I was going to share with you a tour of the gardens, but I haven’t got the heart to share them yet. Every day it isn’t snowing, it’s raining, and if it isn’t raining, the grounds are snow covered. So that’s for another time! Onward…
So I have a problem. I like to name things. I have this fear that if something doesn’t have a name, it will be forgotten. So they receive great, epic or quirky names. Usually quirky. So I have decided this time, since the gardens are still too mucky, and periodically, covered in snow, I will share my greenhouse progress, dreams, and what I’ve done with it since we moved in.
Isn’t she a beaut? I felt like I struck it rich when I moved in, we have a ready made greenhouse waiting for our touch!
When we moved in, the greenhouse was intended as a raised bed greenhouse to grow things like herbs, spinach, and whatnot. There were raspberries popping in at the edges (they were delicious, but not desired), there was an impressive tuft of swiss chard that was harvested only 2 months ago, and some other residual things like potatoes, strawberries and herbs like chives and thyme. Oh, and a lot of tomatoes!
I planted a few of my own things, both into the raised bed and just within pots. I grew some Carolina Reapers, Ghost Peppers and tomatoes that I trugged along with me from the old house. That greenhouse got up to 45+ degrees celcius on some of the hottest days.
The greenhouse is an inflated plastic greenhouse. It is 26×32 and 10’ high at the peak.
It was a hesitant start but we got into the full force of the rejuvenation mid-late winter. We removed the doors that were there and redid the walls on either end. The walls were lined with R7 pink sheet insulation, and then a layer of plywood (on the outside) or Chipboard (inside) were put over. New doors were installed.
I am not very constructively inclined when it comes to building things, so all of those elements were put in by my Manimal. Meanwhile, I tore the raised beds out and leveled the floor with a rake.
We set up an inexpensive remote thermometer in there to track the nighttime lows and daytime highs over the winter. They haven’t gone far below -15 in the greenhouse, and in the winter, it has gone as high as 37.
We installed two small fans on each end of the greenhouse in the fall that will automatically turn on once the greenhouse reaches a certain temperature. I’ve tested them on a balmy winter sunny day. They work well!
After the basics were finished, there was a missing element: Design. So I sat down one wintery afternoon and sketched out what I wanted in there..I’m planning on dedicating the front half to display and convenient access to food for winter and shoulder months. The hypertufa wall will be a later-down-the-road thing, but I can’t wait to build it and showcase my tropicals on it, especially all those spiny Bromeliads that sit in my dining room like a group of thugs waiting to entice people to touch them.
So once the layout was completed and presented, I got my tables put back up so I could do some potting up this spring. As you can see, I have a bit of a layout started, but there are still shelves needed to store everything I need. So I’m kicking pots while potting up till then.
You might be wondering what on earth a nesting greenhouse is. Well, I just invented that term. But it is what it is! I’ve nested my mini crystal into my large greenhouse to provide a bit of a temperature buffer. I’m going to heat the mini so I can house my larger tropicals out here in the winter and afford to maintain overnight temperature lows of about 10 degrees. This will suit my citrus trees fine, and I suspect my hibiscus may also tolerate this as well as the hardier bromeliads. If it isn’t too cost prohibitive, I will raise the temperature so I can put more out there. I dream of sitting in my window area overlooking the back yard…sorry plants!
We are still playing with the heating in the mini crystal. Manimal has cleverly rigged up a thermostat to turn on a heater once lows are at a certain level. The next step will be to set up an automatic window opener so things don’t cook in there in the day.
Just next to the mini crystal I wanted to have a seating area so we could sit out here and have a coffee on a sunny midwinter day. Right now, I offer only camp chairs, but I’m waiting for patio shopping season to hit full swing before I choose the right thing.
You might notice a flamingo in the corner of the mini crystal. That’s Otis. Umberto is outside, welcoming people. I like flamingos, it’s my tacky kryptonite.
The last thing I can show you is the cold frame bed. Wow! It’s huge. We’ve started to affectionately call this one the sarcophagus. It was just a backyard coldframe in our last house, but again, I want to push the seasons as much as possible. We will be able to dig up carrots here all winter long, and maybe if we’re lucky, some lettuces and other veggies too. I’m just waiting on a dumpload of soil, and we’re ready to go. Again, another heat activated window opener will be needed, since I work at times that don’t allow me to rush home to open the vent. It has full access on both sides. How did I build it? I bought this great kit from Lee Valley tools that allows you to stack patio stones upright to create bed walls. But don’t go as big as I did. …I just did, because I could. It was a joint discussion that we wanted to grow as much food as possible on our property. This was the best answer.
So that concludes my tour for now. I can only tell you to close your eyes and pretend there are grow tables set up, for now. There will be plenty of time to share that this summer when it’s even further along. What a huge journey it’s been so far! Oh, and for those who might be curious and want to know: my color choices are a little bit.. hmmm… exquisite. Another thing I will unveil later on as soon as it’s painted.
Next week I’ll show you a seed operation that goes just a little beyond windowsill gardening. Have a great week!