Things have been pretty busy on the farm, but there is one truth that is self evident: The shelves in the greenhouse are covered in a healthy green mass of plants yearning for the sun. All of the hard work invested in constructing this gem of a building, starting with diging the foundation by hand all the way through attaching the clear panels with help from Nate, is paying off once again. The planning is detailed, the outcome is not always assured, but with a little faith, lots of help, and some good dirt, it’s all working out ….. [ Continue Reading at I.T. Farmers new home: http://itfarmersblog.com?p=2620 ]
This year, I’ve started about a week later then past years, and so I’m trying to be maticulous in tracking my plants growth. I’m curious to see just how important the planting times are.
Above you can see my jungle of tomato plants which cover the center table in my greenhouse. With all of the rain, I’ve used some of the time I would normally spend mowing grass to arrange the plants by category. I have even separated the Roma type tomatoes from the slicing tomatoes….. I’m such a dork = )
It’s amazing to see the many different leaf patterns on tomatoes. Some of them have thin leaves, while others have very broad leaves like the San Marzano plants above, which are similar to Roma tomatoes.You can see some of the plants which were started fairly late in the background, they’re only inches tall.
Here are some of my shortest plants. Peppers and Eggplants seem to be very slow starters.
This is my first year for eggplants, and I’ve never tried one before, so it may be the last. In the very front of the photo my celery plants barely grow. I see now why they are started 11 weeks before being moved out of the greenhouse. I bet it would be safe to start them in February next year.
At planting time last year my tomatoes topped out at 16 inches tall. With about 2 weeks left in the greenhouse, they have about 7 inches to make up this year. The rain may have played a part in their shortness, but I think the extra week may have played a integral role last year. I’m really hoping the rain will slow down, the clouds will part, and these plants can get some sun. If you really break the whole process down, gardening is converting sunlight and chemicals into food. Without the sunlight, the chemical reactions needed cannot happen, and plants grow slow. This is why oil is so valuable…. It’s basically stored sunshine from only two periods in time millions of years ago.
My peppers are a little behind too, but I’m sure once they get some sun and side dressing, they will be popping out peppers. These are the one garden crop which I didn’t grow enough of last year, with about 60 plants. This year I planted about 200 seeds, and I’ve gotten around 110 plants. Once I counted the plants and realized my low germination problem, I planted about 100 more, in the small plastic planting cells. Most of the crops I grow leave plenty for everyone including storage in freezers for the winter. I’m hoping to get overwhelmed with peppers this year, like all of the other things I grow. It’s nice to grow enough that your happy to give a lot away.
I could have planted all of the above lettuce and mesclun seeds directly in the ground provided the rain would stop, and give me a chance to work the soil. I’ll move these cups outside once the climate snaps back and the sun emerges from it’s spring slumber. I’m trying some new greens with the “Zesty” mesclun, and growing more of my favorite greens, classic and colorful mesclun and lettuce.
Here’s how my “Brandywine” Tomatoes are looking…. I started a bit later then last year, and moved them out to the greenhouse earlier. I’m on my third bottle of propane this year, compared to a single bottle last year. I’m still hopeful that these late starting plants will out-grow last years, and their growth seems to re-affirm that hope, but only time will tell.
My mother stopped by the other day to see how the greenhouse was fairing, and when she took a look at my chicken coop project she explained all the reasons why I would have to move it. The chief reason was it’s location under a power line, which didn’t bother me much, but might be a problem if the power company needs to do work on the line. I finally agreed the the shed would need to be moved, and I began picking my Brother-In-Law’s brain about how to move it. His idea was simple, cut down two trees, place the trees under the supports, attach the building to the trees and then drag the shed through the mud like a sled. The whole process was pretty amazing to watch, as we jacked the building down off it’s blocks and dragged it across the yard with a truck. Once we had the building far enough away from the line, we jacked it back up, placed it back on blocks, and started construction again.
I didn’t really want to move this shed in the beginning, but once I climbed up onto the rafters that will hold the second story floor, I knew this was were the shed was meant to be. Above you can see the hay baler still sitting in my front yard, with my row of pruned fruit trees flanking it. The main road is about 1/4 mile as the crow flies from where I was standing.
In front of the shed I hope to make a tomato only garden, with only 40-50 plants maximum. This will allow me to invest the proper amount of time caring for the plants, and watching out for the first sign of blight.
On Saturday, we set out to purchase some exterior sheeting. I was actually looking for a material I’ve always known as “Texture-211”. Instead we found a very similar covering material that was $10 a sheet cheaper and it was already painted with a base coat. I’ll take cheaper, easier and better any day !
The sheeting went up quick enough, and we finished it up just before dark. The next step in the process will be to cut out and hang the windows, then place some more 2 x 6 floor rafters, and continue pushing skyward.
After all of the construction on Saturday, I decided to take it easy on Sunday. While catching a break between rain drops, I planted some Asparagus roots along my back walkway. They are said to produce good yields for 15 to 20 years, so hopefully this one little task will pay off year after year.
Finally, I’ve began taking photos from a tri-pod that I’ve set up in the greenhouse. Here’s the first photo of many that I’d like to string together into a little animation. If I take one photo a day, it should make a very cool short clip showing the plants growth at an accelerated pace.
The weather is warm enough now to trust in the safety the Greenhouse provides. I have an electric heater attached to an auto-magic temperature sensor to provide the first layer of defense, with a manual start propane heater to use in case of extreme cold.
The propane heater is a dual burner gas heater that looks a great deal like the robot named “Number 5” from the 80’s movie Short Circuit. This amazing piece of technology will heat the greenhouse up by 10 degrees F in about 10 minutes on the low setting. I was worried about the temperature dipping to 33F last night as the weather predicted, so I turned Number Five to the low setting, and lit a single burner. When I checked on the Green House this morning, the temp was at 60 F !
The shelves are fulling in about as quickly as last year, but I’m really taking it easy with the tomato seedlings. I’ve only started about 150 plants, and most of those are paste tomatoes. I figure this year I’ll be able to take better care of a few plants. I’m planting far more Peppers, and I’m expanding my line up a bit with Eggplants, Artichokes, Celery, Brussels Sprouts and even Cauliflower (Gasp !). I even found the time to plant five flavors of lettuce, and four herbs, including Chives, Basil, Parsley and Sage.
So here’s where I’m at in my growing season, with tiny seedlings reaching towards the sun. In a few short weeks, these plants will transform the greenhouse into a small tropical jungle, with many plants growing to 16 inches tall.
I try to be a neat person, but with a full time job, and a garden that’s half an acre, somethings gotta give. That something this year is the tidiness of the greenhouse. I’ve started over a thousand plants in this space this spring, and used the building as a shed since then.
In 2011, I plan to start about 100 tomato plants, and 200 peppers, quite a few less then last year. I’ll increase the number of Cucumber plants, and start new crops such as Pak Choi, Celery, Lettuce, and others. However, that plan will never work out if I don’t clean up my mess. I’ve got to clean off the shelves, tear out the small chicken pen on the right hand side, and organize things so this type of mess is hard to duplicate in the future.
After a few hours of organizing, and throwing away things I won’t use again, I was left with nearly clean shelves. I still have a small pile of dust on each table to clean up. If I could find my dust pan, this picture would be much more complete, but I guess that highlights the next project that needs care: organizing my home.
I’ve managed to remove the small chick coop I had under the right most water table. Sweeping the floor was a bit of a chore, with dust flying everywhere. I’ve also moved the water barrels to the side of the greenhouse which receives the most light. This should help increase the amount of Solar heat which is stored, and it makes the room seem larger.
I may add some shelves in front of the center water table, not for my own plants, but for others who have suggested increasing the output of this structure. I’ve also considered a way to add shelves into the peak area to maximize space usage. I imagine I could use a pulley system to hoist a set of shelves up into the peak area, so they won’t compete much for the suns rays, or the little space for walking.
I’m really impressed with my nephew’s photos, and I’ve decided I will post them once a week. This will give me a break, as well as show off the garden from Nate’s perspective. I’ve made it a point to teach Nate as many things as possible, and he was a huge help while constructing the greenhouse. I had lot’s of offers of help, but I was on a mission to prove something to myself, and wouldn’t allow anyone older then myself to help me (except my sis Maurice).
Here’s a photo of me in front of the barn at my sisters farm. The goat I’m holding seems to think it is a puppy, and even sleeps with 9 of them nightly. It’s very friendly, and it was just too cute, I had to pick it up.
Above are Raspberry plants, which are growing in my Mother’s garden. Her garden is a more conservative size then mine, as she has five tomato plants. I offered to give her more, as I had started well over 600 in the greenhouse; but she said five was plenty. Next year, I’ll plant fewer tomatoes, and more Pepper plants.
Guess I better get out there and mow around the perimeter where I hope to expand the garden too….