form as they’re harvested, like the potatoes or apples and winter squash, or do they have to be canned or frozen, dehydrated or picked?

And what about the year-round availability that the grocery store provides?  Can I compete with that, ever?

Can I produce FRESH food year-round?  And if so, is it stuff we’ll actually eat?

Those last two items have been THIS gardener’s holy grail.  As time and our tastes have allowed, I have shifted away from preserving my harvests and have instead moved to Fresh Is Best.  The greenhouses have been key to this, of course, but there are other methods out there, like low tunnels or even  basement/cold-storage of items like celery, chard, and chickories.  These items are dug up, roots and all, and potted and placed in one’s dark and cool storage area.  The leaves and stalks, though blanched from lack of light, are eminently edible.

But I am a slacker at heart, so I leave things in the ground year-round and rely on my greenhouses to provide the bounty.  Still, many things, like that potato, have an off-season, that period of time between the last wrinkled sprouty stored spud and the digging of the first thin-skinned earth-warmed baby spud.  The wait makes you want them more…but the more you work at it, the better you are at shortening that off-season.  I expect my first potato harvest in mid-June, in the greenhouses.

Here’s a list of my year-round, same-form items:

  • Leeks, onions, scallions, shallots; kale, mustards, collards, chard, chickories, lettuce, celery, beets, carrots; button mushrooms; parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, bay, garlic; eggs, chicken, milk and milk products.

Here is a list of almost-year-round goodies:

  • Cabbage, broccoli, parsnips, potatoes, fennel, kohlrabi, celeriac, turnips, rutabaga, daikon radishes, skirret, scorzonera, and

And here’s a partial list of the things that get harvested once, no matter how hard I try:

  • Asparagus, artichoke, cardoon, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, okra, peas, beans, corn, cantaloupe/melons, cucumbers, tomatillos, brussels sprouts and cauliflower; honey, maple syrup; apples, blueberries and strawberries.

So when people ask me why I wish for another greenhouse, I think of my lists, especially this middle one.  Year-round fennel and kohlrabi would seem to be laudable goals, but year-round potatoes?  Score!  Gotta just dig more dirt to figure out how I can do it.

It keeps me busy.  And the grocery store doesn’t get our money!

On spring progress

Old” greenhouse (built 2007)

I have to laugh though because I felt so proud after a morning’s work in the old greenhouse above.  We cleaned out 2 of 9 beds!  12 bags of salad from 2 beds!  But certainly you can’t tell–at all–in this picture.

I always wonder what I am thinking when I take on a new task.  Is all my sparse free time going to simply reappear when I do something eventually worthwhile like build a third greenhouse on the property?  Is that laundry ever going to get done?

Greenhouse #3–or its beginnings, anyway–is located outside the garden proper.   Sod’s a-busted, base frame set (and dug, which is not terribly obvious by the photo) but not assembled; this one will be 16’x32′.  Those are 2x8x16′ untreated #1 pine boards.  My poor brother gets to pick rocks.  The chickens are pleased with the earth-turning, and I have no idea what Penny is doing:  supervising?  And Ruby the hen turkey is sitting on 14 eggs within the doghouse under the chicken tractor at right.

Actually, I truly enjoy these bouts of frenetic activity.  The winter was mild enough to keep me in fine digging form so I do feel like the other two greenhouses and all the outdoor beds are on schedule, maintenance- and plant-wise.  (The freak-warm weather enabled me to do infrastructure repairs and a bit of ground work much earlier than normal thus I avoided the usual early-spring work overload.)  So technically I can build a new greenhouse and not worry about the rest, right?

Part of this new greenhouse is located atop an old roadway, so my brother’s picking its old stones, lucky guy.  Tom’s on the year’s first Grand Mow beyond, and the chickens help dig.

But then I realize we’re where we should’ve been last week.  Eeps!

On greenhouse #3

These are the steps taken thusfar to have a third greenhouse (hoop house, polytunnel, etc.) on this property:

  • Stake site for the final location and size with husband; argue a lot but eventually get your way confirm that a 16’x32′ model is the best size for the space
  • Order greenhouse
  • Order wood and buy hardware for the base frame, end walls, door, and raised beds from the local lumber yard
  • Mow
  • Till
  • Erect base frame.

A rainy weekend got in the way of accomplishing the last three steps (clay soil should not be tilled wet or you will forever have concrete-hard earth clods).  So we went foraging instead.  (If you want to understand the process of erecting a greenhouse, I did a play-by-play of putting up my mom’s small one here.)

About two miles directly north of us, our friends purchased 10 acres of duneland.  For whatever reason, the trees were never cleared on this or any adjacent property…there are some lovely old-growth monsters (poplar, cherry, white pine, oak) and quite a range of microenvironments (bog, creek, pine warren, dune) so it is a great place to see what one can see.

Small people love small frogs


But our search for the elusive morel was futile.  These came from a friend’s search.

On plenitude’s upsides

Little leeklets

Whenever I make a post, I tend to walk a line between showing what I am doing and showing you what you might want to do.  It’s only fair, right?  I hope I can, you know, teach something…if by bad example at the very least.

An oddity of this way of life is that I never (and I do mean never) have produce in the refrigerator.  It’s all fresh-picked and home-grown with the exception of lemons, my one nonlocal shame.  The only things that do go into storage now are garlic, onions, shallots and potatoes….and apples.  Everything else is readily gotten out of the greenhouses or garden year-round:  it’s a great way to be, just grabbing a bowl and walking outside for dinner’s celery and carrots, parsley and green onions.  Greens like cabbage, collards, kale, mustards and turnips are available for most of the year.  And salad, all other root veg and all manner of herbs are here year-round.

It’s late winter now, burgeoning spring…thanks to the mild winter, spring is appearing terribly early this year, and who cares what the groundhog and the Farmers’ Almanac have to say.

Migratory birds are my first clue that the season has changed.  I should say “the migratory birds’ effect on my yard birds,” because the turkey vultures, redwing black birds and even the dang Canada geese are freaking out the chickens who understandably think every bird shadow is a hawk on the wing.  The vultures, who fly in family units, haven’t established themselves yet; it takes a bit of time for them to hone in on their territory, though I know they’re around.  The redwings though are very keen to plant their flags on some waterway or another, and the melodious male is back in the yard again…even though our frog pond is embarrassingly tiny.  The frogs (also out and croaking) don’t agree that it’s tiny, though.

I also know it’s late winter because it’s mid-spring in the greenhouses and we’re in a panic to eat everything.  I got a sunburn Saturday (and even took my shirt off, because, really, who can see?) while I was doing work in there.  What’s fine for the plants is actually a bit too hot for its human caretaker.  It did feel nice, being sweaty…considering the maple sap is still dripping and all.

But it is true:  I am in a bit of a panic.  The potatoes will soon sprout, the onions already have, and even the softneck garlic is looking a little green.  Ir is time to transition.  The arugula, mache, mizuna and claytonia (winter’s favorite salad greens) are all madly going to seed and tasting nasty as they do.  My seeds are sprouting well in the greenhouse beds, but so are the weeds.

Of course I wish that every last one of you had chicken coops and greenhouses in your yards.  But I warn you.  Remember that crazy period in summer when you just can’t possibly eat another zucchini, and what are you going to do with all those cucumbers and tomatoes?  Get a greenhouse and this will happen to you four times a year…maybe five.

But if you do you’ll never have produce in your fridge and you can suntan in your underwear in March!

On greenhouse #3

A January 11th photo of the oldest (2007) greenhouse:  Reemay covers are off so the leaves can absorb some rare winter sun.   I planted this one with kale and salad greens back in late September.  These will be completely harvested by late March and then I’ll convert this greenhouse into a seedling nursery.  Right now, though, I take twelve gallon-size bags of salad- and braising greens a week out of the greenhouses and outdoor gardens for our customers, and we also eat about a half gallon daily.

In December, Tom and I attended a thank-you brunch for doing some fundraising for our daughter’s school.  It was held at a swanky country club in the dunes near us and, as I walked into the bar area to refill my Bloody Mary (brunch, you know) all heads whipped around to see me.

Obviously, Tom was in the bar giving away our farm, one bag of salad and one log of chevre at a time.

“Duuuude,” I hissed.  “You can’t be doing that,” I told him, grabbing him by the elbow and goose-stepping him away from the crowd, after demurring to all the other parents gathered around.  “Don’t you know I have every drop of milk and leaf of green spoken for from here to April?”  I don’t think he really did know:  he’s not involved with either gardening or milking.

“Maybe we just need another greenhouse,” he said.  “I have no problem at all building another greenhouse.”

And this is the 2008 greenhouse, the bigger one:  I planted these salad/root veg things in October.  They’re growing more slowly; they won’t be “peak” until mid-Feb. and then they’ll be “done” in late April, right about when the tomatoes go in and the warm season starts again.

It’s been on my list for a while (a third greenhouse, that is).  And it’s at this time of year that I can see why I most need one, though the greenhouses are the most busy and productive in the warm months.  My reasons for wanting another aren’t to supply the other parents’ refrigerators, though.  They’re more mundane, like, if I had a third greenhouse I could use it to grow worm-free brassicas in the summertime (joy! no Bt, no covers) and I could plant a LOT more garlic and a lot more root veggies.  It’s green greed is all (insert evil laugh).

So in April, we’ll add another.  This one will be 16’x32′.  Stay tuned…

On multiple harvests

blooming lacinato

Early spring means late spring in the greenhouses.  And late spring in the greenhouses means it’s probably time to evict the winter residents.  I’m moving through second, third and even fourth harvests from the greenhouse beds while on the way to pulling them up altogether.  I’m feeling a bit of pressure to stop, drop and eat!  It’s time, you see, to transfer the tomatoes and peppers to nursery hot beds.

So, we’re on a green binge.

Especially now that the new push of growth has begun, I look, eagerly, for sprouts and leaves.  And nearly everything is fair game. This is the time of year to eat what you could never find at your grocer’s, or even at a farmer’s market.  Order up!

Self-seeded beets:  1.  fleshy leaves, 2.  the roots are bound for quick lacto-fermented pickles

Kales:  Lacinato 1.  broccoli-like blossoms, 2. leaves, and 3.  peeled stems, great for stir-fry!  and Red (Russian) kale  1.  broccoli-like blossoms, 2. juicy, salad-bound leaves

Kohlrabi:  1.  the root of course but 2. the leaves, like all of the brassica family, are quite edible.

Cabbage: 1. De-headed, I leave some leaves attached to the rooted stem. In a few weeks, I get 2. a leafy second harvest (shown above).

Carrots: 1.  Roots of course but 2.  did you know you can eat the ferny leaves too?

The flowers of arugula and mache now grace some salads

And I am not above eating the roots of plants that are arguably grown for other purposes.  Parsley and celery fit this bill.  They require a bit of scrubbing but they taste just like celeriac, the fat root of the family.

On greenhouse season extension

Rapidly heading cabbages, freshly sprouting shallots and root-cellar potatoes means it’s colcannon season.  With bacon bits and goat-milk yogurt, it’s a one-pot hearty meal…especially if paired with a salad.

The one thing I cannot stress enough for those of you considering these plastic bubbles is this:  Having one extends your growing season.  In my experience at zone 6, it extends it in two months in each direction.  Four more months of growing things!  Think about your haul if you had four more months in which to grow your goodies.

I grow things year-round in them, of course, like that pretty head of late September-seeded savoy cabbage above.  Through the months of December-February, though, the greenhouses act more like big produce refrigerators than places in which things are actively growing.  But it is at this time of the year, early March, that I have a particular appreciation of them.  You see, late February/early March here means there’s still snow on the ground outside…nary a thing outdoors is “growing,” though there are a few hardy things hiding out there under the snow.  Indoors, however, it might as well be late April/early May.

Everything in the greenhouse, in other words, has hit the Spring button.  Chives and scallions are leaping out of the ground…a great thing, as my chevre loves chives, long missed since their November die-back.  Seeds of the February-planted fava beans and peas are shooting up.  The garlic is 8-9″ tall.  The lettuces, long picked-at and just hanging in there, are now growing madly.  The cabbages are heading faster and faster.  And the arugula, mache (corn salad) and fall-planted kales are at the point of bolting.

Sure, it’s nice to sit in there too…especially if you consider the alternative:

Abandon all gardening hope, ye who enter here

On light therapy

Coffee, dog, greens, greenhouse and snow on an overcast Wednesday morning

What a winter!  Even though I love this season, this particular one has knocked me off my orbit a bit…and I have been bobbling on, more eccentric than ever.

Time to get my bearings.  I think what was hardest for me this winter was the even more pronounced lack of sun.  Because we’re so close to the lake, we’re usually fairly shrouded in clouds between November and February.  A good and bad thing (good:  it’s so much warmer, bad:  clouds mean precipitation), those clouds.

But the earth is tilting, and as it tilts the clouds retreat.  To help my cloud-induced fugue state I have decided to spend part of my morning the way I spend it in the warm months of the year:  I take my 2nd cup of coffee outside with me to the garden.

Granted, at this time of the year, the snow-covered garden is not terribly interesting.  But the old greenhouse?  It’s a light box, even when cloudy.  Wear the sunglasses, take off your outerwear, grasp that mug in your hands and take a seat.   If only for 10-15 minutes, it really does a body good.

Closeup of that bed:  self-sown mache, Brune d’Hiver lettuce, and curly endive (frisee)

On blizzards, and groundhogs, and greenhouses

Stuck in the normally shoveled driveway (the 24″ side is the correct depth)

Wednesday was a snow day.  Boringly, that blizzard that hit everywhere hit here too…how could it not?  We’re quite used to snow here (we usually get 80″ per year) and Feb. 2nd’s storm was different mainly because it was paired with a bit of wind, too.  (shrugs) What can you do?

The girl was home from school, and so she and I had lots of time to discuss the meaning of the day, Groundhog Day.  “Gimme some other names for groundhogs,” I said.  “Whistle pigs and woodchucks”  she said, ever reaching for a gold star.  We discussed the older traditions of Imbolc and St. Brigid’s day, especially the notion of winter’s continuance, and how having a sunny day on this day means more winter.  “So the old lady was the Irish woodchuck,” she said.  “I wonder what it was before it was the old lady?”  Ah!  Perceptive child.  All traditions, religious or otherwise, are usually just pauses in the undertow of time. Something will overtake the whistle pig, eventually.

Keep in mind these things are between 9′ and 10′ tall

Recently, however, I have received a ton of questions about my greenhouses.  So I thought I would show you what’s going on in them despite the white stuff outside.  Here’s a bit of a photo journal, taken on Thursday at lunchtime.

Little teensy wrist, huh?  And a waist-high drift standing between me and dinner!

Here:  I have made it in:  and it’s quite toasty inside.  (23* is the worst it’s been indoors all winter.)

But turning around, this is what’s climbing up one side!  It’s quite okay to have snow 5′ or more up the sides, but up and over the top is kinda unusual.

I’ve knocked some of the snow off from the inside, but yeah, I might have to tackle some of it out here too.  Maybe some other day.

But other than the fact that I’ve clipped these lettuces into mere bonsai of their former head-y selves, I haven’t made a dent in the mache.  This is a typical bed.  Dinner!

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.

On the non-end of gardening

Mulched, and frosty:  the back gardens

Autumn and winter did a rather jumbled waltz this year (two steps forward, three back, two forward, one back, etc.) and honestly for this gardener my head spun, such were the extent of the wild swings.  Now that we’ve hit a cold snap that appears to have stuck, I admit to wishing the unthinkable:  bring on the snow.  Now that the ground has frozen what’s the use of pretending it isn’t?  Winter! Please come!

Dried beans above and fresh veg below, under cover, 8:30 a.m.  It’s 28*F outside and 51*F in.

Now is the time, too, that the greenhouse beds are covered with their blanket of Reemay (agricultural cloth).  The stuff shrunk in the wash this year, alas; I need to purchase more and either sew another three feet to its ends or drape smaller pieces over the 6’x3′ beds.  Having the beds completely covered, incidentally, is not do-or-die; rather, a fully tented structure should (in principle) retain warmth longer, but it still won’t prevent the nightly freeze to its contents.

Poking out of a now too-short length of cloth, Pac choy, flowering.  One little nip of frost followed by some warm weather causes it to bolt.  Fortunately, it still tastes just wonderful…especially in kimchi.

It’s a good thing we don’t eat salad in the early a.m.  It would be nearly impossible to harvest it then, while frozen.  The heat of the day brings the lettuces “back to life,” and this in itself is a daily moment of wonder.  By supper they’re perky and gorgeous.

But it’s not all salad in the greenhouse beds.   Kales and cabbages hog a lot of space too.  Endive and escarole and radicchio (chickories one and all) span the is-it-salad or is-it-dinner bridge (and I love gratinee’d chickory).  Carrots, parsnips, beets and turnips are grown both indoors and out but somehow are a lot easier to harvest in the greenhouses.  And leeks (perennial and annual), bunching onions, bunching scallions and perennialized garlic (a chive substitute:  unlike chives, the close-planted bulbs’ greens don’t winter-kill) make dinners and salads nice and savory.  Parsley, celery, chervil, cilantro, winter savory, thyme, sage and rosemary add some zest.  And sorrel.  Sorrel deserves a post of its own.

The 80* new greenhouse at 3:00 complete with lettuce eater

This post is to simply demonstrate that, for me, gardening (and in particular harvesting) is a year-round endeavor, and I love it.

On new greenhouses, part two

The right side rolls up, allowing more ventilation in the summer.  The ends are open and will get plastic once it gets cold.

Finally:  I got the plastic up on my mom’s greenhouse recently.

I am beginning to question my sanity in late winter.  Really.  It’s usually in March that I crazily, stupidly commit to all sorts of extracurricular projects, of which my mother’s new greenhouse was but one.  Granted of all of them this one taskoid took the least of my time but it hung the heaviest as my mother lives 50 miles away…so it’s not a quick trip to go fix things up for her.  Plus, it’s for my mother, and I said I would do it.

It didn’t help that the greenhouse company shipped us the wrong size of plastic.  Oops.  That was one wasted day.

Drapery, this time with the correct size

Anyway, here it is.  She’s a bit of a fool for tomatoes so we have them fairly crowded in there.  The soil is topsoil carted in from down the road that’s heavily mixed with mushroom compost.  (This is sand we’re building on, after all.)

Using those dipped gloves (clean AND new) really helps get a grip.  This is the hold-down system for the plastic.  It’s a small channel screwed to the two middle hoops into which I fasten this “wiggle wire.”  It helps to have two people do this:  one pulls the plastic, the other wrangling the wire.  But I did it solo, so…  And the two ends have a sandwich of two 1×2 furring strips.  These were left to soak in a tarp for a few days (the better to bend and hold their shape) then I tapped the bottom strips to accept the metal-tapping screws.  The plastic gets stapled to it, the top strips then screwed to the bottom one with wood screws.  Voila.  The top one can be unscrewed then to accept the side plastic this fall.

The deer are voracious and bold here too so I put chicken wire over the two open ends and the area below the roll-up side.  The ends and side will be open until the nights begin to go frosty.  We hope to take down one towering but rather anemic-looking oak in the side yard to give her a lot more sun.

Ta-daaa!  One more thing struck off the list.

On weather gambling

I was asked by a far-away friend how the gardening year has been so far.  “Four words,” I said.  “It’s a no-hose year.”

Not full power but coming close.  See this post for what it looked like two months ago.

Wet.  Sunny.  Hot.  Wet.  Sunny.  Hot.  There’s not been much that has been unpredictable, weather-wise, in the late spring/early summer around here.

This certainly isn’t anything to complain about.  No, really; the last year we had insane amounts of rain is the last one to which I can directly compare, and I will take this year, thanks.  And I am much happier with the garden’s reaction to this rain now.  My sweat has turned into equity.

You see, in 2007, we had lots of rain.  We’d been here for a year and a half and thus had only two summers’ worth of observation and (more importantly) soil and land improvement under my belt.  I lost a whole flotilla of crops that summer due to the unending drip-drop…everything got hit.  Badly hit.  Drowned roots = dead plants, see; gone were my hopes of complete veg self-sufficiency…that year was my first attempt.  So that fall I trenched and installed perforated drain pipe around the garden (300 or so feet of the stuff, and through clay, too) and I have consistently added more and more vegetative matter to the existing outdoor beds.  It’s helped, a lot.  The plants are healthier and the growing ground is less wet.

Here’s something new:  black garbanzo beans

But a little less rain would help things along!  Every spring, I do actually till two small areas of my garden:  these zones are too big for raised beds but wonderful for the sprawl that is The Winter Squash Vine.  This year, though, no dice.  Can’t till in wet clay, and it never goes longer than two days without rain.  So it looks like I will have to forego another ginormous winter squash harvest…which is just as well considering how unloved that fruit becomes in our household come January.  Likewise, I have seeded the outdoor root crops three times now, which are some truly awful gambling odds.  I don’t like to gamble with my carrots, man!  Luckily, July is around the corner so indoor carrot season is fast approaching.

Purple Peruvian fingerling potato flower

Interestingly, I read a recent article about my extension service’s adoption of greenhouses (high hoops, hoop houses) in my area for…fruit growing.  Really.  This shouldn’t surprise me as I live in The Fruit Belt but I can definitely see the advantage of growing cherry trees under cover here.  Doesn’t that sound…odd?  It makes sense though.  Wet/Sunny/Hot/Repeat means your cherries are going to explode on the branch, their roots are taking up too much water.  Modulate the water, the wind, the bugs, the birds, and the temperature swings and indeed these plastic bubbles will grow fruit just as easily as they grow veg.

Anyway, I look back at 2007 and realize it too was the year we put up our first greenhouse.  With that greenhouse went my worries about weather extremes…and up shot my odds for veg self-sufficiency.  You wanna improve your own odds?

You know what I am going to say, don’t you?

It’s great for drying things, for extending your seed-saving efforts, and of course for many different kinds of veggies and herbs

On greenhouse thanks

Time to stop and smell the wisteria

I’ve come to like this time of year.  Sure; it’s spring and there’s much to love in terms of all the natural and botanical shows going on…the weather is fine, the breezes ruffle the curtains and the mosquitoes are not yet out.  Why in world would I ever have a problem with spring, then?

I think you know the answer:  it’s called PlantItNowItis.

With the Mother’s Day holiday looming, most northern gardeners have task lists as long as their arms, and they’re plenty frazzled.  (Everyone not in the north:  Mother’s Day is the unofficial/official Start Gardening day.)  How many times have YOU lost your planting shovel this year?  (Me: twice.)  But I am somehow less flappable, more sanguine about spring.  I can pick and choose my tasks, with some being of course more front-burner than back-.  What’s my secret?  The season extension offered by the greenhouses, of course.  It’s taken away a lot of my seasonal panic by giving me, frankly, a longer growing season.

(people!  remember, I am a greenhouse/hoophouse evangelist, so…buy my snake oil or not as you see fit!)

Anyway, I have had time to attend to other things, like cleaning OUT the greenhouses of their winter contents and general tidying-up…all tasks that have eluded me on previous May 5ths.

Behold the reconstituted mailbox, for example, and the netting covering the now-open ends of the new greenhouse.  Always, a dry place for gloves, tools and lettuce-bags.

And no tomato hornworms this year, I swear, nor any cabbage butterflies!  (One makes such oaths and it becomes more realistic if one installs netting, you see, as the holes are too big for the adult moths to fly in and lay their eggs on my precious ‘maters and broccoli.)

It’s these little things, and taking (finding, making) time to do them, that make me most grateful.  If I find I have time, then what better place to spend it than puttering around the gardens with my family?  Thanks, greenhouses, for adding to our quality of life as well as our diet.

On building new greenhouses

The base frame:  2x8s.  The skinny bed is the path.

It’s going to take a couple of posts, but I wanted to show you the process of building a greenhouse (hoophouse, polytunnel, etc.) for my mom.  It’s a 10’x12′ complete kit from Growers’ Solution.  We’re doing two major beds in it with one long path down the middle (30″ wide x 12′ long).  This means the beds themselves are fairly deep at 3′-6″.  She understands that weeding will be, literally, a stretch, but she’s not concerned.  She’ll have 84 square feet of space under plastic to grow things, so, what’s a little stretching?

On the fated day, Easter,  that our daughter went into the hospital, I was playing Mother of the Year by actually building my own mother’s greenhouse’s base frame.  (I suppose that makes me Daughter of the Year.)  I used untreated 2×8 members:  short side (where the door is) are 10′ long, long sides and inner beds 12′.  They’re held together with galvanized lag screws with washers that are 3″ x 1/4″.  We assembled it on a flat surface (the driveway) then picked it up and moved it to where my mom wants it.  It wasn’t heavy; two people can lift it easily.

My mom and brother have removed all the grass in the beds.  As a precaution against all the moles tunneling in her sandy soil, they are going to bury some aluminum valley flashing (basically, thin metal) around the inside edges of the beds themselves so the little creatures cannot tunnel in.  It will go down about 6″ below the soil line.

Necessary tool:  hammer drill.  Self-tapping metal screws.  These are the tops of the hoops:  the ends fit into each other.  I put 4 screws in per connection.

Tonight after work I will hammer in the ground posts (galvanized steel tubes that are 2″ in diameter, 30″ long), level them, then put together then assemble the hoop frames.  I will likewise screw the hoops together on a level surface; it’s important to not have things too wonky.  These hoops will go into the ground posts and get screwed into them with metal-tapping galvanized screws.  This hoophouse is so small it only requires a center purlin; hopefully we’ll get that assembled and attached down the center too.

My brother hammers in the posts:  that’s a big bolt and washer they ship to hammer it in.  He’s using a 4 lb mallet.  Then we checked the level between the front and back with a line level.

I always fall down on the photo-taking.  Here we’ve erected the hoops and screwed them into the base poles.  We leveled the hoops by connecting the top purlin to the front and back hoops, made it level, fastened those hoops to their posts then leveled and connected the middle two.

And here’s a shot of how the base frame is connected and how the hoop is connected to the base poles.  I will connect the poles to the base by conduit (C-shaped) clamps.

And here’s the 1 1/2″ c-shaped conduit clamp:  never be afraid to pound something into the shape you need!  This is how I got it to fit in the corner.  I then tapped it back into the base pole.

Tomorrow morning I hope to erect the end walls. These are made of 2x4s; I intend to frame the door at one end and just a simple frame at the other.  (See the post below this one to see my own greenhouse’s end wall.)  The plastic will have to wait until another day!   Mom needs to get the topsoil/compost in place, and woodchips down the center aisle.  Then, it’s planting time.

Here’s another example of hammering something out to suit your needs.  This is a joist hanger/strap anchor.  I wrapped it up and over the top of this 2×4.  That’s the top of the greenhouse, top of the hoop you’re seeing.  I chamfered/birdmouthed the top of the 2×4 to accept the hoop.

And here’s something I didn’t have to monkey with:  it’s the top straps that hold the purlin (straight, horizontal pole) to the curved hoops.

And here’s our lovely ladder model showing the finished end walls.  All this work took only, what, 6 hours of my time!

On direct seeding

It’s a hard world for little things.

The green you see is garlic flanking the row

Do you see my brassica family seedlings in this row?  Neither do I.  After a week of not showing up (normally they’re enthusiastic sprouters) I realized I had some problems with my greenhouse-seeding plans.  The problems?  Slugs and pillbugs.

Sigh.  Plan B (planting them indoors) does not mean I will be a week or two behind.  Nah.  It just means I am annoyed.  Planting in the greenhouse between existing garlic rows and then further transplanting the seedlings to their final destinations (outdoors or into other people’s gardens) is generally the easiest way for me to do things.  And I am all about “easy,” especially in springtime.  But with warm spring weather comes warm evenings inside the greenhouses:  prime munching time for the resident mollusks and armadillidiiae.

My lesson for you here?  Do not think “I can’t plant things in greenhouses as they’ll get munched,” instead “I need to watch to see when its okay to plant seeds in my greenhouse (or outside, or wherever).”  Had I planted them a month earlier, they’d have been fine; a month later, I could’ve planted them outside.  In other words, there are windows of opportunity wherever you plant.  The greenhouse offers a lot more windows…but occasionally it doesn’t.

So I will plant all the brassicas someplace bug-free and warm.  Someplace, therefore, where these small things can experience a softer world.

On family converts

Little hills of dirt marked with headstones:  graves of life, not death

Nothing like a deadline to get one motivated, eh?  Actually, this spring has been nothing BUT deadlines for me, professionally, personally, and garden-wise; throw a new hobby in there (goat milking and husbandry) and guess what?  The blog suffers!  I am sure you’ll forgive me.

Here’s the deadline.  As of two days ago, I finally planted the heat-loving crops (tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, husk cherries, okra) under lights in the basement.  If these were all just for ME, then I could’ve continued my seed-slacker ways, but no.  Many of them are for other people.  I have the school gardens to grow for, and then there’s my mother to consider.

Mom was out this weekend, and when inspecting the greenhouses’ contents, she said to me:  “You’re going to think I am completely crazy.  Please consider what I have to say before you say anything.

I want my own greenhouse.

To which I of course said HOORAY!  So I ordered her up a 10’x12′ kit from the same outfit where I got both of mine.  I ordered a couple of other things for it over and above the kit, but…come Easter weekend, I should be pounding stakes in the ground in the back yard of her house in the dunes.  I will of course document it to show you how easy it is, even considering how she has no real soil to speak of (maybe 3″ deep).

This woman wants her homegrown tomatoes, tout suite!  Thus, my “rush” to planting.

On messing with seed-starting

So.  Every year, in the broad quest to simplify (HAH!) my life, I try to jigger the seed-starting routine.  I abhor planting things under lights indoors; it makes me tense!  It needs to be done, though…but if I could shorten the season, it would stand to reason it would shorten my stress level.  To wit, Exhibit One:

Onion seedlings sprouting in the greenhouse!   These were planted on Feb. 22nd, so…the germination rate I have found is both better and about the same, speed-wise.  These guys are interplanting a garlic bed.  The whole 3’x6′ bed is full of little sprouts from the onion family.

So now I am asking myself:  how important is it I have my first tomato in mid-July?  Because if I can direct-seed them…

Oh: and here’s a friend I found today amongst a weedy carrot bed:All Hail Bufo Americanus

Greenhouse update, early spring edition

Early March outside in SW Michigan, late April inside the greenhouses:  once the outdoor temps stay above +35F I will need to vent them during the day

It’s not all goatsgoatsgoats here all the time, though I have to admit that, like starting anything new, there’s quite a learning curve.  Every day I shave time off the milking routine, every day I have more time to shave!  The kids were born at a good time for me to learn, and improve:  it’s getting to be serious gardening season here, and I don’t want to miss too many windows of vegetative opportunity.

Water, water everywhere:  perennial condensation on the inside of the greenhouse plastic

We’re not hurting for water here in my corner of the globe.  Combine normal wet conditions, a shallow water table and clay soil, I hardly ever need to water either outdoors or indoors.  I have notions of hooking up a proper water catchment system one day; it’s fairly low on the priority list, though.  However, at this time of the year with these baking indoor temperatures, I do find the atmospheric moisture is not enough, especially with small seedlings.  Anything with root systems shallower than 5″ will be toast.

The platoon says “we could use more snow in here.”  Oh, and my arugula (behind, right)  is blooming, a sure sign that it’s getting too hot indoors.

So, I resort to my usual hee-haw method of water saving:  melting snow in buckets.  I also recycle the goat’s drinking water.  And, I am quite adept at catching the melting runoff from the gutters of the adjacent buildings.  For all the above, I employ my army of 5-gallon used paint buckets.  I am able to spread around about 10-15 gallons a day on the greenhouse beds if it’s sunny and hot.  It’s a pleasant task during my lunchtime “t-shirt light therapy” sessions!

10 of 12 beds in the “new” greenhouse:  all empty-looking beds have either seedlings, unsprouted seeds, or garlic in them.  Some nights I forget to put the covers back on, but everyone comes through okay the next day.

On leeky finds

Trying to *find* reasons to stick around the sunny 85-degree greenhouse this weekend, I espied this leek throwing out little leeklets around its base.  Aha!  I thought.  Time to get a leg up on the new Leek Season.

Not all leeks put out these pearls.  In point of fact, I probably wouldn’t save the seed of one that does…these botanical diversions aren’t terribly welcome if single thick stalks are your gardening goal.  But as you can see the mother stalk is just fine, size-wise.  Mom was growing in a bed of mixed leeks and shallots:  shallots do divide, so I assumed that ground greenery was simply a shallot.  And I would have missed these altogether if I hadn’t decided that my time in the new greenhouse needed to be productive time.  Little Edie was just lying around in the sun, why shouldn’t I?

Why did you wake me up?  Put that camera away!

So I carefully teased the leeklets out of the clayey root ball.  Any roots that got broken got a leaf haircut too (balance being key:  you don’t want the plant to blow itself out supporting those heavy leaves on few roots and vice-versa) and I planted them 2″ apart in two rows.

Okay, that took 10 minutes.  Now what else can I do in here?

On the new season

Garlic shoot, Freckles romaine seedlings

Another fun thing about growing in an enclosed space like a greenhouse?  The weeds that show up are most likely something YOU introduced.  Like these lettuces we found this weekend!   Two feet of snow outside, nice greenery inside.

“Eat your weeds.”

On gardening from the outdoor pantry

I have blogged a bit of a theme this week:  how to plan my spring garden according to what I will eat next February.

By looking into shortcuts (and take them where I can), and by doing a tally of this February’s stored goods, I can see what needs to go into the ground this spring.  But I have not mentioned one very important piece of this puzzle:  eating out of the greenhouses, and eating out of the outdoor gardens.

Yes, it’s February on 42N, 86W point of this globe, so indeed the gardens are covered with about a foot of that white frozen stuff.  And the earth remains unfrozen but by no means warm inside the greenhouses.  Still:  I am pulling fresh produce from these two plastic-covered tunnels daily.  Other than my lettuces which I continually blah-blah about, it’s the root and cole crops that shine in there now.  And outdoors I can likewise dig up a rutabaga, carrot, or a leek at my leisure, it just takes me a bit more work.

So here’s a partial list:  at least 30 types of lettuces; sorrel, chard, beet greens; endive/escarole; lacinato and red kale and savoyed cabbage; leeks, onions, scallions, shallots; beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, turnips, rutabagas; celery, par-cel cutting celery, parsley; and some herbs like thyme, sage, savory, and rosemary.  AND:  they’ll all be eaten (excepting the perennials like the herbs, the sorrel and scallions) by the time the peas are ripe.

Can you see how I avoid the grocery store?  Even in winter’s cold depths?

On January gardening

It was another sunny day yesterday, which prompted me to spend my lunch hour in the greenhouses.

Normally, the greenhouses require zero active gardening attention between December and February.  This is a time of harvests only; it’s rather freeing, I must say.  But December through February, in this hemisphere, are when a gardener misses gardening most!  Luckily, I am a succession-planting fool.  I’m not “required” to garden, but garden I do.

Cute little babies!  YES, things grow through the winter, albeit very very slowly.

I threw down a whole bunch of Red Sails seeds on a 1’x3′ patch in one bed in November.  I was putting seeds away, and noticed that a mouse had decided to make her nest in the paper bag where I was drying this particular lettuce’s seeds…it was quite pee-filled and disgusting.  No way I could’ve saved those seeds.  So I tipped out the bag to let the baby mice “escape” to the waiting jaws of Penny, Little Edie and a few chickens (hey: it’s recycling) and then I stomped on and shook out the remaining seeds and fluff into this bed.  They’d be fine to transplant in January, I thought, and I was right.

Each lettuce bed has a few holes where the resident plants died due to the cold or an overzealous harvest.  I plant two baby lettuce plants per hole.  They’ll be in shock for a bit but they’ll start puffing up when their neighbors wind down.  I expect to eat lettuce out of the greenhouses until late April, just about the time when I transplant little lettuce seedlings and plant lettuce seeds out of doors.  Mangia!

And then, it’s harvest time:  July-seeded Scarlet Keeper:  insane size, but…look at the one to the right center!  “What did you have for dinner last night?”  “A carrot.”

On the other reason to get a greenhouse

World events can rock you pretty hard, but surprisingly so can little things like crummy weather.  I’m telling you:  weeks of snow and no sunshine can mess with even stalwart seasonal affective disorder naysayers like me.  All that bright snow outdoors, which otherwise perks up the darkest day, can wear you down!

Enter, sunshine.  Time to run out to the old greenhouse for some personal light therapy.

Doesn’t look very bright and cheery, but it was 75 degrees in there.  Can you find Penny?

May as well throw back the covers to see what’s growing.  Here, mache has self-seeded and is crowding out the resident lettuces.

Here’s a closeup of the mache.  I couldn’t help but nibble.

And speaking of nibbling, I might as well bring some of the greenhouse’s celery to the bunnies.  I wonder if our heretofore picky goat T-bell might like to try some.

Hmm:  what do you have here?  Hey, that’s rather tasty…

Burp!  (Excuse me!)

Looks like the bunnies will need another bundle.  And:  I feel a lot better.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and be sure to support The International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent or find out how else you can help through The Center for International Disaster Information.

On the weather

They’re 9 1/2 feet tall in the center if you’re wondering about how deep it all is.

When we lived in Minneapolis, weather WAS the common point of conversation.  I am not quite sure why this was:  if it had one cause, say, or many.  Was it because winter weather could KILL you in Minnesota, and thus isn’t it fine we’ve escaped death, or was it because it was a common point of misery thus shared?  I would not say that Minnesota is filled with miserable people, so I think it was more of the former.

Here in Michigan, though, winter’s really not much of a point of conversation.  By the unwilling, it’s endured; by the winter-lovers, it’s smiled upon; in general, though, it’s not much discussed.  I cannot tell you how far down in a typical conversation with a friend that the weather factors in:  maybe Item #20, and only because the weather could interfere with our plans. Or:  the conversations go like this:  “Can you believe they didn’t close down school today?” when the local schools were closed due to the 8″ of white stuff that fell overnight.

Ruby, Earl and the poultry condos

But I know many people read this blog from snow-shy locales; places blessed by only a few frosts in the winter months.  And I know it seems, to them, just weird that we happily endure life in the snowbelt.  The snow has begun to fall in earnest now (earnest means a daily 2-8″).  This means my morning chore list grows a bit longer:  the poultry, because they’re so numerous this year, appreciate a daily plow through their run.  Their coop is in one area, I set water in another area, feed and their condominiums in a third area so that they’re forced to walk quite a bit during the day…which means I have a lot to shovel.  Makes them less stir-crazy, less (literally) cooped up.

And I dig out my greenhouses every morning.  It’s just something I like to do, as it makes the evening quest for salad so much easier.

The daily drift…

…and the evening salad…

See?  Salad, in January, in Michigan!  Come hungry for dinner!

Greenhouse update, early winter edition

“New” greenhouse on a chilly but sunny morning; that’s snow outdoors and on the plastic.  I removed the covers to show you the growth. Sorry about the drunken, pre-coffee angle.

Thankfully, gratefully, I report a gentle fall to round out the growing year of 2009.  Though our weather this growing season wasn’t as calamitous as many experienced it, it was an unusual year, definitely on the cool side.

Many people don’t realize it, but late spring and late fall are times of moderation, as far as temperatures go:  the swing on our thermometer only changes 20* or so between daytime highs/nighttime lows.  Inside the greenhouse, things are more moderate, too, with a 40* swing found on a sunny day, 20-30* on a cloudy one.  The temperatures slowly drop, but the highs drop too, so now we’re still seeing that swing but it’s happening between cold and colder, not cool and cooler.

This hasn’t always been the case.  Often, November hits us with a bang, and we’ve even  been known to have snow accumulation in mid-October.  Finally, in late November, it got cold.  And I got the Reemay out.

Reemay fabric covers, which stay on until mid-Feb. for warmth.  I always think of Madeline when I see these little beds (there are 12 in the new greenhouse, in two straight lines…

Lettuces fairly well packed into a bed:  notice how they’re not full sized.  I transfered them in as tiny plants in late October.  They’ll grow very slowly throughout the winter, but I’ve made sure there’s enough growth to 1. have a decent harvest and 2.  keep the lettuces smaller to avoid too much frost damage

I invested a mere $20 for 1/2″ PVC sun-resistant conduit to use as the Reemay supports this year.  #9 wire (9/16″ diameter) is recommended:  it’s easily bent, can be stuck in the ground with ease, and the rowcover fabric can easily be clipped to stay in place with clothespins.  But I couldn’t find it at a price I was willing to pay, so the conduit will do just fine…plus, I can reuse it on outdoor beds if I ever do find cheap wire.  Fastening the fabric to the hoops helps the fabric from bellying downward under the weight of frozen condensation.  In the greenhouse, see, there’s no chance of wind blowing the fabric off, but the fabric does get damp.  It can therefore freeze to your lettuces, poor babies.  But:  bow it will.  And as long as you aren’t expecting salad for breakfast, that’s fine.

Wee bit of frost during first light of day:  this Romaine will be fine

This second covering of the veggies adds another 10* or so of temperature moderation.  If the outdoor air hits 30*, the indoor air will be 40*, but below the rowcovers, it might stay at 50* overnight.  A string of cloudy days will drop everyone’s temperature, yet it will still be warmer under the covers.

Winter’s here, though.  Daytime sunny highs hit 80* in the greenhouses while it’s 35* outside; nighttime lows in the low 20s outdoors…but not even 30* in.  I’ll take it!

Greenhouse update: First frost of autumn

Fall has come a bit early this year.  Considering how cold it has been all year, the arrival of a cold autumn wasn’t too much of a switch.  Seriously:  I took neither the feather bed nor the down comforter off the bed all summer.  And:  I swam in our (unheated) pool only twice, in Lake Michigan once.  So, heck!  Bring on the killing frost, three weeks early: who cares?

I guess *I* care.  I mean, everyone loves a nice, crisp autumn day, right?  Pretty turning leaves, the smells, the sights, the harvests.  I do feel we were kind of shorted a summer, though.  Can I complain just a little bit about that?  That we didn’t even get above 90* here, and barely got into the 80s at all?  And now we seem to be bypassing autumn too!!

P1010548-1Old greenhouse, toward the front

Sigh.  The only thing that’s happened that has made me this crabby is that I have closed up the greenhouses.  This one task, above all others, means the outdoor growing season is kaput.  Finito, done, signed off, gone!  Now the greenhouses are buttoned up for winter, and their beds are planted…excepting garlic.   I plant garlic very late as it gets big too fast in the 80-90* greenhouse days.

Wait a second:  Summer’s still here, it’s just moved indoors!!

P1010555Rather spare-looking new greenhouse.  The plants are just small, thus hard to see.

P1010556Ladder in use!  Bags of drying beans and, gah, another winter squash Note how I haven’t fully enclosed the top of that side wall.  Still need some ventilation.

P1010558Baby lettuces, typical bed.