Things are getting exciting in our mostly-finished greenhouse!
Last year we raced to get the growing beds built and filled before the ground froze. This March we raced again to finish the top edge of the boxes so we could plant.
By then the temperatures in the greenhouse were staying well above freezing overnight, and on sunny days it was reaching toasty. If we had been ready, we could have planted earlier. Basking in mid-February sun, the greenhouse was easily staying above 20 degrees overnight, and it never dipped below freezing after February 28th. By mid March, the lowest of the lows never dipped below 40.
Suddenly it was the killer heat (not cold) stalking our baby plants. Just in the nick we got our temperature-driven window vents built and operating. The temperature has never hit 100 since.
We ticked kale, chard, spinach, carrots and beet seeds into the back boxes on March 14. The spinach, kale and chard seemed to spring out of the ground, but the carrots and beets took weeks more to make an appearance.
After living under a full oak canopy for years in Madison, we are learning veggie gardening on the fly. Such as which little shoots are the beets and carrots and which are stray weeds. The carrots began to do their distinctive leafy filigree almost immediately, but we are still puzzling a bit about which exactly are the beet seedlings.
This week we thrilled to our first real meal of our own spinach! We also thinned the kale and chard by digging out plants growing too closely and transplanting them to the other greenhouse bed and also outdoors.
We mulched in all the larger plants with hay from our own little haymow of grass we gathered after the township road crew mowed along the highway. That should take the pressure off watering a bit.
In the lower west bed we planted a second crop of beets and carrots April 8, but it’s been impossible to keep it moist because we can’t get out to the land every day. My friend Susan (whose own garden is a thing of beauty and bounty) gave me the brilliant idea of germinating the seeds by covering the newly-planted rows with cardboard for a while to keep the soil from drying out so fast. In an outdoor garden, a cardboard cover might blow away or get soaked during a storm, but we don’t have to worry about those threats in the greenhouse. We’ll see how this goes and keep you posted.
As Doug described in an earlier post on March 30th, our goal is to extend the growing season in the greenhouse without using any fossil fuel for heating, lighting or venting.
We don’t expect to grow year-round. Between the shortened December and January day lengths here in southern Wisconsin, and greenhouse temperatures down into the teens, the dead of winter will provide a restorative sterilization in the beds.
But right now in our very first season, we are way on the other side of the seasonal wheel now and reveling in watching our greens burst with life.