I just got in the house after working all morning in the greenhouse, the larger house of two that we had built. It is a rainy day, finally, and I put the goats in the barn. Lunch is soon to be had. Danielle is making cheddar cheese from 5 gallons of our goat milk. Life is good.
Our greenhouses are crucial for four season gardening, as they enable us to perform the act of ‘season extension’. Fall, Winter, and Spring sees much greenhouse activity, and we have found that we do not ignore the greenhouses during summer, either. A lot of people think that the greenhouse can be ignored during summer. We think not. We think the greenhouse is a vital area during the summer time. Growing vegetables in the warmer environment of the greenhouse does demand certain precautions to be taken.
In May the greenhouse gets hot, and starting in June a greenhouse gets absolutely too hot, even here in Maine. We do not like our greenhouse becoming quite that hot, and during the summer it can get over 110 degrees, fast. To temper this heat we built vents in the top of the houses to let the air out that collects in the ridge area. Another important place where we can control temperature is by rolling up the sides of the greenhouses. Right now both greenhouses are fully open, allowing them to receive a nice cross breeze.
Another area of concern is in watering the vegetables. A greenhouse is actually an advantage in the regard. Most of our gardening friends lost their tomato plants last summer, because their plants were unprotected and received too much rain. In a greenhouse you can control the amount of water your vegetables get, and quite precisely I might add. We add water to our greenhouse plants, and in so doing we try our best to just let the base of the plants get water so that the leaves stay dry. We usually perform this task with a watering wand on the end of a garden hose, but next year if not this fall we will have in place a drip irrigation system. A system that catches rain water from the end of the chicken coop metal roof, and stores it in trash cans till we turn the valve on to let it irrigate.
Right now we have the smaller greenhouse filled with sixty plum tomato plants.
They just seem to grow better with the additional heat of a greenhouse. The larger greenhouse has some hot weather loving vegetables in it as well, such as Eggplant, some Celery (celery is actually a cool-weather loving vegetable, but we put it in the greenhouse for this winter), Basil, some interplanted lettuces just for fun, Okra, Cucumbers, four varieties of Peppers including planting Paprika Pepper that I am excited about – in short, any heat tolerant vegetables. I am really proud of Danielle, as the Pepper program is her idea. She started four types of Peppers from seed, and is going to make Hungarian Paprika from one of them. Very exciting! This is our first year growing peppers in a greenhouse, and what a difference it is making in the size and health of the plants.
The summer greenhouse is also the place to start fall plants. We will be starting our over-wintered onions in ten days, and the tray of seedlings will go right into the greenhouse, as opposed to the usual seed starting area in the pantry.
All of the plants and vegetables withstood the tornado and severe hail we experienced a month ago. A greenhouse is an environment that is protected from wind and weather. It is also protected from many large animals like deer and groundhogs, and the like, like our goats when they get loose. We attached one inch hex chicken wire to the greenhouse ribs, to keep out these critters and their ilk.
You must be cautious inside the summer greenhouse with regard to insects. Natural insect predators are reduced, but if you do get an insect infestation inside the greenhouse, the bad bugs will have a sheltered spot. Fungi, viruses, and mold also love the humid, arid and warm conditions inside the greenhouse during summer. This is why the air circulation I mentioned is so important. Just keep an eye on your plants for problems like pests and disease and plants that are affected must be isolated right away.
And finally, I would be remiss if I did not add that during a nice summer rain storm, like today, there isn’t anything much nicer that sitting in the greenhouse, maybe weeding, maybe not, (maybe drinking, Danielle just quipped) just sitting there and experiencing the magic of homesteading.