Sunday, March 28, 2010

It feels like summer

Today, a post with lots of pictures to show some progress. Above is winter density lettuce and giant noble spinach that was direct seeded in late September last year. Its been slow growing. The light in the greenhouse is not ideal. At some point in the future we may change the design a bit and paint to help scatter the light and reduce the shady spots.

These are our shallow beds (6 inches deep) with swiss chard, lettuces, arugula and spinach growing. We direct sowed these beds about 2 weeks ago. Temperatures in the greenhouse have ranged from 37-100 degrees in that time. Sometimes that range has occurred in the same day!

Not a great picture, but you can see how big the tomato plants are already. I took this picture in the heat of the day before we remembered to vent the greenhouse. I'll be planting some more tomatoes out in the next couple days, just waiting on road restrictions to lift so that we can get our topsoil delivered. We didn't luck out for a free source of that, but we did find some excellent topsoil at a reasonable price.

More beds in the greenhouse with arugula and lettuces. We started these indoors at the same time as the tomatoes but planted them out in the greenhouse 3-4 weeks ago. We've been harvesting the arugula recently. We used it in a pasta dish and also made flank steak pinwheels that tasted great. Its nice to have a source for this now as we can't get arugula in our town.

Above is a tomato flower inside our solarium. We have another brandywine tomato flowering in a bed in the greenhouse. All other tomato plants have buds that have not yet opened.

Can't recall if this is a lemon or lime tree! I didn't mark the pots because I thought that there would be no way I would mix up the trees. This tree has lost a lot of leaves but is putting out some new growth. To leave the fruits or prune them back? Hmm.. I think I know the right answer but pruning seems too harsh.

Our antohi peppers are starting to flower. The Jalapenos, cayennes and bell peppers are not far behind. Some will be staying in gallon pots in the solarium while others are planted out into the greenhouse as soon as the topsoil arrives.

A view of the solarium. Things have sure filled up with our booming tomato crop. Next year I think I will grow about half of the tomatoes indoors that I started this year. The real pain is watering all of these potted plants! It takes at least half an hour to do that and it needs to be done about every 2-3 days. I think next year it might make more sense to start 5-10 plants in early January for keeping in pots in the solarium. Then around the middle of February, it might be a good time to start plants that would then go to the greenhouse to live. Finally, around the middle of April plants that would go live outside could be started as that is 6 weeks before our last frost.

Right now everything is a big experiment. I have yet to find a great gardening book that really addresses our exact needs. Sure there are books that talk about constructing cloches, and cold frames, but an unheated solarium in a double envelope house that is south facing at a northern latitude is another beast altogether!

Lastly, a fun picture. It's not all work at our house! While I was cleaning up the yard my husband made me the rope swing that we've been talking about all winter. It's perfect!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Spring - Garden Tour

Our upstairs solarium is gradually filling up with more and more plants. In the foreground of this picture you can see some citrus trees, tomatoes, herbs, and in the background peppers, onions and another sea of tomato plants.

A picture of a 6.5 week old tomato plant. The variety is debarao tall vine tomato. In 6.5 weeks they have grown to ~2 feet tall and have started flowering. It looks like we will be keeping some tomato plants in the solarium and transplanting some to the greenhouse, even if the minimum temperatures out there aren't quite ideal. We never expected the tomatoes to grow this quickly. I guess they just love the solarium. At the current rate, maybe just another couple weeks until we can harvest some tomatoes? At this latitude and in an unheated solarium, we feel like we're navigating uncharted territories by using our solarium as a space to grow foods. Its certainly not easy to find charts and timetables that apply to our specific growing needs.

We started the arugula and lettuce above at the same time as the tomatoes. It's hard to believe actually, but they spent the same amount of time under grow lights. The lettuces and arugula were transplanted into the greenhouse ~ 2 weeks ago. Currently, the minimum temperatures in the greenhouse are between 33 and 38 degrees each night. Outside, the temperature regularly drops into the teens at night. Our maximum temperatures in the greenhouse range from 80-101 while outside the temps have maxed out at ~60.

These kohlrabi survived a Montana winter and continue to grow, albeit quite slowly. We don't have the heart to pull these plants out quite yet, even though we'll be planting tomatoes in this bed shortly.

Last weekend we direct sowed some different types of lettuce into beds in the greenhouse.

Our savory has been blooming in the solarium for a couple weeks now and looks so pretty. We are finally starting to harvest some of the herbs that I started from seed this winter. All of our herbs have been growing in the upstairs solarium on a railing.

I moved this coleus around several times this past summer and it eventually ended up with a spider plant in our unheated solarium. It has literally been blooming since the summer and has done well in the temperatures in our solarium. This summer I think that I will be growing a lot more coleus.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Perennial Bed

Today we finished prepping the new perennial bed that is in the front of our house. I'm all for removing lawn and replacing it with a xeriscape-bed. Not only do I love that style, but I really hate mowing.

Our house before had grass coming up to the deck that was flanked by two small ornamental beds with gravel as a mulch. We removed the gravel and put down some of the local free bark mulch. Here are the before and after shots. Try to imagine the after shot with sunny blue skies and green grass.
It's hard to tell in this picture, but the bed extends out from the deck by about 8 feet or so. That makes for a lot of room to fill up. However, I'm going to keep plantings fairly sparse the first year or two since we've still got the puppies to deal with.

My plan so far is to plant a butterfly bush or two (next to the window on the right and on the left side of the bed perhaps?), and then some groupings of purple cone flowers, black eyed susans, lavender and maybe some thyme or candy-tuft. These plants should all be fairly low maintenance as far as watering and I'm hoping a little bit deer resistant.

If anyone has comments/suggestions about other plants to consider that might be lower maintenance or more deer resistant I am very open to feedback!