Monday, March 11, 2013

GREENHOUSE GREENS



Crowded lettuce - I transplanted before I thought of taking a picture!

Another year, another experiment.  Last year, it was stogie-sized cucumbers climbing up a metal trellis I had wrestled into the north end of the greenhouse. And a productive little experiment it was; for weeks before I should have been able to, I was eating cukes in Greek salad along with the cherry tomatoes off a plant I had planted out in the last week of March in a Wall of Water (a slightly unwieldy but effective season extender). I love Greek salad, especially when it’s paired with a chunk of really good baguette to sop up all the lemony olive oil and basil (from the plant on the windowsill) dressing.

At top pak choi separated into a 72 cell flat w/kale seedlings on left
This year, the experiment is baby pak choi and lacinato (aka dinosaur) kale. I used last year’s seed, saved in a plastic storage container to protect it from mice and damp, and sowed it in some sterilized 6-cell seed trays a couple of weeks ago. I had assumed that the seed's germination rates, which are usually good with those two crops, would nevertheless have diminished, so I sowed many more of those babies in each cell than I would have had it been this year's seed. But instead of the few little leaves I expected, LOTS came up and in no time were crowded.  I had had a lot of success with the Pot o Gold Swiss Chard from Renee Shepherd's Seeds that I planted last year in a pot and cut and ate for weeks, so I decided, a la the cukes, to try to grow some cold weather greens in the greenhouse.
The experiment: pak choi and kale in a trough

Hunting for a container was the first order of business.  Instead of pots, I decided on a couple of long narrow plastic things I bought ages ago that were supposed to act as liners for long window boxes or raised planters, but which turned out to be way too narrow and shallow to sustain much of anything you’d want in a window box. They measure about nine inches wide and seven inches deep. However, they are (I’m hoping) perfect for this year’s experiment since most leafy green veggies don’t need much root room – usually no more than about six inches depth and not a lot of sideways space. I’m not planning on letting these leafy guys get big anyhow. The minute they look like they'll produce a meal, they're clipped. If it gets too warm inside for them, I'll shift the tray to a protected spot outdoors, as I did with last year's potted chard.

I dumped the crammed pak choi and kale seedlings out of their cells onto a tabletop, gently separated them and replanted them singly  in a combination of organic potting soil and seed starting mix. They now sit on a table on the east side of the greenhouse. I’m excited already. Kale and bean soup with last year's canned Big Mama tomatoes, stir-fried pak choi with ginger, water chestnuts and mushrooms kale and orange juice and banana smoothies here we come. I hope. We’ll see. It's all an experiment.

It's all an experiment, but a light-filled one that's better than Prozac 
P.S. I realize not everyone has room or interest in a backyard greenhouse, but I wouldn't trade mine for a vacation in the Bahamas.  In addition to affording me the ability to start whatever off-the-wall veg variety I want, it's my personal antidepressant. The channels in the plastic panels magnify and intensify light even on the greyest of winter days. I sit inside there with a book or greedily sort through last year's saved seeds and imagine warm spring days. Best kind of drug. A greenhouse has its own set of issues of course. I'm currently fighting a white fly infestation on my experimental Meyer lemon trees and I'm not winning. Never mind. Totally worth it.

4 comments:

  1. If you don't mind me being nosy, would you share some details about the size, cost, purveyor, etc of your greenhouse? I confess to being a bit envious!

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  2. Where did you get your greenhouse tables? I have a new (much smaller than yours) greenhouse and I need some budget friendly tables or shelves!

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  3. Although the green house is in experiment but this is looking so wonderful. All the little plant is looking so cute. This is really wonderful post.

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  4. To answer all three -- and thanks by the way for the responses --I got the greenhouse as a kit on sale from Charley's Greenhouse - the same one is on sale right now (just google). Mine is 8'X10' and it's probably the right size for what I need, tho of course I could overfill any bowl I've got!

    I bought two table kits along with the greenhouse, but didn't need to. My son, who's a carpenter built them then made another, wh was much cheaper, out of pine and the plastic-covered open-rack tops I got at Lowes or Home Depot, (don't remember which) for about $8 each.

    The kit includes instructions for building the foundation to which the greenhouse is attached. It offers several options. I chose to have a dug foundation bounded by cinder blocks and filled first with crush-and-run then topped with a thick layer of pea gravel, since I wanted all water (from the rain barrels, wh is what I use to water everything) to go back into the ground and be filtered through the natural layers as it was meant to by nature. No waste. To attach the greenhouse to the foundation, we used ground screws to which a layer of wood is attached and then the greenhouse attached.

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