WATERING THE GREENHOUSE WITH A SHOVEL

Our greenhouse growing boxes are almost complete.  Seed is ordered, and temperatures of soil and air are getting into the growing range.  In our completely passive solar greenhouse, the thermometer 8 inches below the soil surface never registered freezing once all winter long.

The inside air temperature once got down to 19, and yes, it was a fairly warm January for Southern Wisconsin, but the outside the low hit minus 10, almost 30 degrees colder.  With outside highs that have been creeping up to 40, the greenhouse is now soaring into the 70s.  As the equinox approaches the soil is getting plenty of sun and is ready to plant.

..Standing on the dike making shadows on the snow. We aren't going to be dipping water out of the pond for a while yet.

We are ready to start our first greenhouse crop.  Kale, spinach, lettuce, baby beets and carrots – it’s time to plant them.  But one thing had us stymied.

In the past, we have watered many transplanted trees and assorted native plants by hauling 5-gallon buckets of water from our pond (first with a yoke, and later in our Powerwagon).

Eventually we will have a cistern to collect water from the barn roof and store it below the frost line.   Ultimately we will sink a well.

But here and now, we have no water on our land except what we carry out from town.  The soil I lovingly prepared by chopping compost, sand and peat moss into our clay loam (with the emphasis on clay) last fall has been baked repeatedly over the winter. It had dried to dust.  Not what a seed wants to germinate in.

Then a couple of weeks ago, as we were taking our lunch and basking in the warmth of the greenhouse I looked out at the snowscape a few feet away, and it hit me.

Bring in snow!  Mound it up in the boxes where the toasty temperatures can melt it as many times as it takes to soak the growing boxes to the bottom!

..Our greenhouse in March.

I started immediately — running shovel after shovel full in through the barn doors and stacking the snow high in the growing beds.  Before we left that evening, the snow drift I had transplanted into the greenhouse was already a shrunken shadow of its former self.  On our way to La Crosse a few days later, to attend the Organic Farming Conference, it had vanished into the beds.  We filled them again.  We filled them once more on the way home a few days later, and now the soil is spongy moist!

..It's 74 degrees in here. Can you hear that snow melting?

Even when we have a cistern and a well, I think I will do this first watering of the season by shovel.  Snow is as pure as rainwater and a lot more fun.

..Is this a wave crashing on the shore? No, it's a snow wave (now melted in the greenhouse).

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4 replies

    • Thanks for commenting, Michael. Really nice to hear from you!
      Actually it didn’t take that much patience. Three snow packs has really soaked it. This last time we also filled our handful of 5-gallon plastic buckets with snow, and I was surprised to see that they melted down to almost half full of water. I didn’t realize how much water was caught up in snow. Of course, it is end of the year, pretty compact snow at this point.
      But I do feel like a stumbled onto something just a little brilliant as we puzzled over how to water this spring.
      Now we need to get the window built that will open automatically (by expanding wax) when it gets too hot, and we’ll be ready to plant.
      Denise

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