Wednesday, February 27, 2013

first salad

I gave the Simpson lettuce a haircut.  I cut half of one of the planters down to about an inch above the soil. I am hoping to have successive harvests and by watching the calendar I should be able to know how quickly it grows back. 

So here is the newly trimmed Simpson lettuce.
And here is the salad that i made from some of the harvested lettuce.
Bowl of lettuce, salad with carrot, hard cooked egg and cucumber with homemade Balsamic vinaigrette.

Another shot of the salad.

When some of our other lettuces are a little bigger this will be part of a mixed greens salad.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

what's growing?

Some things in the greenhouse are getting a little bigger every day.  Here is the kale.  This is the largest of the kale seedlings.  When you stretch out those top leaves it is five inches tall.
More kale.


These are the new sprouts of the greens sampler.  In the seed order that arrived last week were greens seeds for next winter's greenhouse crops.  Several of these greens are new to us so we planted a row each of twelve new varieties.  This will give us a chance to sample them and to learn their growth habits. They were planted on the 22nd and yesterday, on the 25th, seven of them had sprouted and today another group has little seedlings started. After a couple more weeks on the heat mat they will be transplanted into bigger containers.

Here is some black seeded Simpson lettuce.  It was planted in December and has just recently started to really grow.  I think that tomorrow I will harvest part of this planter and see if and how quickly it will regrow.  Some lettuces allow multiple harvests, three or even four from the same plants. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

what we have learned from the kale--so far

Last fall when we finished insulating and installing the tile, the last major project on the greenhouse, we planted some seeds in gutter planters and set them on the seed mat.  We were late in getting them started and although the germinated quickly the days were short and the weather cold and nothing happened.  The plants did not die but they did not grow. When it got really cold some of them did die.  The rest were still just tiny seedlings unchanged from shortly after they sprouted.  Several questions came to mind.  Was it because they were started late? Would plants that were already bigger by the time the cold weather came have tolerated it better?  Did we pull them off the seed mat too quickly? Did we choose the wrong varieties?

A few years ago my mom had given us a small greenhouse--a small metal shelf unit with a plastic sheeting cover.  It was mostly unused and we discussed whether or not another layer of protection would help things along but none of our gutter planters would fit in this small space.  For Christmas Nikole gave me a small heat mat and a seed starting kit that contained a seed starting tray with 72 little plastic cells.  On Christmas day we filled the tray with kale seeds.  By the time they sprouted we were heating the greenhouse at night.

We left the tray of seedlings on the mat longer waiting for them to get a little bigger and then began slowly transplanting a few of them once they had a couple true leaves.  I picked six of the biggest seedlings to transplant into a rectangular planter.  A few days later they looked to be doing all right but they were still the same size as when I took them off the heat.  Some off the ones that were still on heat were now bigger than the first ones transplanted.  They are all transplanted now with some variety in sizes.  But the second group planted are still the largest.

I think there are a couple possible reasons for this.  It could be that the transplanting caused some shock to the system that allowed the others to grow larger and they in turn experienced the same shock when they were transplanted.  The second explanation could be that there is some magic point when they should come off the heat allowing for the greatest benefit.  The first bunch may have come off too early which is why the second bunch is still larger.

Now comes part two of the experiment.  Learning about what container is the best for kale.  Some of the transplants went into round pots, some into rectangular planters and some into gutters.  I am suspicious that the gutters will not provide enough area for root growth and if they appear to struggle they might need to be transplanted into something bigger.  This is what we have so far:

4 nine inch diameter self watering pots with 4 plants in each pot
1 seven inch diameter conventional pot with 3 plants
1 nine inch diameter conventional pot with 4 plants
4 6X28 inch self watering plants with 6 plants in each planter
2 48' gutters with 11 plants in each planter
2 salad bowls which will eventually have an assortment of greens but right now have three kale plants in the center.

A couple of pictures:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

getting ready for spring seed starting

Earlier this week Nikole ordered our seeds and they arrived on Friday.  These are seeds for our summer gardens and some for the next winter's greenhouse crops.  Last year we started a few tomatoes early and transplanted them into containers that they would stay in for the season.  We were able to keep the tomatoes in the greenhouse until it was warm enough for them to go outside.  we also planted some seeds for transplanting at the normal time.  It worked out pretty well, so we are going to try it again next year.

The greenhouse was not ready for massive seeding activity but after a quick trip to Runnings and a couple hours in a toasty warm greenhouse we are a little bit closer.  Out greenhouse will accommodate two kinds of plantings.  We will have some of our plants in four foot long gutters which can be hung from the rafters and some of our plants will be in planters on the tables.

I have been experimenting with ways to hang the gutter planters.  I had purchased some chain and and some fasteners and had one gutter hanging for awhile.  Then I tried a different fastener and added two more gutters to the chains.  Today after my trip to Runnings to purchase more chain and fasteners I was able to hang more gutters.  All but two of the gutter planters that are currently seeded are now suspended from the rafters soaking up at that sun.  Some of those planters had been on the big germination mat so that is ready for the next wave of seedlings.

The planters hang in the center of growing area which redirects the traffic flow and creates a need for some tweaking of the arrangement of the tables.  The tables are now arranged along the south wall. 

 There is more work to be done, more hangers to install and we have the materials to build seven more tables.

we had a visitor to the greenhouse

On February2, 2013 Nathan and I attended a planning meeting for the Deep Winter Producers Association.  This was the first meeting of a small group of people growing or interested in growing produce in the winter.  It was a chance to share ideas and create a supportive network of like-minded people. Go here to read Chuck's comments on the meeting.  While we were there we met a gentleman named Bob who is interested in building a greenhouse.  He talked about incorporating hydroponic growing in the greenhouse that he is planning.  He has a background and working knowledge in home heating and the duct work that carries warm air in a house. 

We shared with the group our attempts to keep our growing space warm without supplemental heat.  We had plants that germinated on the heat mats but they did not grow.  Our growing space would warm up nicely on sunny days but cool too much overnight.  Our water containers were not up to the task of keeping the space warm overnight and by morning it would be cold. 

On the first of the year it became obvious that what we were doing was not enough and we started using a milk house heater to add warmth overnight.  This was sufficient to keep the greenhouse near or above freezing on all but the coldest nights.  In our discussions with the group we learned that they were keeping their growing spaces at or above 40 degrees.  Bob had an idea that we could enclose our water containers and then capture the warmest air at the ceiling and circulate it around the enclosed water containers.  At the close of the meeting Bob followed us home and visited with us about his suggestions.  He has graciously agreed to correspond via email and answer some of our questions as we go forth with implementing his suggestions.

This was three weeks ago and we have since had another couple days of really cold weather.  We did add a second heater and that kept the water thawed in the containers.  Some of the plants are starting to appreciate the longer days and higher angle of the sun and are perking up and starting to grow.  I am cautiously optimistic that we can make this work.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

update on koley's kale

This is a new picture of Nikole's kale.  It was planted on Christmas in the new seed starting tray and heat mat that was my Christmas gift from Nikole and Brad.  The kale is still small but it is looking healthy and is getting new true leaves.

I have been slowly transplanting the small seedlings into bigger containers.  The first ones that I transplanted were some of the larger seedlings from the tray.  They went into a self watering style long planter and a round pot.  A few days later I transplanted  a few more and then more still.  The ones that I transplanted later  were bigger than the ones transplanted earlier.  I am not sure if that is transplant shock or just that they grow faster on the heat.  I have them nearly all transplanted. The picture above was taken five days ago.  The picture below was taken today.

The kale has grown a little in the days since the last picture.

Why grow kale?

I found an article extolling the great nutrition contained in kale. 

I learned that kale is an effective antioxidant food.  It contains more iron per calorie than beef and more calcium per calorie than milk. A serving of kale contains 5% of a person's daily fiber needs, 2 grams of protein, 121 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 92.4 mg of omega-6 fatty acids, and vitamins A and C.  Once this kale gets a little bigger I will definitely be looking for some interesting recipes using kale.

We have had warmer weather, a little sun, longer days.  Some of the other plants that have not done a thing all winter  are starting to look a little perkier.  I am guardedly optimistic.  I have sown a few more seeds, some baby bok choy and some Tom Thumb lettuce a few of each in 2 inch plastic pots and they have kicked the kale off the mat and are tucked in under the plastic cover waiting to germinate. 

 Just when it seems like spring should be right around the corner our little corner of the world is expecting winter weather.  The predictions are for snow or ice and snow and wind.  Hopefully the wind will keep the snow from collecting too deeply on the glazing.