Planted greenhouse beds....

mulberryknobOctober 5, 2012

today as it was finally cool enough to be in there on a day when we were home. The inground beds are planted with salad veggies, lots of lettuce, spinach, oriental greens as well as radish and lettuce. Also some beets and Swiss chard. The containers, including the four molasses tubs that my neighbor gave me received the tomatoes and cucumbers I started over a month ago. I also moved the tropical ornamentals that live in the front yard all summer in there instead of onto the porch, which I don't plan to heat this winter. Can't heat two plant rooms all winter. Now need to go in there and organize the things that I plopped on the ground and benches all summer because it was too hot to stay and organize them. So here's hoping that we have as good a crop this winter as we did last.

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That sounds great Dorothy and I'll bet you do even better in your second year.

I planted some of the same things that you did, but in the ground, and a couple of weeks ago. I just covered the low tunnel with row cover and most everything was up and a couple of inches tall today. I pulled the row cover off today and moved it down to lay on top of the plants, and covered the arches with greenhouse plastic.

We have things wrapped and covered for this weekend. Hopefully when this cold passes, we will have several more weeks of good weather. I didn't try to cover everything, but I am trying to save a few things.

I got tired of picking Zuchetta and left some on the vines. Tonight I shreaded 36 cups of squash. I think I picked enough, don't you? I have the squash, onions, and peppers soaking in the brine tonight and tomorrow I will make relish. I normally make one that is a little sweet, but this time I am making a zesty one. Since we picked a Braum's bag full of peppers yesterday, I needed to use some of them for something. I still plan to make more pepper jelly, and freeze a few peppers, then I think I am finished for the year.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:32AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Dorothy, That sounds so nice. I have planted many of the same types of veggies in containers that will be moved into the greenhouse sometime in the next couple of weeks.

I started building in-ground beds in the greenhouse last winter, but stopped abruptly when it became abundantly clear that the cats thought the greenhouse was a cat spa and the raised beds were their restroom. I decided that instead of fighting constantly to keep the cats out of the greenhouse beds, I'd just grow in containers.

Carol, Like you, I covered up a lot of the plants in the garden yesterday and think if they can make it through the next two nights, they'll likely be able to produce for several more weeks. I didn't cover up the cool-season plants, only the warm-season ones.

I sort of felt like an idiot out there yesterday afternoon covering up plants when we were forecast only to go down into the mid- or upper-40s, but decided I'd rather cover up plants a day early and be able to work in warmer, less windy weather than to be out there covering up plants today in higher wind and cooler temperatures.

I hope I am not finished for the year with the in-ground garden yet, and would love to keep it producing for weeks and weeks yet. However, even after it freezes, I'll have the greenhouse plants so at least there's that.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 10:22AM
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I went out this morning to work a little. It was misting, windy and cold. I am already tired of winter and we aint even had a frost yet. Where is that nice warm weather we were waving our fingers at a few weeks ago?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:35PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

It is someplace else, not here. I don't know about the forecast for anyplace else, Larry, by in our county we'll be back in the 80s by Tuesday. All we have to do is wait for this cold, chilly spell to pass. It is chilly, cloudy, windy and kind of misty here--not heavy enough that it is like rainfall but rather just a mist in the air. It is a good day to stay indoors.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:43PM
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Dorothy & Dawn: What are "in ground beds?"

Dorothy - I love everything that you are growing in your "in ground beds."

I'm growing many of the same things in outside beds. I use row cover for lettuce and tender greens. Beets, chard, kale, collards, Napa cabbage, turnips, radish, and broccoli have been okay without protection.

You can grow tomatoes and cukes in winter? In a greenhouse? Do you add light, in addition to heat?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:46PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Pam, They're just planting beds that are in the ground (if not raised) or on the ground (if raised beds). The difference is that they are inside the greenhouse instead of outdoors in the open.

I switched from the planned in-ground beds to containers because last winter when we started building raised beds on the ground inside the greenhouse, the cats thought we were building them the world's largest cat litter box, nicely warm and sheltered from the wind. I've trained the cats to stay out of containers, but they believe any soil (or, indeed, soil-less mix) in a framed, raised bed, is theirs.

In the big garden, it isn't a big problem either. I've yelled at the cats enough and sprayed water at them enough that they know they'd better "go" in a flower bed or some other place outside the fenced garden and not in the beds in the veggie garden. In the greenhouse, though, it all is too new still and they think it is all about them. Why else would I build nice, deep raised beds of fluffy soilless mix if not for the cats' use?

Some of our winter veggies are in molasses feed tubs that are about the same size as a whiskey half-barrel, and others are in 5 to 7 gallon containers, and others are in flat tubs that sit on the greenhouse tables.

All the cool-season crops that are in the containers for the greenhouse (they're still outdoors in the open air now because the greenhouse is still hitting afternoon highs in the 100s this week) also are growing in the ground in the big garden. I also have some of them in permanent containers outside that will not be moved into the greenhouse because of their size and weight. I'll cover those with floating row cover as needed during very cold weather.

It is just part of an ongoing effort to raise as much of our produce as I can, and it also helps me avoid going crazy in the winter months. When I'm in the greenhouse, it feels like spring or summer even in December or January.

I also have a handful of warm-season crops in containers (mostly herbs, tomatoes and peppers) that I'll drag into the greenhouse when the weather cools a little more and I'll keep them going for as long as I can.

We do reach a certain point where the tomatoes that ripen in winter don't get very big and the flavor is less than impressive (though still better than grocery store tomatoes). At that point I stop watering and let the tomato plants die. While the idea of home-grown winter tomatoes is appealing, the reality is that with shorter daylength and less intense heat/sunlight, the flavor is not all that great. Some years I've managed to extend the tomato harvest into December or January but whether or not the flavor is worth the effort is open to debate.

Of course, cool-season veggies grown in the greenhouse or outdoors are fine since they don't need intense sunlight and intense heat in order to develop their flavor.

Before we built the greenhouse, I winter-gardened and just dragged or carried the containers into the garage on cold nighrs or raised the plants in containers on tables in the sunroom. I am hoping that with the greenhouse, there will be a lot less of carrying plants in and out.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 11:51PM
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Dawn, many thanks for the explanation. I have never gardened in a greenhouse, and have just seen them used by commercial growers.

A couple of years ago, DH and I built a hoophouse. The frame was PVC inserted into rebar. We covered it with plastic. I used it to start thousands of wintersown perennials that I was growing from seed and also tender greens like lettuce.

That year, I started using floating row cover to protect winter crops. I didn't think the row cover would provide sufficient protection for those crops so I planned to use the hoophouse to grow winter crops. But floating row cover has been so successful that I haven't put the hoophouse back up.

This works because we live on the Chesapeake Bay - our garden is about 200' away from that enormous body of water. The Bay has a huge moderating impact on our climate & growing conditions. Our first frost is at least 6 wks later than the first frost in town 2 miles away. In winter, temps rarely drop below 15-20F, cold spells are short. At the other end of the calendar, we have a longer period of cool weather in spring. In summer, it gets hot, but not as hot as it gets inland.

When we built this house, I didn't expect conditions to be different from the cottage we lived in 1/4 mile away. I was wrong. Soil is different - sandy. Wind is a huge problem. When we have a tropical storm, flooding turns our house (on pilings) into an island surrounded by water. Fortunately, trop storms don't happen every year - they always leave a huge mess behind.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You're welcome.

This past winter was my first winter with the greenhouse, and it continues to be a learning experience. By combining floating row cover with the hoophouse-style greenhouse, I was able to leave warm-season plants in there without damage on some surprisingly cold nights. I have no plans to run up a higher electric bill heating the greenhouse, but some winters we don't really get very cold. Or, what little cold we have is very brief, so I think I'll be able to get pretty good results with the greenhouse. It does have to have shadecloth on it though, or it is unbearably hot in all but the coldest, cloudiest weather.

The biggest advantage of the greenhouse so far is with raising seedlings in a more sheltered manner and with being able to get them good sunlight without them being exposed to fierce spring winds.

Being in a valley means we get colder than friends on higher ground just a mile or so away and our garden is prone to late frosts, but I feel like we at least have a little more wind protection than they do. I can use floating row cover to even up the playing field---so even though they can plant earlier, technically, I can plant at the same time if I want to. I just have to use floating row cover in order to do so successfully.

Isn't it peculiar how different you found conditions just 1/4 mile away from your cottage? I understand it though. The property on all 4 sides of us mostly has sandy soil. Really, really sandy soil. Us? We have almost entirely clay soil with one narrow band of sand. It makes me crazy. On the other hand, if I had all that deep, sandy soil our neighbors have, then I'd likely have to deal with erosion like they do and with the root knot nematodes that have driven some of them out of vegetable gardening. And, our soil is getting sandier over times as soil from the higher ground near us sometimes washes down onto our property during heavy rainfall. In one particularly brutal rainstorm, 12.97" of rain fell in about 24 hours, and the lower parts of my already-planted, heavily mulched garden ended up to 4" of sand on top of the mulch. So, in an odd manner, our soil is becoming sandier. It was a PITA that year, but when the gardening year ended, I rototilled that 4" of sand and the mulch buried underneath it into the ground. It was at the lower end of the sloping garden that hasn't had an extreme amount of soil improvement, so I felt like the sand helped break up that compacted clay a bit. The next year, though, I had massive weed issues in that area, so I think the sandy soil that washed down brought a lot of weed seeds with it.

Some of our neighbors who were born here and grew up here remember when our soil was sand on top of clay. Between the Dust Bowl years and the droughts of the 1950s, our sand blew away, they say. They tell me it was amazing sandy loam that grew a great cotton crop for a long time. (sigh) I guess I'll never know how amazing it was, but every time heavy rainfall washes sand down onto our property from higher ground nearby, we am getting back a little sand.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 1:36PM
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Dawn - Nearly 13" of rain in 24 hours? And you are in a valley? I hate to think what it was like during that storm. When you have a gully-washer, where does the water go? Is your house on higher ground?

I can imagine what it was like when the rain ended and you took stock. I think you're right about the benefits of sand. When we add sand to an area of clay, it seems to vanish without a trace. I don't know where it goes - it's invisible.

I think you'll enjoy the greenhouse, even though your cats seem to view it as their new playhouse. When i used the hoophouse to start perennials and grow tender greens, it did a great job of protecting everything inside from my big enemy - wind. i had to keep a close eye on the inside temps - it got too hot very fast.

I want to thank you for the advice about sweet potatoes. Reading posts in this forum is like taking horticulture classes but a lot more fun. So far, my harvest seems to be fewer high quality tubers. Don't know if that will change after a few more weeks. Probably not.

I made a mistake by cutting back vines on some of the plants, then decided to give them more time to size up. I didn't think about the role of leaves in the growth process. I guess the worst outcome will be no additional growth for those tubers. As you said, we learn by experience. I had zero experience with sweet potatoes so I read everything I could find. In the end, real life experience is more valuable.

Thanks for all you do to help others!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 12:54PM
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I've never tried to raise winter tomatoes before and I already am thinking like Dawn that it may not be worth the trouble and electricity. We built a small room-8x8ft-into the greenhouse to heat but unless I start raising tropicals--and I would love to have a couple quava bushes in big containers, and maybe a lime--we may not heat it in years to come. Last year the coldest it got inside was 26 F without heat, on a night that was 12 outside if I remember right. But last year was a mild winter. No zero temps and no extended cold spells, or cloudy spells. We did cover our cold hardy plants with sheets on the coldest nights and none of them died, though a few were stiff with frost. Like Dawn, I'm learning. I do have 3 figs in 18 gallon totes that I will put inside after they go dormant. I'll let them experience temps in the high 20s and then put them inside.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 8:47PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Pam, You're welcome.

I am indeed in a valley (the Red River Valley) and to complicate matters, most of our property is a sloping creek hollow, with the house and garden areas being on the highest ground that we have. After we'd lived here 6 or 8 years, I found our little creek on a county map. Usually the creeks aren't named on the maps here except for a few very large ones because in a river valley you have a gazillion little creeks everywhere. When I saw the name of our creek, I literally burst out laughing and said "well, that explains a lot of things". The name of our creek? Dry Hollow Creek.

That heavy rainfall was odd and not exactly expected to drop such a huge amount of rain. I remember it had started raining that morning and we were expecting to receive 3-5" of rain. We'd been in drought and were desperately hoping for serious drought-buster type rainfall.

Scott posted a sort of heads-up here on the forum saying he thought I was going to get a lot of rain. As it turned out, we sure did. My rain gauge only goes to 5", so I kept running outside every few hours and emptying it. Of course, roads floating, a few houses in low-lying areas had water in them, the force of the water rushing downhill knocked over some people's pasture fences or tore up their water gap gates, etc. That high amount of rainfall, thankfully, only fell over a portion of the our county and we happened to be in that area, but the whole county had a lot of rain that day.

I grew up 80 miles south of here and there was an old saying "it takes a flood to end a drought", but I've never truly understood the truth of that statement until we moved here. Our droughts in Fort Worth (except for 1980) were pretty lame compared to our droughts here, and it takes a big drought-buster rain to truly end a drought. Often we spend more months slowly coming out of drought than we spent moving into drought and staying there a while. Since moving here we've had a 24-hour rainfall total of 8" or more at least 5 times that I remember, and I remember a couple of 5-6" rainfalls too. Our 12.97" was April 29, 2009 and we also had 9.25" on April 29, 2006. Both times, the heavy rainfall ended a very prolonged period of drought. Usually when we have that sort of heavy rainfall it occurs because bands of rainstorms are training (running in a straight line like a train on a track) in the same area hour after hour after hour. A couple of times, it has been the remnants of a tropical storm moving upward from the Texas gulf coast that brought us heavy rainfall. The remnants of Hermine a few years ago dropped a huge rainfall over one small portion of our county. At our house we got about 8" from that storm, but some folks just a couple of miles either north or south of us didn't get much rain at all.

I'm glad you're getting some good sweet potatoes. While big ones are nice, high-quality tasty ones are wonderful in their own way even if they aren't huge.

Dorothy, I think learning what we can or can't grow and should or shouldn't grow in our greenhouses will be fun. At least it will allow us to do some experimentation to see what is worthwhile and what isn't.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 11:05AM
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