GREENHOUSE GOLD

Popey would be proud of us.

We have had a bumper crop of spinach this spring in our second season of growing food in our greenhouse.

This is the kind of thing we dreamed of when we built of little earth-sheltered, lean-to greenhouse as part of our barn.

Last year, our maiden voyage into greenhouse gardening, was a mixed success.  We had a good crop of chard and kale and a few carrots and a very few beets, as well as a small patch of spinach.  Then we planted tomatoes for a second crop, and the vines were frighteningly vigorous, but produced almost no fruit.  (We suspect that not enough polinators got into the greenhouse.)

..We are mulching this spring with shredded paper that is generated at UW-Wisconsin Platteville.

Yesterday we harvested another bag of spinach, but the plants are so stalky, our next harvest will be the last.  I think I’ll grab some basil plants at the farmers’ market and replace our bolting spinach.

It’s been a very green spring.  I’m sure I’m processing information a little faster with all that spinach in my system.

We started out by wetting the soil with melted snow. (Check out my post Watering the Greenhouse with a Shovel.)

Then we covered the bed with spinach seed and laid a piece of cardboard on top of that till the leaves started to break ground.

We water the rest of the bed with pond water.

The spinach we planted this year was "America" (Seed Savers Exchange), planted March 7, but if we had been able to get out there and do it, conditions were good the week before.

But we haul water from town for the spinach because we like to eat it right out of the bed, and I’m not wild about munching things watered from our murky little pond till they are well washed.

Our cold April and cool May have gifted us with an extra long spinach season.  A pound of hoop house spinach has been selling for $9 at the market, and I figure we have eaten over $100 of the freshest, most tender, really local spinach this spring from our little lean-to.  Pretty good return from a packet of seed.

I am gung ho for greenhouses.

Do you have a greenhouse?

Do you want a greenhouse?  What would or do you grow?

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7 replies

  1. I am so jealous, our new greenhouse is still under construction but it is close to completion now. We will be growing tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines (egg plants), peppers, melons and grapes in ours. The plants are more than ready for potting on in the windowsills of our apartment.

    Later on in the year we will also plant some veg for the autumn once the frosts descend outside.

    • Yes, a greenhouse has been a great boon. It will be so much more useful when we are living next door, but it works out pretty well now. We have been teaching at the state university in Platteville, and our land is just a mile off the path between our house in Madison and the campus in Platteville. So we have been able to stop and water en route. Summer break starts next week, and that means we will be able to camp out there for days!

      • We are in the process of buying a fairly old caravan (I think you call them a trailer) where we might camp out a few nights too. It will indeed be nice to be nearby

  2. I’m so impressed! No greenhouse here, but we plan to plant a garden on the side of your house this year. Didn’t know you could use paper to mulch.

  3. If you are thinking about a garden, try to find someone who gardens to help you get started. Doug and I have made a lot of beginner mistakes before I took the Master Gardener Volunteer training.
    Good luck. Few things taste as good as one’s own garden produce.
    And think about a fence. In the Madison area, the rabbit population is growing — and growing fat on garden plants.

    • Yes, it’s been some gorgeous greenery — and very good too, although not actually frost sweetened like the spinach we had been buying at the Dane County Farmers’ Market all winter. That spinach was grown in hoop houses that did freeze regularly. The spinach is unharmed if picked when it is not frozen, and it really does get a pleasing extra thickness to the leaves and a truly sweet flavor. It’s like leaf candy!
      But our greenhouse is well insulated, and never froze after we planted in March.
      What we have given up in frost sweetening flavor, we have gained by having our sage and rosemary plants from last year hop back to early life, providing tasty additions to many dishes since early April.

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