Pre-Season Growth in the Greenhouse

beets and the watermelon vine

The greenhouse is officially a game changer. At this point I’m just wondering how I can wrestle more space (always I need more!) for beds so I can expand my spring– and fall– production next year.

I wasn’t sure what it would mean exactly, this “season extender.” I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. People immediately have visions of orchids and tomatoes in January, but I explained this is a gigantic and unheated greenhouse. As such, I considered it untrustworthy. I feared losing work with a sudden freeze.

And a few of my tomato plants did get frostbitten leaves one night in April. But with a heater that kept the place above 35 (supposedly), and with the temperature always being at least 10 degrees above the temp outside, we quickly got to sustainable temps for the seedlings and the beds.

Things have gone so well that all three families have been eating regular salads– spinach, mixed lettuce, and spinach– from the greenhouse for a month. The spinach is getting more and more “spiky,” and I’ll pull it at the start of June, but it’s been a good run. Same with the arugula– we’re in our second batch right now. All of these greens have enjoyed an extra week since it’s been raining and cold outside. They looked almost done with the heat of the week before but bounced back for a little extra life.

pea vines

But that’s not the exciting part. The exciting part is pea pods in May!! And beets and carrots that are leafy and starting to root. Usually I have had a sort of dead zone in June, since the greens are worn out, the asparagus getting woody, and there hasn’t been enough sustained good weather to bring along the next crops. Pea vines can take a while to grow in windy and intemperate conditions. Beets are such a good, solid, dependable crop, but they take time. So even as I look at the baby sprouts coming up in the beds, the first pea vines clinging to the bottom rung of the fence, I have blossoms, lots of blossoms, and even pods! on the vines in the greenhouse. The greenhouse will mean bonafide bounty in June around here. And since the weather has confirmed my general policy of not planting out much before June 1, this is a great leap forward.

By the time it gets hot hot, I expect to start seeing cucumbers on their vines, and will pull the beets and carrots and let the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers take over (along with one watermelon and one cantaloupe vine). So far the tomatoes are very happy, and I can only expect they’ll be even happier when the heat comes. I have room outside, but also continuous weeds (the rain has taken me back a notch!) and a long way to run the hoses. So I’m eyeing that greenhouse space and even thinking about going vertical with some of these early plants (greens and lettuces do well in suspended roofing gutters) because that’s the kind of greedy gardener I am.

The prairie plants (why we have this greenhouse) are doing well, too!

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