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Greenhouse Rewards

April 22, 2013

A greenhouse does represent an added workload for the gardener but the rewards are many.  Lately on rainy, cold days I have been able to amend my soil, weed the beds, seed, and plant out transplants.  All tasks that are a no-no this time of year in my outside gardens.  It is a trade-off, this intensive greenhouse gardening, but well worth it because it allows me to save and keep my soil structure in the outside extensive gardens.  Almost all our outside garden crops are dryland, and to pull that off I need to shepherd my garden soil.

over-wintered kale

over-wintered kale

Greenhouse 2 is still in harvest/winter mode while we are getting Greenhouse 1 in shape.  The cover crop rye is growing mightily and we are still harvesting kale.  The Red and White Russian kale severely froze back, so those plants are still providing tender leaves, and the others:  Lacinato, Rainbow Lacinato, Hunger Gap and Redbor are providing rapini enought to satisfy our want for kale or cole type crops this time of year.

Cover crop rye and overwintered kale

Cover crop rye and overwintered kale

Planted for early garden in Greenhouse 1:

Beets, carrots, kohlrabi, cabbage, sweet onions, potatoes, salad turnips, arugula, mizuna, lettuce, bok choy, komatsu, zucchini, strawberries, sage, tarragon, oregano & thyme.





Flashy Green Butter Oak, Merlot lettuces

Flashy Green Butter Oak, Merlot & Little Gem lettuces

Joi Choi bok choy

Joi Choi bok choy

Seascape strawberries

Seascape strawberries

Cocozelle zucchini

Cocozelle zucchini

Red Norland & Purple Viking potatoes

Red Norland & Purple Viking potatoes



Frost is predicted for the next several nights, so the warm weather starts waiting in the wings will just have to bide their time.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    April 22, 2013 8:50 am

    I just planted little starts of those pretty lettuces…are they the cut and come again type or does the whole plant have to be harvested when mature?

    • April 22, 2013 9:13 am

      Chris, I just pick them over and over, the key is to plant many and harvest a few leaves from each, they last a long time that way. We used to sell mesclun – ugh, I know way more about lettuce and green varieties than I care to admit :p

      I usually plant salad beds about every 3 weeks though, and when the younger ones get big enough to harvest, I sacrifice the older plantings to the chickens.

  2. Sarah Brown permalink
    April 22, 2013 8:50 am

    Could I have permission to use your rapini/cover crop photo in trainings with NRCS staff? I’d credit you of course…

  3. pioneerannie permalink
    April 22, 2013 9:00 am

    wow nice green house! did you make it yourself? would you have plans or instructions and general cost on making one if you did make it yourself? This would be great to have out here on the prairies, especially because we will be lucky if we can plant mid-late may this year.

    • April 22, 2013 9:19 am

      Pioneerannie, we built it ourselves, the kit runs about 3 – 4K for the metalwork, springlock and poly. These are available locally so no shipping involved.

      You might be able find a company close to you. Farmtek puts out a good catalog too just for drooling purposes 🙂

      • pioneerannie permalink
        April 22, 2013 10:20 am

        great I will check it out!

  4. Karen H. permalink
    April 22, 2013 9:16 am

    I planted rye in my garden and it is growing nicely but we want to plant potatoes soon. What will you do with your rye? I wanted to go with the “no-till” method this year so I
    am not sure what to do with this blanket of rye in the garden. Do we just “turn it over”
    lightly? Any suggestions or help would be appreciated.

    • April 22, 2013 9:23 am

      Karen, the problem with rye is it takes quite a bit to kill it, you might want to pull it now or mow it, because it does have an allelopathic effect on plants and may affect your potatoes. I will most likely graze this with the sheep, mow it or pull it and remove it for biomass use somewhere else. I am planting late in the greenhouse, so a succession cover crop of buckwheat may be in order.

      I used straw mulch for my potato ground and it’s looking quite nice, although I’m not quite ready to plant potatoes yet.

  5. April 22, 2013 11:18 am

    We’ve planted rye grass in several raised beds for the past two winters, and use it as a cut-and-come-again crop – feeding it to our meat rabbits during the winter (it gets a floating row cover, and we’re in ‘Vancouver-ish’ BC). Come Spring, I start pulling out whole plants by the fistful daily, and clipping off the root balls, which means a bit less work when it comes time to actually clear and start putting in seeds and plants. We built a d.i.y. hoop house this past winter, and it collapsed in our only real snowfall. When we move to a bigger place, I would love to set up a metal-ribbed greenhouse, but I was amazed to see how many pests (aphids, mosquitos, etc.) were quite happy taking up residence in our warmer enclosure. I know Eliot Coleman moves his houses – how do you deal with unwanted tenants? I know you take the covers off now, but did you deal with that before?

    • April 22, 2013 11:47 am

      Ellen, I seeded this in late October and it didn’t really begin to grow until February, mostly staying in the 3″ stage all winter, despite how mild it was, I don’t think we got below 16F and that was only one night. But the chickens and Jane really liked the kale. Good idea on the rye, I’m tempted to pull this out instead of grazing, since I don’t think the sheep will eat the whole plant and then I would have to deal with their aftermath also. I’m hoping to see some quackgrass suppression from this, which means I really need to leave it a little longer 😦

      Previously we kept these hoophouses covered in the winter, due to the pain of taking the cover on and off, and we had pest pressure over time. Now after going several seasons with the cover removed for winter, I doubt I would go back to the covered setup. It’s great at first, but the soil never really gets saturated enough, the plants suffer, and pests proliferate, and everyone just expects that without really thinking about the why. Dry soil just can’t freeze and thaw and breath like wet soil, and now I really see the difference. I suspect Coleman’s good results are more a function of what happens to the soil over the winter fallow period than just rotating away from pests. I’ll never really know though because the lay of my land won’t permit me to have a moveable structure. We used the soak the heck out of the hoophouses to try to get them wet enough to till, and it still wasn’t enough apparently now that I see what a winter of rain and snow does to the soil. It’s wonderful.

  6. Marilyn permalink
    April 22, 2013 4:03 pm

    I have also noticed that if I leave the doors open on my greenhouse, I don’t get the pests. Plants are still protected from frost but you aren’t creating the same micro climate as you are when everything is shut tight. Even in the coldest part of winter I leave them open a foot or so. Ventilation is important. The same could probably be achieved with some kind of vents.

    • April 22, 2013 5:35 pm

      Marilyn, good points. Our greenhouses aren’t airtight and it does make a huge difference as my friends with airtight houses have whitefly every year on their tomatoes and we never have even seen one. You must not have cats that like to get in your greenhouse 🙂

  7. marilyn permalink
    April 23, 2013 5:50 am

    Nita – do you get slugs in your greenhouse? Also, how do you control symphylans?

    • April 23, 2013 7:36 am

      Marilyn, I patrol for slugs at night and try to keep the grass down around the edge. But they aren’t too much of a problem though, it’s pretty easy to see the damage right away and find the offenders. As for the symphylans, I know where they are and plant accordingly, since they don’t bother everything, and don’t really spread. I’ve read fallow for at least three years to eradicate them, but I can’t do that, and in this space it was fallow for three years and the symphylans are still in the same old places 😦 I just deal…

  8. April 23, 2013 11:08 am

    I’ve heard that some research has shown potato crops both attract and kill symphylans; think it was mentioned by Nick Andrews, of OSU’s Growing Farms program.

    • April 23, 2013 12:15 pm

      NM, we’ll see, I heard the same thing, so I planted potatoes in my worst spot for symphylans in the greenhouse. It’ll be an interesting experiment.

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