Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why do I have a greenhouse?


I've been thinking a lot about my greenhouse lately, for three reasons.

Reason #1: The plastic covering has accumulated so much algae Kim has started writing love notes in it with her finger.

Reason #2: It's seed starting time.

Reason #3: It will soon be tomato time.

Here's what I've been thinking...

Algae: this came off the outside pretty easily with a floor mop (the squeegee sponge kind) and hot water with a bit of dish soap and a bit of bleach. (That's the "After" shot above.) But the inside still needs doing, and this will be a real pain because of the framing of the walls and the shelves. It will mean lots of stooping over and under things, and lots of individual areas of plastic to wash. I'm procrastinating on this. Plus, I know the plastic will only be good for so long, and it's already five years old. When I was on a ladder scrubbing the roof I noticed there are areas where it has deteriorated enough that it's beginning to crack and split. Which means eventually it will need to be disassembled and replaced. Hmmm.



Seed starting: it occurred to me this spring that I start my seeds in about the coldest place I possibly can. I know greenhouses are supposed to be toasty but mine isn't especially warm, probably because it's in a location that doesn't get much sun this time of year. Which means I not only have to use heat mats, I have to use grow lights. (I know, I know, you're wondering why someone would put a greenhouse in a shady spot. All I can say is (A) our property has lots of trees, (B) it's sunnier through the summer, and (C) I didn't put it there.) Between my greenhouse and Kim's brooder lights for chicks, our spring hydro bill takes a beating. And if I have to use grow lights and heat lamps anyway, why am I not just starting the seeds in the house where at least it's a bit warmer and I don't have to haul water?

Tomatoes: All I have ever grown in the greenhouse (other than some wimpy basil and a single pepper) are tomatoes. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. It works pretty well - the plants are protected from rain, they get lots of heat through the summer, and with windows on two sides and a fan in the door I get enough ventilation to avoid blight and other problems. There's just one big issue, though - crop rotation. According to everything I have read tomatoes should be rotated like other crops, to avoid diseases. But in a greenhouse where nothing but tomatoes are grown, that means replacing the soil in the raised beds every year. (Okay, hands up, who wants to volunteer for that job? Anyone?) I've begun to think that I should put the tomatoes into rotation in the vegetable garden, with a plastic roof to keep the rain off, like I have seen some of my neighbours do.

All of which makes me wonder why do I have a greenhouse at all?

8 comments:

Alison said...

Because A) you can, B) how would you know if you hadn't tried it, C)gardening is an uncontrollable addiction.

When the plastic needs to be replaced, cover the whole thing with screening, and use it as an outdoor retreat during the summer. Or, alternately, cover it in wire and use it for the chickens' summer camp cabin! Welcome to camp Chickalayin', girls!

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

I have greenhouse envy. I'm a little Green with Greenhouse envy.

Maybe move the tomatoes out and put in basil and other heat loving herbs?
OR PEPPERS!!! Do it!!

backyardfeast said...

Well you know already what I think about summer crops in the greenhouse--I usually kill them because I'm so busy in the rest of the garden in the summer that I forget to water them enough. Over the years, I have realized that our greenhouse is useful a) for seed starting, but we get enough sun there in the spring that I can get away without lights, and we have no where else in our house where I could put another set up. b) we have no garden shed, so the greenhouse becomes the potting shed, and c) for winter lettuces that will keep us in greens through the winter. But ours is also glass.

In your case, though, I don't think any of these are enough to keep it. When the plastic breaks down, make it a potting shed or a broody coop!

Stephanie said...

I am wishing for a greenhouse.

Shim Farm said...

Hmmmm. Our farm came with not one but two greenhouses, each of course in a state of utter disrepair, much like everything else around our parts. I tore both of them down, and decided if we ever do a greenhouse (and it's time is coming...) it will have polycarb or glass panels. I have greenhouse envy, too. Our growing season is so much shorter than yours we need all the help we can get.

I'd look into getting a more permanent structure. I think your climate justifies it, even if it falls under the "luxury" heading.

But then again, you are right - you could start your flats in the house and save a few bucks on heat mats and save time hauling water.

(And then you could buy more wool LOL! It's win/win!)

Paula said...

Things to look up: twin-wall polycarbonate panels with UV protection

stone-based greenhouse heat sink with computer fan

you'll get insulation and more permanence, not to mention it should weather wind storms well, and the heat sink will send warmth back out into the green house at night.

But you really gotta get it out of the shade.

Kara said...

Because having a greenhouse is awesome? My greenhouse is the pop-up tent variety, which can be dragged all over the place, or set up over a garden bed. I'm on year three, and I love that thing majorly. I highly recommend it if you need a portable greenhouse!

Mary Klassen said...

I have similar problems (except for the mold)I also only keep tomatoes in there during the summer anything else doesn't do well in there because in june/july it is too hot ... opposite of yours. I also replace my soil every year which isn't too big of a deal for me but I think this year I have to replace my plastic .... might do some ind of other paneling like fiber glass...not sure yet, but I am also thinking is it worth the work and expense

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