We finished building the main greenhouse structure and the beds within the greenhouse in early September. We didn’t actually finish the project, however, and likely won’t finish it until next spring or summer. First, we have some automatically opening vents we need to install. Second, we never finished setting up the heat sink system. This means that venting the greenhouse is really manual (opening up the front panels and door) and we don’t have any additional heat. So, this fall the greenhouse is pretty much like a giant cold frame. It is certainly a better climate in the greenhouse than outside, but I think it will be a better environment overall when we actually complete the project. That said, there are some interesting things going on in the greenhouse, even in its current state, as we head toward the end of November. Some are successes, and some are not, but I am learning a lot about how to grow in such an environment and expect that we’ll be able to make increasingly better and more efficient use of the structure in the future.
I’ll start with a success. This is the only pepper plant I planted last summer and I am still getting peppers off the plant. Growth has of course slowed, but the peppers continue to redden. I plan to plant a whole lot more peppers next year and will probably dedicate six hanging planters to peppers alone.
Our lettuce plants are also doing well, though growth has slowed.
Next, I have a failure. The cabbage (and broccoli) that I planted has had two major problems. First, it was planted too late. It probably needed to go into the ground a full month earlier than it did. Second, the plants have had serious insect problems. I did find a few green caterpillars, which I pulled off and destroyed. I also found aphids (or something similar) on the backs of some leaves. I first tried spraying the plants with an organic insectide. The problem continued so I tried mixing up a potion from the Terrific Garden Tonics book. Neither worked. Then I started thinking that maybe rodents were nibbling away as well, so I put a mouse trap in the greenhouse. I’m not even sure if mice would do this, but nothing I’ve tried so far has worked. Haven’t caught a mouse yet and the damage continues.
The same two problems (late planting and insects) have been factors in the problems I’ve had with the spinach and chard as well. They both sprouted nicely but then growth slowed significantly as the days shortened. Plus, the growth there is keeps getting nibbled away by insects.
Neither a failure or success, next I have the Oregon Giant pea plants. The plants are nice and large in size and they are flowering, but I have no idea if we’ll actually get pea pods. At this rate, the pods wouldn’t actually be formed until we’re into December, and I’m thinking that doesn’t sound too likely.
Next, an experiment. While looking for a winter greens crop, I kept running across mache. I don’t believe I’ve ever actually eaten mache, but it is supposed to do well during cold months and the description sounds nice, so I thought I’d give it a try. The first week in November I planted some seeds in the greenhouse and some outside. Those outside haven’t even germinated yet.
And finally, I’ll end with a forward-looking project. Inspired by DoubleD over at The Modern Victory Garden, I’ve set up a seedling starting system by taking an old bookshelf and attaching grow lights. I found four blue/red LCD grow light panels on eBay and Derek attached them to the shelf for me. I selected the LCD grow lights because of their low energy usage. Each panel uses 13 watts. I also ordered two grow mats. These use 17 watts. I can light up and heat a whole shelf for 43 watts — not bad! Since I am new to this, I plan to follow DoubleD’s guidance as I start using grow lights and heat mats to get a jump start on the spring season. Here’s how my set up looks: