January 30, 2015

Still Farming Tomatoes

We might have fried green tomatoes or stewed tomatoes as these ripen. They're ready faster than we can eat, some days.

I took off 4 suckers and put in little pots to root. May as well keep clones of this plant going. Some of the suckers have tiny buds forming.


This plant was grown from a sucker snipped from the axil of a tomato in my garden. Now that I know that Better Boy is not a recommended variety for greenhouse growing, I wonder what I might have accomplished under glass
with a better plant?


This is one of my more successful plant trials. Someone on Facebook asked to trade seeds. Seeds from a hybrid tomato are worthless. You get 'Tommy Toes' -- a throwback to a cherry sized parent somewhere in the tomato's heritage. Where do seed vendors get their seeds for hybrids?  

January 29, 2015

Work Commences on the Mule Barn

Grass removed, dirt moved in preparation for pulling lines for the perimeter.

A half day's work behind us. Squared.

January 26, 2015

Weary of Winter

Hyacinths show promise after all.

I am pretty sure we are going to see blossoms.

I am still getting tomatoes off that vine in the greenhouse. My failure to prune means that sometimes they turn red before I notice them. 

Two Amaryllis bulbs have the tip of a bloom bud emerging.

Kalanchoe is still just thinking about whether to go ahead and bloom or wait for spring.

Next year I think Begonias.

I walked around outdoors. 

'Leonard Messel' Magnolia opens a few blossoms at a time.
They're going to get frost bitten but more follow.

Hard freezes have not been kind to Camellias.

Birds find Nandina berries unpalatable.

I cut a little cabbage with a harder head than this one.
We ate it for supper. We had broccoli on Saturday.
I need to start new plants.

Finding clumps like these are encouraging. 

Mama always said February was a short month. Hurry along, January.

January 18, 2015

A Bit about Hyacinths

It may be a while before we know if I killed the blooms 
inside the Hyacinth bulbs.
They're starting to show points of green. 
Some of them pushed themselves out of the ground. 

2015 may not be the best Hyacinth year I ever had. 

This may have been 2012.

2013 was a good Hyacinth year, too.

I would plant Gypsy color again.

2014 I got fancy with Sedum acre in the pots. 

I looked around outside yesterday. Hyacinth foliage is showing up in the garden. One brave little pink flower bloomed before the last freeze, only to be frostbitten and brown. Its companions are more hesitant to show themselves just yet.

Next year it's back to purple shades. Please, help me remember.

January 16, 2015

Foliage Follow Up: Strobilanthes, Kalanchoe and Alternanthera

Persian Shield is a fav foliage plant. Most people grow it for the purple and silver leaves. Sometimes in late winter it blooms in the greenhouse, blue cone-shaped blossoms. I see no signs of them. Yet. 

 Alternanthera is one of the easiest foliage plants to propagate I know. I always have mugs of it growing in water and stick several stems in pots too. Chartreuse is my fav but the red is pretty, too.

Note the little clover-like blooms.

Somebody, I forgot who, mentioned that their Kalanchoe plant was not doing so well. I start anew every fall with little cuttings. They do well. Old plants tend to get leggy and the stems get corky.

I like them so well I stuck a few more rosettes of leaves.

I vowed to have more than just white and then failed to buy Kalanchoe in colors last summer. What seems like a great idea in winter sometimes pales in the heat of summer. Maybe this year.

January 13, 2015

Does Your Greenhouse Need a Headhouse?

One learns the best new things when looking for something else. I'd never heard of a Headhouse until last night.

I aspire to a headhouse between the greenhouse and the farm equipment barn.

A Headhouse is a structure usually attached or adjacent to a greenhouse or greenhouses that serves as a storage facility, potting shed and garden equipment garage in my case.

Large greenhouse operations may use a headhouse as an entry building, office, employee lunchroom and utility control facility in addition to storage. Ms. Stewart's is a handsome stone edifice.

An ideal layout would put a headhouse on north side of a greenhouse as a windbreak. That is not going to happen here. We plan to disrupt as few of existing structures as possible including plantings that divert rainwater and prevent flooding.

I realized that there would be much more greenhouse space for plants if I stopped storing large bags of potting mix and empty pots and trays in there.

He-Who-Mows wants to reclaim the space in his farm workshop area taken up by my tiller, edger, chipper/shredder, weed whacker, emergency heat devices, hoses and watering equipment, garden truck,  spare greenhouse polycarbonate panels, old storm windows slated for a cool greenhouse lean-to somewhere, Christmas lights, little green wagon and garden furniture.

We'll see. If it happens I plan to call it the Mule Barn rather than a Headhouse.



January 10, 2015

Greenhouse Story

All about My Greenhouse  -- You Can Have One, Too

A greenhouse? Why? 
Doesn't every gardener wish for a greenhouse? I trundled a kitchen cart in and out of the tool shed with little flats of seeds until after the last frost every spring. My winter projects of potted tropicals and rooting cuttings got too ambitious for an unheated utility room where it never got below 45 degrees and morning sun came in two east facing windows. When my Epiphyllum broke in the wind and I rooted the pieces, 3 huge pots were too many for the utility room along with forced hyacinths and rooted cuttings.

What did you consider when you decided to build a greenhouse? 
Costs, of course. Convenience to the house. A place in the winter sun for the pets and plants and me out of the wind. A playhouse, if you will. Size matters, too. Ten by 12 feet is just big enough for my purposes. It keeps me from being too ambitious.

Why did you choose an aluminum frame? 
Cost and ease of assembly. I had a collection of old windows that I'd planned to use. I read many posts on Garden Web by gardeners who had assembled and used a Harbor Freight GH with good results. Replacement parts are easy to obtain despite having a long wait sometimes. We gave away the old windows with their need for scraping and reglazing and a huge carpentry effort and  undertook a project that was more suitable for two old people.

Isn't a greenhouse terribly expensive? 
Less than a nice vacation. This is one of the most inexpensive aluminum framed ones. Reinforcing it for sturdiness, a good foundation, and putting in water and electricity doubled the cost. After four years, a hailstorm took out most of the polycarb panels that were brittle from our hot south Georgia sun. We replaced the panels. The frame is still sturdy. Be aware: An inexpensive greenhouse needs lots of reinforcement to make it sturdy and strong enough to withstand a hard wind.

Most of the inside is outfitted with odds and ends except for a nice cedar potting bench that was a present from the children and a shelf unit from a big box store that was not expensive. The benches are scrap wood. I use things like an old metal kitchen cart, an old medicine chest and a wicker bathroom shelf unit that the cat uses as a bed when he's out there.   

 Can I put up a greenhouse myself?
Help needed depends on how you usually get work done. It was strictly a DIY project for He-who-mows and myself. We put the frame together in the workshop out of the wind, hauled it around to its final location where we added the polycarb panels and installed the utilities to Code.

The water source is simple, a single faucet with a Y connector and two hoses, a short one for watering and misting and a shorter one for filling my watering cans. I hand water because I move things around so much and every pot has a different need.

There are multiple electrical outlets with weather-proof covers and Ground fault interrupters on all. There is a timer that I use sometimes. A sending unit lets us check the temperature and humidity from the house.   

How do you heat and cool your greenhouse? 
We use two small electric heaters with fans and thermostats. If we have a really, really cold night I can also bring in some infrared lights. In a real emergency situation we can use a kerosene heater or a generator. We have some occasional temps in the teens during nights in December to February. Comes the sun in the morning and things heat right back up.

Ventilation is more of a concern than heat most days. There is an exhaust fan at the east end and a mist system for cooling. 

Overall temps are moderated with heat sinks: four 50-gallon barrels of water. Lots of stone and concrete and brick used as flooring help take up heat from the sun on cold days. Wetting the concrete  helps lower the heat by evaporation on hot days and raises the humidity.   

Do you grow year-round? 
The heat is too intense in late spring and summer, I thought. However a purple Alternanthera seeded itself under a bench and grew all summer, weaving itself among the pots. A seedling Madgascar periwinkle came up too and survived most of the summer without water. After that I started trialing some plants through the summer inside.

I leave a few tropicals in there through the summer on the floor underneath the mist system. I hung some non-woven material similar to row cover to shade the west end for summer in 2013. In 2014 after that poly stuff disintegrated, I used white plastic tablecloths from the dollar store for shade. I fastened them with binder clips.

What are your favorite plants to grow in the greenhouse? 
Many plants that are root hardy here I like to see growing in the winter while the ones outside are killed back to the ground, slow to emerge come spring.

Begonias and Kalanchoe do well as do Pentas and Porterweed for winter blooms. They can go back outside for the delight of butterflies in spring. White Shrimp plant and Persian Shield bloom in winter or early spring in the greenhouse.

I like to force bulbs. Amaryllis bulbs are the most spectacular. Hyacinth bulbs chilled for forcing in soil are great Christmas gifts. If they don't bloom on time, they're a present with a future. People like watching a bulb unfold.

Seeds, don't forget seeds! Early start on spring growing, patience with slow tropicals like Pride of Barbados.

What tips do you have for someone thinking of getting a greenhouse? 
Daddy always said to estimate the cost and double it; good advice. Plan for a water source and electricity. Get some idea of what it will cost to heat your greenhouse. Pay attention to site and leveling. Find all you can about what others in your part of the country have done. Learn from their mistakes and successes so you don't have to trial those again.

I saw a photo of a driveway paved in broken concrete, stones and brick and copied the pattern. This was an ambitious flooring project for an old woman. 

Maybe what you want isn't a greenhouse at all; just a playhouse or potting shed with sunny windows. A place to play and dream should not be beyond your reach.

January 05, 2015

A Peek into the Greenhouse as We Anticipate Freezes

I hauled the heaters back in that we'd not needed all through the Holidays. They're plugged in and ready with 6-7 gallon jugs of water in front of each one to collect heat and release more slowly. They're not pretty, so I don't show those.

The prettiest things right now are Begonias.

I kept pinching off rosettes of leaves from Kalanchoe
until I have a total of 20. These largest will bloom soon.

I tried to tie up the tomato plant. Some of it leans against the 
greenhouse wall. I'm afraid some leaves may freeze. All these projects are learning experiences. Will I do better next year? 

He who mows suggested that I use the pantyhose that got all twisted up with other clothing in the washer today and came out as long as I am tall to tie up tomatoes. 

Remember the succulent planter I improvised? Everything looks good. The Kalanchoe is too young and the Schlumbergeras are done with blooms. I don't know if I will be able to hang it as a vertical planter or not.

Claus Dalby featured Calla Lilies on his blog today. He mentioned that they need plenty of fertilizer through the winter, good tip. I hope to see foliage soon where I repotted Calla bulbs that were white and firm. I am hopeful. I've brought Calla Lilies to bloom before but it's been a while back when the greenhouse was new.

I don't know that putting jugs of water in front of my electric heaters is a helpful exercise or not but it cannot hurt. It seems reasonable to me that warm air blowing on jugs of water will heat the water a little rather than all the warm air rising immediately to the ceiling where it is not going to fall back down. When the heater cycles off, heat can slowly leave the water jugs. Or not. What a notion. When the weather warms, I use the containers of water for watering. I water plants individually, not with the hose that I use to fill water bottles. Sun warms water jugs, too. Every little bit helps, in my opinion.

Take Joy in staying warm.

January 02, 2015

Glamour Shots: New Year's Cactus and Ugly Bulbs

This is my favorite of the Schlumbergeras that Miss Trudy gave me cuttings. Miss Trudy died in 2014 following a long and useful life. Her memory lives on.  

This particular pot took a notion to wait until after Christmas to bloom, unlike its twin that bloomed in the house all during the Holidays. 

I transferred its plastic pot into my new gold-trimmed pot.

I learned a lesson about improvised duct tape trays. The cardboard gets limp in high humidity. Greenhouse trays need to be waterproof. 

More learning experiences from the Hyacinth trial. 

Instead of chilling hyacinth bulbs first, I set the bulbs in soil and put pot and all into a refrigerator. I think I mentioned before that I forgot to check the vegetable drawers for left-over fruit and there were pears in there. Perhaps there will be no bloom. Oops.

I brought them out today, eight weeks of chill. In plastic bags against the drying effect of a frost-free refrigerator, the bulbs were covered in blue mold. Not to worry, according to Brent and Becky. It washed off easily when I watered.

Hyacinth bulbs, reset. These were a mixed bag.
2 pots of mostly blue, one of white and/or yellow.

The second lesson is that I didn't cover the bulbs with soil, just set them with most of the bulb showing. Instead of developing roots drawing down into the soil, roots pushed the bulbs upward. They were willy-nilly in the pots.

Carefully I reset the bulbs into the soil and covered those pretty white roots. I hope they are going to pull downward now. I looked for signs of sprouting.

Bulb at top has a tiny bit of sprout emerging, not yet green.

The New Year is a time of expectation. Bulbs that wait through the fall begin to sprout. Daffodil foliage is emerging outdoors. My word for the New Year is Joy

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