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Archive for the ‘Greenhouse’ Category

The greenhouse is up and functional. Here’s a pictorial description of the process:
The structure with the deer (squirrel) netting still up and row covers on.

A big hunk of greenhouse plastic, donated generously by my horticulturist friend Gwen.

To get the plastic over the ribs, first put a rock on one side…

Then attach a cord around the rock and pull the cord from the far side.

The plastic is up and my 1-meter tall child stands in as a height reference.

At the bottom, roll lath into the plastic and nail down.

The plastic ,after being secured on all sides.

A crisscross of guy rope goes over the top and through screw eyes at the bottom, to help keep the plastic on where it should be and to make the structure a little more stable.

The inside view of the greenhouse after the plastic is on.

I am happy to report that the greenhouse survived the 40-50+ mph winds that arose the following days, without a bit of damage. The ribs are independently flexible and the plastic is tough, so while the shape of the arch was…altered…at times, no problems arose and the plants didn’t even notice the storm.
Here’s to some later fall/winter produce!

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Temperatures are dropping around Chicago, and this is normally the time when I’d been doing a fall clean-up, some final mulching, and putting my garden to bed for the winter.

But not this year!


This is the winter of Eliot Coleman, when Melissa and I are going to try our hand at Fall gardening aiming for a winter harvest. Here’s where we are as of the start of October:

Planted right now (clockwise from bottom left) are Romaine and Buttercrunch lettuce, endive, yellow globe onions, bunching onions, full-grown endive, carrots in various stages from seedling to mature, tomato plants up against the house (1 box wrapped, 1 unwrapped to see the difference), mache, more lettuce, spinach, and a fallow place for garlic that’s just outside the picture in the lower right.

As you can see, I have row covers in place. These let in about 80% of the light and are water-permeable. They have the added benefits of keeping out insects and providing some cover from the wind. I will say that they make my seedlings look beautiful:

Another new experiment for this Fall is the mache bed. These hardy little salad greens can germinate at 35 degrees and can bounce back from -5 if necessary. The adult plants are only about 4 inches across, so it takes a lot of plants for a salad. So, I’ve planted about 1200 plants in my bed and they’re just starting to pop up:

They’re a little hard to see in this picture, but they’re there.

One of the successes this summer season has been the raspberries. All of the canes in this picture started as tiny 4″-6″ transplant cuttings that came from my 5-year old bush on the side of the dog run.

As you can see, they did very well, despite having the fence in front of them completely overwhelmed by cantaloupe vines for much of the summer. Maybe they decided to grow tall to compensate.

I have noticed that the Fall temps do slow down germination and growth, so I’ll keep you apprised of our progress every so often. Check back for more later, especially when we install the plastic on our greenhouse…

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The Greenhouse in its summer look.

My blogging attention always flags in July. I start out with the best of intentions, but when summer is in full bloom, I always vanish from the blogosphere for a good month. Perhaps things get too busy, or maybe I can’t imagine anyone caring how many heads or broccoli I picked or how many raspberries I harvested or how my carrots are coming along. Whatever the reason for my silence, it happens every year right on schedule.

This is the deer netting.

For those of you who have been following my greenhouse series, I have indeed completed the project and I present the pictures to prove it. The hoops were installed and painted and the perlin (ridge pole) lashed in place, and the whole structure is pretty solid. I used deer netting (a thin, black plastic mesh in about 3/4″ squares) to wrap around the hoops until October arrives and it’s time to put on the plastic. The best part is: the protection is working. Yesterday I watched a squirrel actively looking for a way in, even partially climbing the mesh, then giving up the exercise as fruitless and wandering away.
Malamutes, however, are another matter. Not once, but *twice* has Milady invaded the greenhouse. The first time, she slipped between the hoops and the neighbors chain link fence, pulling open a hole in the mesh. She proceeded to trample through a newly-seeded carrot bed, dig a bit in a lettuce seedling bed, and then apparently tried to exit through the yard side. Judging by the way the netting was ripped and the snap clamps were blown off (the clamps keep the netting attached to the hoops), I think she encountered the net, didn’t know what it was, and panicked. Let me tell you, a scared Malamute is *strong*.
I chalked this first transgression up to experimentation and innocence…but the SECOND time it happened, I could see where she had purposefully pulled the metting away from the hoops with her claws, forced her way in (again trampling the carrots) and dug down the lettuce seedlings bed until it could no longer be considered a “raised” bed any longer! My lettuce production then suffered a three-week hiatus because all of my intermediate plants were destroyed utterly. How did I feel about that? Angry wasn’t the half of it. Milady earned a quick confinement to her dog run until I figured out how to stop her.
I finally installed a stronger wire fence to prevent her from getting between the greenhouse and the neighbor’s chain link fence, and that seems to have done the trick because she hasn’t gotten in since. Anyway, the greenhouse is up, just waiting for plastic, and the things inside it like the broccoli and squarshes are going CRAZY. Of course, the greenhouse itself is not responsible for this growth, but soon it will be. I just planted a fall crop of endive, Winter Density Lettuce, and more carrots. Looking forward to adding leeks, mache and other goodness…

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Work continues on the greenhouse as we can. Summer schedules, especially for interpreters like myself, are supposed to calm down and get much more open, but with the work I have plus choreographing shows plus teaching two classes plus writing two (three?) plays, my days seem to be pretty full. This also explains why I don’t blog about my every move in the garden right now.

So, in the last greenhouse post, I mentioned that I had removed the fence around the garden, then dug down and cleared the area just inside the landscape timbers. Next, I took 2′ length of 1-1/4″ Schedule 40 PVC and drove them down into the ground around the perimeter, then used pipe straps to attach them to the timber:

As you can see, these form the sockets for the ribs to fit into. They are drilled to allow two bolts to go through the pipes and secure them.

Next came the ribs. These are 1″ diameter pipes that fit inside the sockets and are bent to form the main structural element of the greenhouse. Many hoophouse builders get very long pipes and simply bend them from one side to the other, giving a rounded arch shape. Melissa and I decided to use 90-degree elbows at the top that poles from each side fit into:

This gives the greenhouse a look more akin to a Gothic arch (a vesica pisces for you sacred geometry types) which we prefer to the Quonset hut look. We also think the steeper pitch will shed the rain and snow better. the next challenge was the shape of our garden. It’s straight on one side, but on the yard side we curved the bed and the adjacent path. When we designed the landscaping years ago, we only had a flower bed and a tree where the garden is now, so we thought a curve was more aesthetically pleasing. It means that our poles will be longer on one side than the other, and there will have to be some adjusting to make the peaks of the arches line up on the centerline and at the same height.

After the poles were up, it looks like this:

You can see, especially in the first of these pictures, that we have not yet adjusted the peaks. The next steps will be to add a purlin (a ridgepole of electrical conduit that connects the peaks and adds some stiffening), build the end walls that include a door on one end and a window/vent on the other, and (for now) run deer netting around the thing to keep the squirrels (and the dog) out. The greenhouse plastic won’t go on onto late October.

Sort of looks like the Air Force Academy Chapel, doesn’t it?

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http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=horto-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1890132276&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrFor my birthday this week, my family gave me a couple of books, including Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. The basic premise of the book is that Coleman, a gardener who lives in Maine, grows a kitchen garden and harvests food throughout the year, even during the winter months–and he does it without an expensive, artificially-heated greenhouse! His success is due to a simple formula: plant cold-resistant vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, kale, and mache, and protect them by using simple technologies like a plastic-sheeted hoophouse and the time-honored cold frame. Coleman points out that he is not trying to grow plants during the winter, only to have them available to harvest. Think of it like a large-scale crisper drawer from your refrigerator!

The book has starting Melissa and I seriously thinking about covering our main garden plot with a “convertible” greenhouse. During the warm months, it would be covered with deer netting to keep out squirrels, dogs, rabbits, etc., and as fall and winter approach would be clad with clear plastic sheeting and stocked with cold frames inside to preserve the fall-planted crops for harvesting throughout the year. The price is far less than you might think (the PVC materials to make the ribs of the structure will cost less than $40 total!), and it seems simple to put together.

Stay tuned for more greenhouse information to follow, and hopefully more four-season harvesting, too!

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