eason extension (adding to the growing season on each end) is the reason we built our greenhouses in the first place. Not for winter growing. Back in the day, we housed our laying hen flock on deep bedding in these spaces during the winter. But the large numbers of grain consuming livestock weren’t really a good fit for our farm or our location in the Pacific Northwest. The choices are either prohibitively expensive “local” grains or grains shipped in from faraway places. Others may find a way to make this work, but for us it was a no-brainer to go “against the grain” and ratchet back to ruminants. So now the greenhouses are for growing vegetables.
Trying to be more in tune with nature, (if that’s possible with a greenhouse) we have opted to remove the covers before snow flies. This generation of hoophouses will be winter safe. That is the new refrain. After years of growing in a fixed greenhouse situation, I am happy to report that the difference in the soil is amazing. New greenhouse growers know nothing of the honeymoon period, when it’s a delight to have some season extension, but after a few years the soil gets, well, wonky. Too dry, and out of balance, and no amount of irrigation and amending makes the soil the same as growing outside. Eliot Coleman’s moveable design addresses these very things, sadly, our growing areas won’t accommodate moveable houses due to slope issues. But, by removing the cover and exposing the soil to the vagaries of winter weather we can achieve the same effect. However, the rolling greenhouse is not really necessary here in the Pacific Northwest as we can harvest many crops throughout the winter, negating the winter cover Coleman needs in Maine. Nice, but not absolutely necessary.
Winter harvest means summer planting here, and sometimes the best laid plans have a mind of their own. Case in point: fall and winter cabbage. Some of my cabbage matured faster than I thought it would, which is great, but…mature cabbage has a great habit of splitting when water uptake is high. I remedy that in the garden by root pruning, and I did that for the garden cabbage but the greenhouse cabbage has been enjoying a charmed life of being watered by me, instead of Mother Nature, up until we took the cover off yesterday.
I did want to make another batch of sauerkraut, but not this week, and with heavy rain predicted and the greenhouse cover off, I needed to save my cabbage from splitting.
There are several ways to root prune, you can use a shovel and dig around each plant on at least three sides, or you can twist the heads to sever the roots. I chose the latter, no tools but hands required and you can make short work of a cabbage row in a few minutes. The main idea is to slow down the uptake of water so the heads don’t split. With less roots the cabbage head will get less water and the heads should be fine and stay in good enough condition for a prolonged harvest.
In a nutshell we treat the indoor garden areas the same as the outside garden areas for winter. We select varieties that will succeed here in our cool, wet winters, and we inter-seed cover crop or sheet mulch to protect the soil from those unrelenting rains of winter.