Monday, November 23, 2009

Mold in the Greenhouse

I was going to wait and post an update after we had successfully overcome our mold in the greenhouse. However, we've been dealing with the mold for a while now, ever since we fertilized the greenhouse a few weeks back. I'm not sure if the blood or bone meal had something to do with the development of the mold, or if it was the fact that we watered two days in a row and it's been fairly cold. Either way, the mold has gotten pretty bad. We haven't watered since we fertilized (maybe 2+ weeks?) but the soil remains damp. We used a heater for a couple days, but it only made a difference of a degree or two since the greenhouse is large.

The mold around the winter density lettuce isn't too bad. But the mold below on the bibb head lettuce is starting to overtake the plants.

Believe it or not, that is a slight improvement from a week ago. We've been opening the windows on days that get above 40 degrees and put a fan out in the greenhouse but it hasn't been enough. Short of investing a lot of money in getting power to the greenhouse, multiple fans and a heater, I think we just have to wait for things to dry out.

We're still not giving up on trying to grow some food through a Montana winter. We've got the upstairs solarium going with a number of potted plants. Things are doing very well up here as the light is excellent and the temperature staysmoderate. At night, it gets down to about 50 degrees or so, but that doesn't seem to be too cold. In the future, I think we will try to add some shelving so that we can make better use of this space. I would love for it to turn into a jungle of different plants some day.

You can see in the pictures that we've got a new addition to the house. We picked up Zoe last week from an animal shelter in Idaho. She is an 11-mo old border collie mix. She's a sweetheart who was surrendered to the animal shelter by her owners who kept her in their garage full-time. She loves being an indoor dog and cuddling with us on the couch. I can't imagine her living in a garage! She is a handful right now but is picking up basic commands pretty quickly. I think in a month that she'll be pretty well behaved.

This weekend we installed an invisible fence around our acre (out in the snow!) and have been training the dogs on it. They are doing pretty good with the training and we're hoping that they can be trusted off leash in the yard in a couple weeks.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Progress in the Greenhouse

Progress in the greenhouse has been pretty slow, but things have been growing along steadily. We've lost less than 5% of what we planted and transplanted which I think is pretty good. The radishes above are taking off, and we'll be thinning them in the next couple days. It's still a hard concept for me to wrap my head around.

I've added a couple hanging baskets in the greenhouse. The one pictures contains some marjoram, chamomile, lavender and violas. I hope it looks pretty once everything grows up!

The fennel definitely looks like fennel. This must be a good sign, right?

Burpee's golden beets. These are finally starting to get a little bit bigger. Maybe in the next month or two we can thin some of these out and eat the greens.

This is bibb head lettuce. All of the leaf vegetables (arugula, endive, winter density lettuce) have been doing very well and making good progress.

Lastly, an update on the development of our garden. We're almost done mulching, but decided to burn out some stumps that were left at the edge of the garden before we mulch that area so that we don't set the mulch on fire. Good plan, eh? Once these get done burning, it'll take a couple more truckloads to finish mulching the garden. I'm already drawing up designs for the garden, figuring out fencing and thinking about ordering seeds in the next couple months.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Soil Testing (and More Mulch)

To start off with, we bought a soil testing kit at the local hardware store yesterday just so we could know what kind of battle we're up against. A little late with regards to the greenhouse soil, but for some reason I had assumed that soil was very good. It turns out that the plants in the greenhouse have never even heard of a little something called nitrogen. The level of nitrogen in that soil and all other soil we tested from around our yard did not even register on the test we used. We also were quite low on phosphate- in the depleted range. The pH of our soil was fairly good, around the slightly acidic to neutral range and it turns out that we're rolling in the potash around here.

To remedy those problems we got a couple 50 pound bags of blood meal and bone meal. Cost around $100 for both. The blood meal we spread at a rate of 1 cup per 20 square feet in the greenhouse and the bone meal 1 cup for 30 feet. We'll test our soil in the greenhouse again in a week or two to see what progress we made. As far as the soil outside goes, I think our plan is to wait till we get some topsoil in the spring and just work from there. We're still debating about whether we want to do all raised beds or a combination of raised beds and a regular row garden. At that point we'll probably use some ground hoof and horn in combination with the blood meal to bring nitrogen levels up. Longer-term, we'll be using a crop rotation plan and growing some green manures eventually to increase nitrogen in the soil.

I wanted to share some pictures of our free mulch source. This place is amazing! Considering the massive quantities of mulch that they have, t is no wonder that they are giving this stuff away for free. I think each truck load we get saves us around $75 to $100 as compared to purchasing the mulch. Definitely well worth our time and effort.

These pictures don't even really do the giant mulch pile justice. From where I am standing to take each picture, I am probably standing on 30 feet of mulch.

Lastly, a gratuitous picture of a basket of soap that I made. I'm donating this to an upcoming fundraiser for the hospital I work at. There are 12 bars of my soap in there, some candles, a lavender eye mask and a loofah scrubber. I hope someone likes it!