Thursday, May 14, 2020

Midwest Gardening: The Greenhouse May 12, 2020

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Hi Gardeners! Another post by two old farts trying to live a green life, and grow as much food as we can on a quarter acre. Our new (late last year greenhouse) has had a real work out, and was STUFFED until I moved some plants out to put in the garden. 
Our only claim to gardening skill, is trial and error since 1970. With our climate changes and huge weather fluctuations in N.Illinois, every year is a new experience.


We finally have had a break in the weather. After 3 nights of frost/freeze, the next 10 days look great. I wanted to share the greenhouse at this date before I plant too much outside. Basically everything has been in here since early April. Our quartz heater can maintained 15 degrees higher than outside temps at night on medium, or 20-35 degrees at full blast. So even with freezing temps, we maintained at least 40+ degrees, usually 55 or more.


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During the day, we have to watch the temp and open all 5 windows and door, and run the fan if it is sunny. Blowing air makes stems stronger anyway. 

Here you can see a full pan of lettuce in front ready to go in the ground. On the floor are those slow Caladium pots.


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Sunflowers 15-18" high, and tomatoes 10-12"
Sunflower seeds from 2016---are ready to hit the ceiling. These are 4-6' Fiesta (red) sunflowers. Some will go in the garden and some by our flag pole in the front.

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I held the camera as high as I could to look down. These are San Marzano Tomatoes similar to Romas...and they look great after a slow start. The larger leaves on the right are Early Girls---num, we should have tomatoes by the middle of June.


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Asters, Coreopsis, Bachelor Buttons, Echinacea are all doing well. I bought a succulent mat and have been pulling it apart for rocky places. They have already tripled in size and should be perennials.


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More sunflowers, these are giant...8-10ft. tall, they will go along the fences where they can be assisted in staying up. We have some winds here.



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 I started this Swiss Chard (greens) on 4/19. It was in the colder area of the greenhouse. I will start it in the house next year, and also will plant in ground when these are moved to the garden. Chard is full-flavored and not bitter, rich in minerals and vitamins. Can't wait, it has gotten very pricey in the grocery stores.


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Coleus was transplanted 4/10, they are 2 months old. These will go out at the end of the month, if the weather holds. By then, the color variations and size will be distinctive.


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I planted two trays like this of peas, one is already in the garden with seeds also. Hopefully all our fencing and gates will keep the critters from eating them down to the ground.

 Most of the Pumpkins (4 different), pole beans, winter squash, zucchini, eggplant, and pickles were laid out in the garden for planting today. I will do photos in the next post. The greenhouse was very crowded, you could hardly turn around.


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I don't have the patience for seeding herbs, so I buy small inexpensive plants and make my own herb garden pots.

Marjoram winters over, as will Sage usually-but my Sage plant died last year, so here is a new one ready to go, lower left.

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Finally the Caladium bulbs are popping through, as are Liatris, Stargazer lilies. Alliums aren't up yet. Pansy  and Impatiens seeds are very slow---I won't do those again.

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Apparently Caladiums like more warmth. So I may just keep them in the house next year as long as I can. I have one pot inside which is over 18" tall now, larger Caladiums and an Elephant ear.


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Pots of Dill to mix in with flowers for Butterflies. A GREEN thing to do, Monarchs and Swallowtails like to lay their eggs on the succulent stems.  These are from seed.  Plus they will reseed themselves if undisturbed. 



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Here is our 5 x 14x 4 foot high compost pile in the back on April 20, 
before 1 large bale and 2 small of peat moss were tilled in.
One thing we have really noticed is a mixture of our compost pile dirt mixed with potting soil and a little peat moss has produced seeded plants with roots all the way to the bottom of the 28 oz tall glasses. 

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Compost pile May12, is down 2 feet as I have filled almost all the pots on our lot. We still have empties on the porch, but I'm going to add moisture control dirt to those pots mixed with this compost. I will fill the bin in the greenhouse(18 cubic feet) for transplanting in spring. Plus the density will help hold temps in Fall.

Composting makes the best soil (we have clay soil, so anything helps). We use grass clippings, leaves, and roots from all our potted plants/vegetables. All our kitchen scraps are broken down in a small spinning compost bin with a microbe additive and later buried under the pile. New stuff goes in back, and we pull it forward as it is broken down, mix in with the rest. 

Compost TIP: (NO meat, oils, dairy products, or banana peels). Since we are cooking at home, I have had more than usual a mount of veggie scraps---usually a 6 quart bowl, every 3-4 days. 

Compost TIP:Coffee grounds and eggs shells are the BEST for a compost pile. 

I will take photos of planting the veggies into the garden. Cool weather veggies first, tomatoes, and peppers last, with a few marigolds and 
sunflowers mixed in. Most of my flowers will be in pots and here and there.

I did move the lettuce and onions outside the greenhouse this week, and I filled all the large pots from the compost pile to the right.
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Front to back: Green onions, Bibb Lettuce from seed, and Turnips and Radishes (planted last week and not up yet).

THINGS WE LEARNED 
 THIS YEAR!

NO MORE: Starter pods, pellets, or peat pots...in the future. 

The planting pods silky bags do not breakdown and seem to trap the root systems. When tilling the garden, we found totally encased root balls in their bags from last year's tomatoes. This forced our tomatoes to send out roots from their stems above ground. Cutting the bags before putting in the ground, destroys so many tiny roots also as they try to break through. They just doesn't work the way they are described to. 

The pellets system starts seeds well, but are either too dry or too wet, because of their density. They crumble when transplanting and the roots were very hair-like rather than thick and healthy.

 The peat pots dry out quickly and mold if you water them too much. It's hard to know when to water when the outside always looks dry!

WE WILL USE THIS FOR STARTING SEEDS:

A good quality potting soil that is soft and doesn't clump mixed with our compost soil.

We will reuse the trays with plastic lids or clear covering. I have also started flower seeds in aluminum dollar store baking trays, with lids or covered in plastic wrap.

Poke a few drainage holes in the bottoms, and store on a cheap cookie sheet. Far less expensive than the fancy seed starting trays. And they can be reused.

Next Post: Planting the Garden with a Plan?


HOW'S YOUR GARDEN GROWING?
Please Share in comments.

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11 comments:

  1. You are going to have such good eating ahead of you! I'm amazed at the variety you'll have in your garden. And those sunflowers! Up until today it's been chilly here in Nashville but we're hoping if we direct sow our sunflower seeds we'll get some by late summer. We haven't even bought herbs yet or pulled out the overwintering ones from a shed. We never get marjoram to overwinter. Tarragon, sage and parsley does for us and we've never had to replant dill since the first year. It sprouts up everywhere. I've kept thyme and basil growing in my kitchen window since last fall and may keep it there for its convenience and plant more outside. I have a feeling my husband's gardening time will be less this year as he tries to keep working on his new carport/workshop. I expect I'll be seeing lots of good vegetable dishes appearing on your posts by July 4th, with salad makings much earlier. I'm sure your composting hints will really help those who do that. Just haven't begun it here at this house. Maybe when RH retires fully? I remember that my father was a big believer in coffee grounds and egg shells!

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    1. Hi, Dewena....yes, I hope to keep up with the recipes. I know we want to make canned soups...possibly this Fall. My dad was a the best tomatoe 'farmer' not just gardner, his secret was fish guts/parts from cleaning fish. It's been a few years since we have gone out, but we are definitely going to this week...so fish guts, lol, coffee grounds and eggshells...Thanks so much. I didn't realize you were that cold in Nashville, seems so far south from here, Hugs, Sandi

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  2. Thank you Sandi - looking forward to your next post too. Mixing additions to your compost plus your suggestions for next years seed starting suggestions are going to be so useful. This is my first year in a long time for planting and I have certainly learned a lot of things that didn't work. The beans and carrots and chives are growing in my small garden so I am happy about that. I think I need to print out your compost mix suggestions so I can start adding what a compost pile needs.
    Hugs.
    Joy

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    1. Hi, Joy. I don't have the label, but it's a common compost enhancer. You add a spoon full say with each bowlful of veggie scraps. Add that to a drum, or garbage can you can mix or roll around on the concrete, when you add new stuff, a couple of turns. When it's indistinguishable and starting to break down---you add it under your grass clippings or leaves. In fall we chop up all the tomatoe vines and leaves from the garden, long as they were healthy. Just leave it sit. We pretty much layer once a month or so. That way you don't get any real smell. Till or turn over by shovel in Fall and Spring. We some of our pots of dirt into the compost pile also. Avoid bread scraps...some of which adds molds+ there are so many preservatives in commercial bread products. Good luck, and hope you get lots of good crops!

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  3. Sandi, wow, I think you do know what you are doing. What a crop you are producing and your garden and table will be laden with lovely stuff come summer. Since I garden (when I do) by the seat of my pants, and it is everyone (and I mean plants) for themselves around here, I feel you are a professor!! of gardening, my friend..Take care and stay well..xxoJudy

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    1. Aw, thank you Judy. Really it has to be trial and error for your land and your climate. I have kept records for quite a while. Blogging really gives me an exact dates, etc. which I was lax in doing...we lived in a townhouse for 7 years and had a back yard patio pot garden and small little spaces, and we still grew green beans, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and also potatoes in a garbage can. Lettuce will basically grow in water, lol. So good luck and hope you can have something fresh growing for summer! Sandi

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  4. Such great information. I love seeing your greenhouse. I commented on your other blog too and said I hope you did not get flooded out. We certainly have had a lot of rain. Hopefully this week it will slow down some and we might see some sunshine.
    Hugs,
    Kris

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    1. We are okay Kris, we sure did get a lot of water here though. My kids came today (first since mid-February, so we didn't do much, was chilly off the lake wind here today. Tomorrow we will kill ourselves...lol. Such is-dodging the rains again. Hugs, and hope it's not bad or inches! Sandi

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  5. What a wonderful greenhouse! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!

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    1. Thank you---I must say it has been a mighty effort emptying it. On Day 5 of planting...my goodness, I'm getting too old for that...Thanks again, Sandi

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  6. Your face would look better between my legs. Hey, i am looking for an online sexual partner ;) Click on my boobs if you are interested (. )( .)

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Thank you for any and all comments. I will be happy to answer any questions or comments in replies or email! HUGS!