Monday, December 18, 2006

What's Growin' On 12/18/06: December Greenhouse Green

Swiss Chard & volunteer arugula

Realization Of The Day:
Things are still green in the greenhouse—but they are no doubt pretty confused. That storm I wrote about on November 30th did sift a pretty layer of snow over the farm, though not the 5 to 9 inches that were predicted (which was just fine by me). And I was right about our wet weather creek—it started running after just one day of rain, which almost never happens.

Plenty of ice followed the snow, and it got very, very cold. Like 0°F (or maybe even lower—I stop checking the thermometer when it drops below about 10) kind of cold. And the power was out for about 21 hours.

My somewhat reliable digital thermometer I have tucked in a raised greenhouse bed recorded a low of 20 degrees in there. But thanks to floating row covers, old bed sheets and quilts, and a little oil-filled radiator heater*, nearly all of my plants survived.

They spent some time in the dark (when I didn't bother to uncover them) and the taller ones are a little flattened, but they're alive and that's all that really matters. (Click here for a list of everything that's still growing in the the greenhouse right now.)

Then it got hot. Okay, not exactly hot, but that's how 66° feels in the middle of December after you've just spent the past couple of weeks clomping around with constantly cold toes and three or four layers of clothing on. We've been breaking heat records left and right. It's mostly been cloudy, but when the sun does out, it heats up very quickly in the greenhouse.

I can only imagine what the plants are thinking.

* These oil-filled radiator heaters are perfect for greenhouse use as they are very safe, easily moved, hard to tip over, have variable settings as well as an automatic thermostat, cost about $50, and don't use much electricity.

I only use mine on the coldest of nights, and although the greenhouse plastic cover doesn't hold the heat all that well, I think those few extra degrees do make a difference. I set it at 600 watts, so it only costs about 5 cents an hour to run. And of course if the sun comes out during the day, it'll automatically turn itself off until the air cools down again.

We have four of these heaters because they're so handy. There's a newer one right next to me here in my little office that can be set to the exact temperature you like. I put it at 60 or 65 degrees, shut the door on very cold nights, and it stays toasty in here without pulling in heat from the adjacent living room where the wood stove (our main source of heat) lives.

We also keep one in the tiny insulated well house, again set on low, but also attached to a simple outlet timer. It goes on for several hours each night and keeps the water holding tank in there, as well as the pipes, from freezing.



  1. Those greens look so yummy! They're tempting me to skip Christmas preparations and go plant some seeds instead! :)

  2. I know what you mean about the crazy midwest weather. Here is Northcentral IL, we decorated for Xmas on 11/23 in short sleeves, then we got the highest of the snowfalls @ 19 inches on 12/1, it dipped below zero, then got up to 60 and rained...Sheesh! Glad to see your garden is still thriving!

  3. Love the look of edible greenery! We finally had a hard hard frost last night in Foxboro, MA. Parsley must have frozen. Sage bush still going strong.

    Due to the unseasonal warmth, my primroses bloomed and bloomed and some bulbs poked their noses out of the ground. The Forsythia looked like one could force it. Oh dear!

  4. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas


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