Old flowers, and signs of a homesteading life before this one. Graniteware, doorknob, zinc canning lid, and woodstove parts – things weren’t much different in the late 1800′s. Some of these fruit trees pictured below were here then, and some weren’t. Homesteading life goes on.
hile I rarely water the outside garden crops, the greenhouses are a different matter. We know we need to irrigate in these growing spaces, so we plant much more intensively in the greenhouses. As with most things, the prep work sometimes takes more time than the actual task at hand. Installing the mulch and soaker hoses took more time than the actual tomato planting. I’ve had good luck with the SRM red plastic mulch with our tomatoes, and found that it is tough enough to get more than one years use, if I’m careful when it is removal time.
My trellis twine is already in place tied off on the purlins, so my plant spacing is already determined. This saves a step in marking the plastic mulch at planting intervals. Once I decide which variety goes where, I can just set out the plants accordingly.
At this point my plants need potting on or planting. The weather report looks to be clear with no chance of frost so I’ve decided to gamble and plant. We will have cool nights for a while yet, but the combination of pre-warmed soil and mulch should provide enough warmth to get the tomatoes off to a good start. If I was to plant outside I would be waiting at least another month, and even then I would not be sure I would harvest many ripe tomatoes by seasons end.
Earlier, we planted small beds of greens in between the spaces where the tomatoes would eventually be planted. These areas will not be mulched, leaving us some room for continued succession plantings of greens.
As the tomatoes grow they make great shade for salad greens even in the heat of the summer. Yesterday I saw a symphylan heading for cover when I planted this Juliet tomato. I suspect I will have a very stunted tomato plant growing here with the most flavorful tomatoes evah. This one spot is notorious for the little creatures and the stress they put on the tomato plant really makes for an odd plant with a tasty set of fruit. Apparently arugula and Senposai greens aren’t to their liking
As always, we’ve got a mix of OP and hybrid varieties. Some new to us and some old reliables.
Planted yesterday indeterminates only:
Costoluto Genovese – Cook’s Garden, Seeds of Italy, Seeds of Change, Salt Springs Seeds and our own saved seed.
Pantano Romanesco – Seeds of Italy, and our own saved seed.
Japanese Black Trifele – Johnny’s.
New GirlF1 – Johnny’s
JulietF1 – Johnny’s
JasperF1 – Johnny’s
SunSugarF1 – Totally Tomatoes
Next tomato planting – determinate varieties.
After three cold, wet springs in a row, we finally are getting a more “normal” spring, as in a little drier. My peasant knowledge tells me that it was time to plant the potatoes. A fancier term might be phenology, but whatever you call it, I know when I see smartweed germinating in my soil, I better get some of my dryland crops in the ground. For the most part, our gardens are dryland (no irrigation) so getting a good start when there is a chance of rain makes a great deal of difference. Jane’s winter carrots are sown a few weeks early, so that is one job to cross off my list.
Mostly though the potato planting was the push during this last bout of dry weather. We planted early and late maturing varieties at the same time – planting is done, and harvest will be staggered.
Why dryland? I think peak water is a problem that most folks don’t even care to think about, until that last drop comes out of the tap or the well pump quits working. Having our own water system makes us a little skittish about dry times, our spring and surrounding watershed are very real things. Summers here are dry, and many times it takes six inches of rainfall to recharge the spring. Add in a dry fall, and it may be November before the spring is back up to par.
Frankly, dryland gardening is easier in many ways. I don’t have to babysit irrigation, which is nice, I get enough of that chore with the greenhouse where there is no choice but to irrigate. Instead wide row spacing, and clean cultivation are my tools of choice. It’s one gardening tradition I am glad I learned. I could irrigate, but if I don’t need to, why do it? I often wonder about the intensive close planted gardens that will not do well without irrigation as opposed to more extensive plantings and no irrigation. I have no idea which is better really, I will suppose it depends on your situation and gardening space. We are a no frills farmstead anyway so dryland goes marries well with that mindset.
So what do think? Are the old dryland ways a good thing to be thinking about? Or just an old method that should be filed away for historical reference?
dding a greenhouse to the garden mix requires a little more management than a regular garden. Our greenhouses are unheated, so the nighttime temperatures are about the same as outside. So that means covering tender starts or providing a little bottom heat in addition to the covers on these frosty nights. That’s pretty easy peasy. Keeping the plants cool enough is more of a chore on most days. Cloudy days are not a problem, but days like yesterday when the mercury reached 70°F outside, quickly become worrisome to baby plants, and cool weather crops we have planted for our inside garden.
We solved a lot of the heating problems by orienting our greenhouses on a north/south axis instead of east/west. I’m growing plants in these houses during the growing season, so I want as much sun as I can get and not oppressive heat. Winter heat collection is not what I’m looking for. If you want a winter greenhouse, orient your building east/west. This a subject fraught with much heated discussion in growing circles…it really makes no difference to me how someone else orients their greenhouses, I’ll stick with my method as it works for me. Any greenhouse is better than none, IMHO, and gives a gardener more opportunities to grow food.
Here is a nice diagram from The New Garden Encyclopedia: Victory Garden Edition (1943.) It explains the north/south axis for the growing season.
With proper ventilation we can safely grow plants that like cooler temperatures as well as heat loving crops like tomatoes, peppers and melons in our greenhouses.
I could grow these crops outside, but I can never be sure if we will get the weather to ripen enough to tomatoes to preserve or eat anything but green tomatoes and peppers. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but growing up here in the Cascade foothills, as a kid I had never seen a ripe or colored pepper come out of anyone’s garden. All peppers were green I love green peppers, but ripe is wonderful.
Disease and insect pressure is a consideration too, I don’t have to worry about late blight ruining a whole summer’s worth of work with my tomatoes. Some years we get an outside tomato year, many years we don’t. Also having a well-ventilated hoophouse doesn’t allow too many pests to set up shop. Of course, we get the garden variety pests like root maggots, flea beetles and cabbage moths, but they’re outside too, so I expect that.
Hot air rises, so gable vents on each end allow the heat to dissipate without needing electricity for a fan to move the air. Air circulation is huge with plants.
In keeping with our slow food philosophy we manage the vents by hand, instead of relying on technology. The vents are hinged and attached to a rope with a knot in the rope to stop the vent from opening all the way and breaking the hinge, just in case the rope slips out of your hand
Our greenhouses also have roll-up sides which work perfect for good air circulation. These photos were from yesterday, sides partway up to allow for some cooling , but not too much in order to keep the warm weather plant starts happy. I can roll up one side, both sides, just a few inches, or up to the hip board on really hot days. As with all things gardening, the weather dictates what you will do.
Low tech predator control is great too. Deer and rabbits love to get in the greenhouse. With chicken wire on the sides, we can open the house up for ventilation while keeping the personnel doors closed to keep varmints out.
Keep in mind when planning your greenhouse, your bells and whistles may be different than ours. My main job is growing and preserving our food, so I am home and able to pay close attention to our greenhouse needs. These ideas may not work for you, but low-tech solutions can be a money saver when designing your greenhouse.
The spring flowers are trying to bloom…a little more warmth and time and we’ll be in bouquets
The spring work continues, taking pause to take in the flowers while spreading some brown gold.