Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cranking Up the Greenhouse

Remember this from last week?

A little tossing, a little junking, a little chopping, and I ended up with this:

Everything in it's place, and a place for everything. More or less.

So this afternoon it was time to start planting (and this really should have been done in early September, but whatever).

Today's goal: get flats of lettuce and spinach planted, and a pot of cauliflower.

The first flat of lettuce sits in the left foreground - it's just a plastic container, lined with plastic since it already has huge holes in sides and base (remember the three R's: reuse, recycle, reduce).

I've been known to get used cat litter pans at yard sales and scrub them out with a salt solution, then scalding hot water, add drainage holes and plant in them. Works great -but the sanitizing is an step you must never forget (no matter how clean the owner got it before they threw it in the sale).

Those big round pots were used last winter, but I think this year they'll sit to one side, and be used up by the house next summer in the Swing Garden. I'm looking for more efficient space usage this winter.
My lettuce of choice: Romaine. I never bother with iceberg lettuce. Unless you have a perfect soil/mineral mixture, it almost always turns out bitter, and it's nutritional value is next- to-nothing. But romaine is one of the healthiest foods you can eat -packed with Vitamin K,A,C and so much more.

It's one of those rare good for you foods that actually taste great too.
So I plant LOTS of romaine. Today alone three flats are done. If I want enough lettuce for all winter, plus some for friends, the planting needs to be done in succession. Next week, I'll plant 3 more. When I pick, I try to pick from one bed, and replant it as I pick. This keeps us in fresh lettuce most of the winter.

Come late January, there will probably be a cold snap lasting a couple weeks. I have an idea this year to put the lettuce flats inside a second baby greenhouse inside the large one. Hopefully that will help it pull through till it warms up again.

This is the planted flat, just before watering. Below in the closeup, you can just pick out the long thin lettuce seeds, sprinkled thinly over the surface. The thinner you sprinkle, the less thinning you'll need to do after they sprout.

These tubs will be filled with fresh water when we get closer to a frost, so that the main waterline can be cut off and drained for winter. Water can be dipped out as needed, while the tubs act as a heat collector during the daytime, releasing that heat during the night to help keep the plants warm.

More lettuce -right next to my giant bag of MiracleGro -I always use it, sometimes mixing it with top soil if I need to stretch it. No, they didn't give me a free bag for saying that (but if they want to, I'll take it).

Next tub up is prepared for cauliflower. Cauliflower is incredibly easy to grow, and while the homegrown heads are sometimes smaller (mine are anyway), they have a nutty flavor the store-bought ones don't. One year, I was fortunate to get to plants for caulibroc, a hybrid of cauliflower and broccoli. If you are ever able to find it, try it - think broccoli florets,with little heads of miniature cauliflower.

Cauliflower tub, filled partway with top soil, maybe 3 cups of peat moss mixed in, topped with the balance in MiracleGro. The cauliflower seeds are lightly mixed on top.

And finally spinach. It would probably grow better outside (it's a cold weather crop), but I have to completely clean out my garden this year so it's being relegated to pots in the greenhouse. I'm trying an experiment using these containers we've gotten with deli chickens - it seems they would make perfect miniature greenhouses to start plants in.

Spinach, being hardy, has volunteered to be the guinea pig.

Mix of peat moss, MiracleGro, with a couple drainage holes in bottom. Seeds sprinkled on top.

Top popped on after watering. Should form the perfect environment for germinating seeds.

Here's the timetable according to the seed packets:

Little Gem Romaine Lettuce: 7-10 days to germination, thin at 8 inches, harvest in 45 days (approx Thanksgiving Day)

Early Snowball A Cauliflower: 8-10 days to germination, 55 days to harvest (approx Dec 1-3)

Teton Hybrid Spinach: 8-10 days to germination, 45-50 days to harvest (approx Thanksgiving to Dec 5)

Looks like we'll be eating our own harvest for Thanksgiving Dinner!


  1. I saw your comment at Pioneer woman and I popped over to say hi! What an impressive array of vegetables you are growing. Hope your garden continues to grow.

  2. So is Romaine pretty easy to grow? Does it not get bitter like iceberg?

  3. Romaine only gets bitter if you let it go -it will get spindley, and then go to seed.