Monday, April 1, 2013

Mini Greenhouse Update!

 This spring will be the third spring that I've used this little greenhouse. I'm happy to report that I get a 6-week head start by using this little rolling greenhouse, with no added heat. The sun alone heats this little wonder.

  When I built it, I built a rack inside that holds 8 trays of plants. That's enough to start my vegetables, herbs and some flowers. The windows actually still open, for extra ventilation. I haven't had to use them much as it's easier to prop open the door when it gets too hot. I keep a thermometer in there to keep it at a nice temp for the baby plants. For this unit, 85 degrees is the hottest I let it get. Any hotter than that, the babies will wilt.
 I still have the plastic over each end at the roof. I opted to keep that in order to give more light to the plants on the top shelf. I did make a small slit in the plastic for hot air to escape. 

I replaced the plastic this year, curious squirrels got in there over the winter. I pulled everything out of it today and washed it down, inside and out, with soapy vinegar water. After that I hosed it down and wiped the windows and now it’s propped open to dry out.


Now to grab my seeds, which I’ve spread out over the table to admire and plan, on many occasions. 
 Some seeds I’ll sow directly into the garden such as: peas (sugar pod and regular), green beans (pole), both squashes (zucchini and yellow straight neck), both kinds of potato (russet and sweet potato) and garlic (The garlic should have gone in last fall.)


 I plant my veggies first to make sure I have enough trays. Now to empty all the soil out of the trays and give them a wash with the hose. Let them dry a bit, then fill with new soil, get the soil wet and then plant those seeds! Water them in very gently, for tiny seeds use a spray bottle set on mist. Put the tops on the trays and pop them into the greenhouse! In 6 weeks we’ll have plants ready to transplant into the garden. It only cost me the price of seeds and some care.

  I bought my seeds from Victory Seeds this year. They are dedicated to saving heirloom seeds and I admire them for that. I have some left over from previous yrs as well as some that were given to me. First I’ll use my partially used packages from last year. Most of the new ones will get used. I also got some free seeds from my friend Melodee. A friend of hers gave her a bunch and Mel  passed it along, nice, thanks Mel!

  I’m thinking about growing some veggies in the front yard this year. Some gourds and pumpkin would cover the front yard nicely. You see our front yard looks much like the back yard did before I changed it. It’s barren with a couple of big pine trees, a couple of stumps and lots of bind weed. 

 Oh, I could do a whole page on bindweed. Let me just say that there was so much of it in the back yard that I pulled a 5 gallon bucket full every day for 6 wks and still never got rid of it all. Seems like a lot? I thought so too! I ended up with trigger thumb and finger from it, which has not healed yet.  It comes back, with a vengeance so there’s no way to actually get rid of it (I won’t use poisons, especially near the garden). What I did held it at bay for the summer. I cleared it, then layered a thick layer of overlapping newspaper over it, then covered it with about 4” of wood chips. This year we’re going to do something different. I’ve done this in the past so I know it works. We pulled some old carpet out of the basement but instead of throwing it away, I’ll rake back the wood chips, put the carpet down and cover with wood chips. It makes for a bouncy path, until it settles in, but it really works.

Free Wood Chips

   If you want free wood chips like we got, contact your local tree service businesses and see if they do this free service and if they do, give them your phone number. I went to craigslist and entered free wood chips in the search box. There were 3 businesses advertising a free delivery of wood chips. They’ll drop off a load when they are in the area. They don’t know when that will be so you have to be ready to work when the truckload of wood chips comes. I got a call one day and Charley is looking for our house! He’s on his way, ready or not! That’s what you sign up for when you give them your number. It’s a whole truckload too, that’s the thing that’s held me back from doing this in the past. This year I decided I needed more wood chips, crazy woman, so I just emailed the same company again. I’ll be ready this time!

  We got a load last spring and the pile was big, but looked do-able. We couldn’t get to it for a few days, which ended up being a bad thing. The leaves in it started to heat up and mold. If we had taken care of it the first few days after it came it would have been fine, the leaves would have dried out in the pathways, but we had no choice. It took several days for the 2 of us to move that truckload to the back yard. It took over a hundred wheelbarrows full.  Bob ended up breaking out in a full body rash because he’s really allergic to mold. I’m also allergic but not nearly to the degree he is. So I finished it up and have beautiful garden paths because of it. The leaves in it slowly dried up and turned to dust. All that’s left is the wood chips. Bags of wood chips would have been easier but would have cost much more than free! The man that emailed me, from the tree service, said they have wood chips at their “yard”. So if you have a truck, going and picking some up yourself may be a better way for you if you don’t need so much. A good source if you’re doing some work in your yard.

  At our last house the greenhouse was sitting outside, tucked under the eaves in the winter. The snow took its toll on the roof windows. They didn’t drain well. It didn’t do any permanent damage but it has made me rethink the roof. I have plans to put a couple of plexiglass panels on a wood frame, up there to serve as the new roof.  The snow would slide right off.  It’s not such a problem here at our new house. It sits on a covered patio with greenhouse material roof; so filtered light still gets in. The weather has been gentle to it the last 2 winters. I could put plastic over the roof windows. It would hardly be noticeable and would serve the purpose and still keep the windows for the roof.

 It gets most of the light it needs from between the garage and the patio. The greenhouse sits on the south side of the patio. I turn the greenhouse at least once a day to get all the plants covered. You wouldn’t think there would be enough light there because in addition there is a tree there. Fortunately at this time of year it hasn’t gotten its leaves yet so there is still enough light. By the time the leaves are actually causing shade, my veggies will be in the garden. So you people out there using light, or a lack of light, as an excuse not to grow something let me tell you, you can grow more than you think! Just start with something easy like lettuce or spinach in a pot on your porch. The important thing is to start!

  It’s nice to have it just outside the back door. It makes it easy to check it. The wheels are great!! If I made another one I’d put bigger wheels on it, but these work really well. The have a locking position so I can put it where I want it and lock the wheels. This is handy if you have an uneven patio. At the last house we had a shady patio, but the sun would peek in at certain times of day. I wheeled it around a lot at that house, following the sun. Still got my 6 weeks, even with that little bit of extra work, so worth it!!
These just need to be soaked, then planted.
  When I made this greenhouse I worried that it would be hard to move. When we moved we hired movers, and 2 guys were able to carry it from the back yard to the sidewalk in the front yard, then it just rolled into the truck. Then they carried it into the new back yard.

 So, today I plant my seeds!! Like every gardener, I’ve been waiting all winter for this! This year my new veggie to grow is celery. Should be fun. They have a long growing season so I need to get busy planting!

Here’s a list of veggies and herbs that we’ll be growing this year:


Green Beans
Peas  2 kinds
Potatoes  2 kinds
Squash  2 kinds
Tomatoes  3 kinds

  I also bought some flower seeds but there usually isn’t room for more than a tray of flowers in the greenhouse. They usually end up in one of the many pots we have. I collect seeds every year so I have plenty of free flower seeds that I plant everywhere. Lots of marigolds, sunflowers, hollyhocks and daisy's to name a few. The marigolds keep bad bugs away and they bring the bees I can’t stress enough how important it is to have flowers in the garden to draw the bees. Without bees we have no food.
 I save flower seeds everywhere I go. I carry extra Kleenex, which makes a nice bundle for a handful of seeds that I collect on a walk. I have to write on it what kind of flower it is when I get home, or at least what it looks like, and a height helps later as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten that bundle in my pocket only to find it weeks later, leaving me to wonder what kind of seeds they are. So as you might guess I have some seeds I’m not sure about. That’s okay, I plant a few every year, so they’re not just gathering dust. I only save seed from flowers I like so I'm safe to just plant them in a pot till I see what I have, then find a spot for it or leave it in the pot to move around for color and bees.

 As much as I love flowers and realize the value they have as well, growing food is still more important. We grow as much as we can in the space we have. We just found out we’ll be on water restriction this summer. Good thing I have raised beds, it really saves on water.

My granddaughter, Stella is almost 2 and loves gardening with Grandma Jody.
The green bean tee pee will be even more fun this year. I’m looking forward to sharing my garden with my family this year. They love watching it grow and are very excited when they get their weekly bag of goodies. If we lived closer to my kids in CA, they would get to enjoy it too. They grew up gardening and as a result my daughter, Heather, grows her own veggies. I love passing that passion for gardening on to another generation. It’s part of who I am, and teaching others about it ensures a piece of me will live on forever. I kind of love that.

This blog can also be viewed at The Homestead Barn Hop My story is # 117
Check out this site, she has a lot of good info!


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