What Else is in the Greenhouse?


Besides all my experiments, the herbs I generally keep on the kitchen porch will be transplanted into the center beds in the greenhouse: lemon balm, thyme, cumin, oregano, cilantro, parsley, sage, basil, chives. And one plant that I don’t know what it is—I’ve had it for a long time, it’s pretty and green, but I always forget to look it up!

Maybe you can give me a clue:

The final bed, besides holding all those freakin’ onions, has spinach—for some reason that didn’t do well in the garden this year, although the kale is still going strong—and I’ll be adding some other vegetables that we normally eat throughout the winter:

Tomatoes

Peppers

Zucchini

Yellow squash

The tale of the zucchini is a sad one…two years ago, I had tons of zucchini. We ate it fresh, I froze a few gallons, and it lasted us almost until the following year’s harvest.

And then the squash bugs came. I had some beautiful squash, and it all died. Every last one. I tried laying down a board—as per the Almanac—and that did nothing except leave a depression on the ground and attract a few ants. I was tempted to burn the whole mess.

This year, they came back; I did get one zuke and one yellow squash before, one by one, the plants died. And let me tell you, I was out there twice a day, using neem powder, scraping eggs off leaves, killing the nymphs, and drowning the adults. Nothing helped.

So into the greenhouse we go, and I’ll keep you posted on how this works out!

I’m considering green beans for inside planting too, which sounds crazy to me but my back was killing me bending over to pick them—maybe it’s time to elevate those too.

The last thing I’m thinking about is popcorn. My dad and stepmom grew it on their farm, decades ago, and this year I was finally able to grow sweet corn. It got to 6 feet tall, tasseled, grew ears, got silks, and I kept the beetles and their eggs away, thanks to neem powder and mineral oil. But I got so carried away admiring all this—for several years, my stalks reached a bare two feet; horse manure, however, works wonders—that I waited too long to pick the ears. They were edible, but just barely.

But I did put some in a cloth bag and hung them in the lean-to to dry for next year’s seed, so it wasn’t all lost.

But popcorn—man, I love popcorn, I eat some almost every day for a snack, or sometimes for lunch. My concern is cross-pollination with the sweet corn, so I think I’ll give it a shot in the greenhouse. I’ve got the height, if I plant in the right spot. We shall see…

Let’s talk about the watering system for a minute. I ordered a misting system, which is a pain in the butt although it works well. I figured I’d string it along the walls, slightly below the lights, and then zig up the middle bed and zag back to the other side.

And it works, for the most part. I don’t mind a little spray now, but I sure will when winter hits! So I’m waiting on a few more parts—and some more line, just in case I mess up at some point—to make a few adjustments.

Now, we first hooked it up to the hose, because the rain barrel had yet to fill. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t ordered a dud and make all the sprayer adjustments. Then we hooked it up to the rain barrel.

All I got were dribbles.

So I did some reading. The first thing that jumped out at me was that a rain barrel, for a gravity feed, needed to be placed 23.1 feet above the garden bed. Um, excuse me, that’s not a rain barrel, that’s a water tower! When I got done laughing at the thought of asking my husband to build a water tower, I read about pumps. Yep, that’s the way to go. It makes some noise but, as a bonus, that noise chases the cats out the door, so there’s that!

Winding Up the Season


Normally, I could talk about baseball season, but we all know where that’s going. Has gone. Barely started. Whatever. Shut up, Laura!

As I say every year, “Thank God that’s over with!” And again, not baseball, but gardening season. By September, I’m done. When my husband says, “I think I see a cucumber,” I do my best to convince him that he’s lost his mind and they’re just a figment of his imagination.

I start planting in mid-March, when the peas go in the ground and the tomato and pepper seeds are started in the greenhouse. Just so you don’t have to do the math, that’s six months of tilling, weeding, mulching, planting, tending, harvesting, and processing. And while I certainly enjoy it, that’s a long time for daily hard labor—no taking off for holidays or weekends, no 9-to-5.

There are still a few green bean plants, and all my peppers, and some straggly tomato plants still sort of producing, but really, they could kick off at any time and it wouldn’t bother me at all. In October, we’ll be mowing down what’s left, plowing it all under, and spreading manure. That will sit until February, when we spread more, and plow that under too.

This year will be a little different, as I’m growing year-round now. My husband built this fabulous 24X14 greenhouse to replace the much smaller plastic-covered one I used for almost five years, mostly to start seed in the spring.

Now I’ve got grow lights, a rain barrel/pump watering system, elevated beds, and a work table. I’ll overwinter my outdoor container flowers, although some won’t make it, start next year’s baskets, and do a few experiments.

I know that many, many things are grown in greenhouses, and theoretically almost all vegetables and fruits can be done that way, but what I want to learn is whether or not *I* can do it.

Experiment #1: Garlic. I’ve been growing garlic in the ground for a few years, but my bulbs are consistently small. In the interests of improving them, I have some planted in the greenhouse. Because garlic takes a notoriously long time to grow, I also have half a row in the garden; September 1 is when I usually plant.

Experiment #2: Onions. Never managed to grow these, or if I did, they got lost in the weeds and accidentally pulled. In the elevated beds, I can actually see them, hence the experiment. Last year, I found an onion in the back of the pantry, nicely sprouted. I stuck it in the ground. Lo and behold, I grew five small onions! And by small, well…kind of like those garlic bulbs. But I didn’t really know what I was doing, never having brought any to that level of maturity, so I figured, why not? I planted those little things in the greenhouse—and they’re sprouting!

Naturally, there’s another side to this story. When I ordered fall/winter/greenhouse seeds, I figured I’d get a jump on next spring too and ordered everything but potatoes and green beans (sold out). About a week after they arrived, I saw sprouts coming out of the bag. Oops! Since I didn’t want to waste them, I read up on overwintering onions in the ground, like you do with garlic, and I planted a row. Still had onions. Planted a second section in the greenhouse and labeled it “more onions.” Still had onions. Planted a third section, labeled “more freakin’ onions.” Good thing we like onions!

Experiment #3: Green onions. Guess I’m a glutton for punishment. These aren’t, strictly speaking, an experiment. I grow them every years, chop and freeze, and we have green onions for a year from a 15+ foot row. This year, I got nothing. So the experiment is figuring out what went wrong.

Experiments #4 and #5: These two, iceberg lettuce and cabbage, are related—I can’t seem to get actual heads. I’ve grown Romaine for years, but we’re getting a little tired of it; besides, the dang stuff takes over and NEVER stops. Never.

Experiment #6: Eggplant. I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I do like it from time to time, and my husband just says, “Ick,” when I mention it, but I thought I’d see if I could grow some.

Experiment #7: Broccoli is not hard to grow, I’ve done it before in the garden. But let me tell you about worms… So, I grew broccoli, it was beautiful! I cooked the broccoli—and when I went to drain it, the water had these tiny white worms in it—GROSS. My stepmom told me to first soak it overnight in salt water, so I did, but picking out those dead worms was also disgusting, and it turned me off growing broccoli for, oh, seven years or so. But I’m going to try again, and keep my fingers crossed!

I have a few other experiments I’m trying, but haven’t planted them yet as the watering system will be getting some tweaks and upgrades later this week. Next time, I’ll fill you in on the rest of my greenhouse planting.