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Garden Notes March 13, 2016

March 13, 2016

All those little tiny seeds I wrote about back in February had to be dealt with this past week. Either by transplanting in their final home or in the case of teeny tiny little herbs and flowers, potted up to the next size with fresh soil.

plastic reinstalled

plastic reinstalled



Greenhouse winterkill cover crop – March 2016

A true testament to how wet our winter has been, it took almost two weeks for the soil to dry out enough for basic tillage after reinstalling the poly cover.  Last year after our extremely dry winter, the soil dried out in about 5 days.

I experimented last year with sorghum sudan grass as a cover crop in the greenhouse and in part of the garden.  My early planting in the greenhouse was perfect, it supplied a good smother in late summer early fall and kept weed seeds from germinating or getting much of a foot hold and grew tall enough to provide a good amount of biomass.  One note of interest is that an early summer cover crop of buckwheat suppressed the growth of the following sorghum sudan cover crop.  The sorghum sudan on that side germinated fine, but grew much slower and was about twelve inches shorter than the side of the greenhouse that had grown vegetables all spring and summer when the first hard frost knocked it out.

First and final tillage for the year 3/11/2016


A weather year like this is pretty typical, and where the greenhouse really shines as garden.  Going back through my garden notes, some years we haven’t been able to plant outside until mid or even late June, more typical though is mid to late May.  Two or three months on the early end is a lot of season extension, and well worth the expense if you want to avoid going to the store for your produce, and you like to garden.  A recent ad in our farm paper for hoop houses like these were priced from $1.20 to $2.00 per square foot depending on style.  Not bad considering how much food you can grow in a structure like these during the shoulder seasons.

Tokyo Bekana

Tokyo Bekana


Joi Choi

Joi Choi


Desiree potato

Desiree potato

Planting list:

Early potatoes – Dark Red Norland, and Desireé

Packman Broccoli
Tokyo Bekana Chinese cabbage
Joi Choi Bok Choy
Kolibri kohlrabi
Parris Island Romaine lettuce
Basic Arugula
Almost Black & Chocolate Flake Sweet Pea

Direct Seed
Detroit Dark Red beets
Napoli carrot

Pot on
Gem Marigolds – Red, Tangerine, Lemon
Chocolate Lace Queen Anne’s Lace

Now that seeding and planting season has begun, my goal is to start or plant something each week.


15 Comments leave one →
  1. Ali permalink
    March 13, 2016 1:05 pm

    I’m glad you mentioned the cost of the greenhouse. After having our tractor break twice and the money output going toward that, I had thought a greenhouse probably would be out the question this summer but maybe it will still be doable after all. How big is your greenhouse in the picture? I have no idea where to buy them where we live but I will have to start researching now. I always love following your garden through the year. I hope I can produce a fraction of what you do someday!

    • March 13, 2016 1:10 pm

      Ali, this one is 30 x 72, and it is a semi-gable, you can get a quonset which is lower in height for the $1.20 per sq ft price. The only drawback is that they are hotter which can be a problem in the summer but is nice in spring, fall and winter. Worth budgeting for I think 🙂

  2. March 13, 2016 1:20 pm

    It must be raining-it is blogotopia here on MOH! We just built our first ‘real’ greenhouse 3 weeks ago-propagating at one end and peas and strawberries going in on the other. It is only a 20×40 but I am already planning on building a second (the good thing about the shorter length-we had no choice due to limited flat ground-is that it ventilates easily without dead spots.). The other upside of quonsets I’d say is it is easier to put the plastic on (and off) because they are not so durned high. Ours has 4′ straight sides so plenty of room for a shortie like me to get around on the edges. Growers heaven in March when it is raining sideways and blowing 30 plus. 🙂

    • March 13, 2016 1:46 pm

      Spudlust, I know funny isn’t it 😉 Isn’t it the bomb having a garden fix in March? Definitely a plus for the plastic, the others are a bear for the plastic, another plus of the quonset is the snow load factor, we haven’t lost a quonset yet, once you get into the semi-gable you need trusses which adds considerably to the cost or you need to install support posts, or be like us and take the plastic on and off. A downside for us is that we use the tractor for tilling…not owning a walk-behind, that makes the height important to us, no way could I get the tractor in our quonsets 😦

  3. March 15, 2016 7:24 am

    I’m jonesin’ big time for a greenhouse!
    Are you able to reuse your plastic each year? If yes, how many years do you average? Is the $2 per sf for a semi-gable like yours? Mind sharing your source?
    Inquiring minds need to know… 😉

    • March 15, 2016 2:19 pm

      LFF, we have put this plastic (6 mil, 4 year poly) on 5 times and it’s suffered through several iterations before we just decided to take it off each winter and put it back on after any chance of deep snow. So it’s lasted longer than the guarantee, it has some holes, slits etc, which really make no difference as we aren’t heating the space anyway. Note to self, it would have two less holes I believe if we hadn’t tried to put it on with only two people this last time :p Leaving it on would result in a longer life for sure.

      Yes, the $2.00 figure is for the semi-gable. The most recent Capital Press has the ad in the Seed and Row crop section, you could probably still get a copy of the paper, the ad price is good until 3/31. The ad is from Oregon Valley Greenhouse, which we have used once, but normally we use OBC Northwest. Oregon Valley is very popular though, and the price is about the same. That price is bare bones, bows, legs, wire lock, and poly. Things that can add to the expense over and above the $2.00 are purchased endwalls, roll up sides, etc. But you can also do those things inexpensively too, plus you can go with lighter gauge bows also to lower the cost. Many CSA’s leave the endwalls open for tillage and have poly “doors” that close after tillage work is done. Our endwalls are a nightmare to get near with the tractor… 😦
      Lots of ways to go depending on how you want to use it. Exciting times!!! Feel free to pick my brain about this, you’ve got my email addy.

      • March 16, 2016 12:45 pm

        thanks so much!!! M thinks I might be jumping the gun a little bit trying to get a greenhouse before we move out there but after working three days in the pouring rain – I’ve just about had it! There’s no wiggle room when you can only get out there on the weekends so we just grin and bear it. To have a warm dry workspace would be divine.

  4. Barbara permalink
    March 17, 2016 8:08 am

    MOH, I am amazed that you do all your starts without lights, and only heat from the seed mats! Did I understand that correctly? Our hoop house (still not fixed 😦 but we’re planning to try taping it) is 96 feet long. I’m thinking of arranging it in halves — cover half and leave half to the weather, alternating. Because it is so much space, and HOT in the summer! Thanks for all the inspiration!

    • March 17, 2016 9:08 am

      Barbara, I learned the hard way that if I used lights I was jumping the gun. We never had the weather even with the hoop house to plant when the plants were ready, for me lights allowed me to start to early, others may have more discipline 🙂 We do cover at night so protect them from the cold (30F last night) because the heat mats will only raise the temperature about 20 degrees. We rolled ours up the first year, and it held water because of the way we rolled it, but rolling up the top is a whole different animal than rolling up the sides. It’s not been bad to take on and off really, compared to spending the money for trusses, or rebuilding a smashed one 😦

  5. March 25, 2016 5:02 pm

    I have hoop house envy. It’s high on our wish list. I especially like that you are able to bring your tractor inside yours for tilling. My friends who have them have to use a hand-held tiller.

    Maybe next year…

    • March 26, 2016 2:50 pm

      Thank you Bill, and let me say I am so glad your blogging break is over 🙂

      Yes, it’s nice to till with the tractor and the added height really helps with the ventilation too.

  6. April 8, 2016 2:53 pm

    Hi Matron, (Sorry about the off post but I have a question about one of your Instagram posts and I’m a bit Instagram challenged.) So Jane’s calf is still nursing? She didn’t kick him off at 4 months like I think I remember you telling us she likes to do? So how does it work when he begins to wean? Does he stay out of the milking shed for longer during the day and therefore not get as much milk? Is there a noisy cow/ calf during this time? Then do you actually go back to twice a day milking until it’s time to dry Jane off? Or do you just stick to the once a day milking until you start to dry her off in anticipation of the new calf? When do you put Raylan out with the other cows?

    Thanks for all your help.
    It’s almost impossible to get these questions answered from another place!

    • April 8, 2016 3:46 pm

      Oh boy, lets see…He nurses twice a day and he seems to be much easier on her than her other calves. She probably would prefer he didn’t nurse, but life is tough 😉 He has never been with her and nurses on his own schedule, I milk or let him milk in a supervised setting. We’re getting pigs soon, so I think I will milk in the mornings entirely and let him do the afternoon/evening milking. He is in a pasture next to her with a fence dividing them, so they each have company, but aren’t together. So I will milk OAD and Raylan will milk once a day for now. She’s not bred yet, so I have a long lactation and all summer to build up my butter and ghee stores. Putting him with the beefers may not happen, they will beat him up and chase him through the fence, so I will have to figure out what to do with him until he is weaned and then just keep him with his mom after that. I’ve learned the hard way that I would rather deal with the milk cows calf here than throw him in with the wolves and fix fence every. single. day. Just the nature of cows, silly me to think I could make them bend to my will that much. Hope that helps. It’s complicated and simple at the same time!

      • April 9, 2016 7:08 am

        I am SO GLAD TO HEAR THAT! My gut instinct is to leave them together after weaning but I’ve been getting so much “advise” to the opposite (IE: “you gotta separate that calf from her mom or you’re looking for trouble)! Thank you! I’m a new milk cow owner and everyone is giving me”helpful” advise. But what I’m hearing seems so counterintuitive.

        • April 9, 2016 12:01 pm

          It will only be a problem if your calf isn’t weaned fully or if the cow lets her nurse. I can only say it depends on the cow, some won’t wean and others are very strict about kicking (literally) that calf off.

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