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Building a second greenhouse, plus things we learned from greenhouse #1.
Because our growing season is about two months shorter than in town, having a greenhouse is essential. Last year, we planted some starters in our field in early June only to have it snow the next day! Needless to say, the poor plants died immediately, but those I had wisely left in the greenhouse thrived on.
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After the massive harvest we got last summer, buying a second greenhouse kit was a no-brainer. It had taken us a couple months to get the first one (supply issues) so we ordered #2 well ahead of schedule. In fact, it remained stacked and unassembled in cardboard boxes all winter beside Greenhouse #1. I just checked the store website and our Bella model is no longer available so I'm glad we didn't wait. Like I'm always saying, if you see what you need, get it now.
Our first greenhouse was a learning experience, for sure. I tried to grow a lemon tree (I'm such an optimist!) and failed miserably. I grew peas, and quickly learned that we don't really eat peas. I grew way too many tomatoes, and we're still eating pesto from the mounds of basil we harvested. Let's not even discuss the eggplant (turns out we only like it breaded and fried, meaning disguised as anything but eggplant).
I was also optimistic about being able to plant in early fall and have some sort of winter harvest. I thought maybe parsnips, spinach, leeks, brussels sprouts, onions... wrong. I'm still not sure whether these vegetables will grow here in autumn because the moles got to them before they had a fighting chance. We tried mole thumpers, mouse traps, castor oil pellets - they still got in and decimated every green thing.
So, with Greenhouse #2 (which we finally constructed in early May) we made some adjustments.
This time when we built the beds, we attached mole-impenetrable 1/4" hardware cloth to the bottoms. Take that, you little fuckers!! I also changed the bed design a bit. I have a bed along the backside of Greenhouse #1 that I thought would be great and give me more growing space. Of course, I didn't take into account that my little 5'2" frame is too short to reach the back corners without stepping on the plants. So, Greenhouse #2 just has two 20' long beds running along the length.
Another addition was to bar the doors. Both greenhouses have four manual windows which are perfect for hot summer days, but not so great for the kind of winds we have here. The doors are also not so great at staying shut. Once the doors fly open, the windows follow suit. Many evenings, I ended up running outside in a wind storm to tie the windows shut with twine. Well, Greta's not playing that game anymore. Katie, bar the door!
It's June now and between building the chicken coop and digging the new well, Greenhouse #2 is off to a strong start. I planted from seed rapini (which is totally new to me), more eggplant (I know, I know...), onions and brussels sprouts. I also transplanted some veggie starters from my kitchen windowsill into the greenhouse (lettuces, fennel, peppers, tomatoes, basil, etc.). It's only been a few weeks, but we're already enjoying our arugula's nutty flavor.
As for Greenhouse #1, which I was able to plant in late April, it's bursting with romaine and buttercrunch lettuce, more arugula, spinach, turnips, Parisian carrots and a handful of tasty herbs. I'm harvesting daily and planting new veggies every couple weeks! Some people will argue that the money and time spent gardening is a waste when you can go to the store and get lettuce cheap, but last week I saw a bag of three romaine lettuce hearts in the grocery store for $8.75.
They didn't even look that good.
The times they are a 'changing.
One challenge I'm facing is using all of this fresh produce before it goes to seed. Honestly, I didn't grow up eating vegetables. In those days, corn came in cans and salads just weren't that interesting to me.
But living here, depending on the land and surrounded by nature, I feel inspired to eat more consciously and in tune with my surroundings. I want to eat what's in season and preserve those ruby red succulent tomatoes for the cold, dark days when we're socked in by 4' of snow. I love the feeling of pulling up a carrot and knocking off the dirt as I pile it into my basket and walk back to the house. And that smell that cilantro leaves on my fingers...
I want to do better about using every little thing I grow. Eggplants and all.