Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In the Greenhouse on the First Day of Spring: Garden Journal 3/20/12

Inside the greenhouse on the first day of spring - FarmgirlFare.com
Things are greening up in the greenhouse!

Realization of the Day:
As much as I love lemon balm, it's probably time to stop its greenhouse spread (it's the stuff taking over the whole front left side).

I'm never one to discourage plants that actually want to grow (and usually embrace anything described as invasive because there's a chance it might actually do well here), but it's starting to take up valuable real estate. You can read more about lemon balm in this post: Lemon Balm: Growing It, Drying It, Using It.

Happy first day of spring! I never used to show you the entire inside of my greenhouse because it's usually kind of a mess. Thankfully I'm over that now. In fact, a while back I started taking pictures of this same view of the greenhouse interior on a regular basis (messes and all), so I could show you what goes on in there throughout the year.

More below. . .

Inside the greenhouse on the first day of spring 2 - FarmgirlFare.com

It's been really interesting to look back and see how things change from month to month, and one of these days I'll get all the photos organized and posted so you can see them, too. In the meantime, this is what the greenhouse looks like today—mostly full of Swiss chard and lemon balm.

Inside the greenhouse on the first day of spring 3 - FarmgirlFare.com

This is one of the reasons I love Swiss chard so much—see all those gorgeous, healthy, ready to pick greens? They're from last year's plants, which I cut back nearly to the ground on December 9th and haven't paid attention to since, except to cover them with floating row cover and old bed sheets to protect them from the cold. The greenhouse got down to 2°F one night this winter, and the Swiss chard was fine.

I never got around to sowing any late winter seeds this year, and yet the greenhouse is full of nutritious food that didn't cost me any money or time. And as soon as I started watering the bare spots last week, new Swiss chard seedlings began sprouting up from last year's seeds that fell to the ground and sowed themselves.

You can learn all about growing Swiss chard in my previous post, How To Grow Swiss Chard from Seed and Why You Should, which includes links to my favorite Swiss chard recipes. I've said it before and will no doubt say it again: if I could only grow two things in my kitchen garden, they would be tomatoes and Swiss chard. It's cold tolerant, heat tolerant, and even more versatile than spinach.

If you're planting by the moon (I need all the gardening help I can get), next Monday and Tuesday, March 26th and 27th, are fertile days in the first quarter, which are the best days to sow your Swiss chard seeds (as well as lettuce, greens, beans, herbs, etc.).

I explain a more about minding the moonsigns in this post, which is a review of this great reference book: Astrological Gardening The Ancient Wisdom of Successful Planting & Harvesting by the Stars by Louise Riotte (of Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening fame).

Inside the greenhouse on the first day of spring 4 - FarmgirlFare.com

As for my homemade, low tech, cattle panel greenhouse, the interior is 7½ feet wide by 21 feet long and it cost under $500 to build back in 2002 (it would cost more than that now). There are more photos and building notes in this post, Looking Back: Building a Simple, Inexpensive, Homemade Greenhouse. And you'll find a few more posts about the greenhouse here and here.

Inside the greenhouse on the first day of spring 5 - FarmgirlFare.com

My greenhouse is not much to look at, is kind of falling apart (the front wall is currently made out of cardboard and the back 'wall' is black plastic), and has never quite been the same after blowing apart during a summer storm back in 2006, but I use it all year round. Someday I'd like to take what I've learned over the years from this greenhouse and build a bigger and better one, but for now I'm just happy to have it.

Do you garden with a greenhouse? Any tips, techniques, or stories to share? Any favorite ways to use lemon balm? If you've written about your greenhouse on your own blog or shared photos on flickr, you're welcome to include a link to your post(s) in the comments.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where one of the things on my dream greenhouse wish list is to make it cat proof. These days Mr. Midnight thinks he owns the place.


  1. I was just given the "bones" of a small greenhouse so this was a great time to see your post! It looks like you have cement blocks as a base?

    I think I see parsley in your greenhouse - oh, and is that a black cat you are growing? LOL!

    1. Hi Cary,
      Congratulations on your new greenhouse! We had a cement footer poured for ours, then built short cinderblock walls. You can see more photos and read more about the greenhouse construction here.

      Yep, parsley does really well in there - those are actually volunteer plants sprouted up from another plant that went to seed. I love volunteers!

      As for Mr. Midnight, he's decided the greenhouse is his own private space. Thank goodness he doesn't eat much in there. ;)

  2. We just recently put up our "last" greenhouse...we have had two years with straight line winds that destroyed our hoop houses so we blew the budget on metal frame from Growers'Supply. Still under $1000 with everything and I love it. About a month late for starting stuff here in MO but everything already up in less than a week except my lavender and parsley but they are slow. Heavy winds/rain all week but standing tall. Specially in love with wiggle wire for applying plastic. No more staples.

    Lemon balm can be a pain but I transplant it around my fruit trees for a living mulch. I can always wack it down if it spreads too far!

    1. Hi Diana,
      Your new greenhouse sounds great! It's amazing how damaging the wind can be. It was so windy here yesterday I couldn't believe it. It sounds like you definitely made a worthwhile investment that will give you years of bounty - and peace of mind.

      I love the idea of growing lemon balm around fruit trees as a living mulch! Thanks for the brilliant inspiration. :)

  3. I have 2 areas of lemon balm in my front garden. I loved it last year, but this year it seems a little much. How do you use yours?

    1. Hi Cristy,
      Thanks for the reminder that I forgot to include a link in this post to one I wrote about lemon balm a while back: Lemon Balm: Growing It, Drying It, Using It. My favorite way to use it is in tea, though it's supposed to be really good in baked goods, too.

  4. Hi Susan,
    I love the greenhouse pictures! And to think, you have all that valuable, edible food for free! I still haven't found a spot(read-flat and non-marsh) for a greenhouse like yours. Thanks to you, I have a portable one large enough to put my seedlings in and protect my potted peppers in the fall. I would love to see a progression of pictures, through the course of the growing seasons. Love the pictures of Mr Midnight. I have a female that looks almost exactly like him (Sabrina). Thanks for letting us get a peak into your farm life!

    1. Hi Rae,
      I'm so glad you enjoyed the photos. Your portable greenhouse sounds great. Aren't black cats wonderful? Whenever I post a photo of Mr. Midnight I hear from readers who have black cats that look just like him, and it's always so much fun. Sabrina is a perfect name for a black cat! :)

  5. I live in Southeastern PA. A few weeks ago, I ventured into the garden to see what had survived the warm winter. There were a lot of survivors - without row covers or mulch! I found spinach, chard, mache (amazing stuff, by the way), carrots, romaine (growing from cut back plants), radicchio (ditto), tall kale (I'd already harvested the lower leaves), and mustard greens. Oh, the salad we had that night! I already have Spring peas sprouting away in the garden (they were two inches high this morning) and have just direct seeded four types of lettuce. Inside, I have started more lettuce, spinach, peppers, tomatoes and basil. Welcome, Spring!

  6. Hi Susan,

    I love, love your old greenhouse...I think it has a lot of character and I wish I had as much Swiss chard as you!


  7. Hi Susan, Happy Spring!
    A neighboring cat loved my hoop house for a private loo.
    I sprinkled peelings from oranges all around, and now he uses the great outdoors. I love, love, love your blog.

  8. Great looking green house and blog. I grow a few herbs off my back patio but Afther reading your blog I feel the need to expand.

  9. Wow, FG...this looks wonderful. I don't know that I've ever tasted Swiss chard, but these pictures make me want to start some just to see what it tastes like. My mom has talked for a couple years about building a greenhouse sort of like yours; if it means fresh salad during the colder months, then I'm all for it.

  10. We just recently put up a hightunnel, the parts which came from our neighbor friend who had it lying around in her yard. Rebar posts, covered with pvc, and bent into hoops are the support. Wooden boards are hooked to the anchored rebar, and plastic was draped over and attached to the boards at the base with wiggle wire. A supporting rebar pipe connect the top of all the hoops together to give it more support.

    All in all, it did not even cost $200 and only took a day to put up. Definitely worth the cost of having food all year round in, especially with weather as crazy as Missouri's!

  11. Your greenhouse is charming! I love lemon balm as well and grow it only in containers. It is delicious with iced tea. Thanks for sharing!


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