Winter Prep in the Greenhouse

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Over the course of the last four days, I’ve been busy getting my entire greenhouse planted with enough varieties of greens and herbs to feed my family for the Fall, Winter, and Early Spring. Wait….I jumped in a bit prematurely, which is typical of me. Sigh.

First things first. I just want to briefly point out that what I actually have here on the Meyerstead is not a greenhouse in the technical sense. A true greenhouse can be heated and cooled as necessary depending on the outside temperatures. What I have is, in fact, a cold frame, which is just another term for an unheated greenhouse. Just so that no one gets the wrong idea about what we are working with here. A true greenhouse would be quite an undertaking and quite an expense. Also quite unnecessary in my humble opinion. Now, let’s get back to the fun part of this post…

I planted ninety two 16 oz plastic cups, one plant per cup, with the following cold hardy greens:

  1. Tatsoi – 10 cups
  2. Brunswick Cabbage – 9 cups
  3. Minowase Daikon Radish – 4 cups
  4. Verde of Taglio Chard – 9 cups
  5. Russian Red Kale – 9 cups
  6. Vates Kale – 5 cups
  7. Wild Garden Kale – 8 cups
  8. Arugula – 9 cups
  9. Corn Dutch Salad – 8 cups
  10. Parsley – 5 cups
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This is just a small portion of the cups

I have my Clayotonia, also known as Miner Lettuce, planted in two 8″ plastic water catchment trays. You know, those plastic trays you put under your potted plants to catch water? Well, I was out of containers and didn’t want to stop so that’s what they ended up in. They’re one of my favorite salad greens, so hopefully they give a decent show this Fall and Winter.

I found these two extra large pans that are roughly 18″ by 24″ and planted them both with Austrian Winter Peas. These are extra delicious in the dead of Winter and I know they do well. I had a ton of them planted under plastic at my previous house and they went all the way through Spring. Most people use them as a cover crop to fix nitrogen in the soil (great cover crop to plant where you have grown corn, for example) but the shoots taste just like fresh garden peas…which is a surprising treat in a mid winter, home grown salad. I feel they are not done justice planted as a mere cover crop, I prefer them as a food. No surprise there.

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Austrian Winter Peas

I had some dollar store cat pans lying around from the fodder experiment I had done when we first moved in. I decided to use one for planting my Mustard Greens and a dish pan to plant all of my Spinach. These will mostly be harvested as baby greens, so I planted them pretty dense, as they will not need a lot of room to grow to full size. I will thin as they grow, and as needed, when I harvest them out.

Finally I planted herbs in terracotta pots. Because I love herbs in terracotta pots, and that’s reason enough…amiright? Sometimes it’s awesome being a grown up. I do what I want. (aha…ha…ha. ahem. rarely true). I have it on good authority that rosemary, cilantro, and parsley are proved to survive and thrive in an unheated greenhouse throughout our zone 5 winters. The rest of these herbs will be experimental to see if they will go all winter. Can you imagine harvesting fresh tarragon in January? Eeep!

  1. Oregano – planted in an 8″ pot
  2. Rosemary – planted in a 12″ pot
  3. Thyme – planted in a 6″ pot
  4. French Tarragon – planted in a 6″ pot
  5. Parsley – planted in a 6″ pot
  6. Cilantro – planted in a 6″ pot
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Is there anything more beautiful than herbs spilling out of terracotta?

Though this entire first year of everything here is somewhat of an experiment, I am trying something out that I have no idea how it will preform this Winter. I planted Autumn King carrots in four 5 gallon buckets. I also planted Blue Scotch Kale in one of the buckets. The buckets will remain on the ground, in between the barrels, for the winter. I have a plan/idea for next Fall/Winter if these two particular plants do well in this spot.

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I also have a rain barrel in the greenhouse that I will be filling and using to water, to avoid dragging a hose around in the freezing cold of Winter. This will also add extra thermal mass to my greenhouse, a win win! I love winning.

The plants will likely have to be watered every day in the greenhouse, maybe every other day. The point is, a lot. So there needs to be some kind of convenient way to do so, otherwise I will hate my greenhouse, and I don’t want to hate. I’m all about love. Especially when it’s growing food to feed my family. If you decide to go with this handy watering solution…make sure it has a spicket! 

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It’s been a great start here for Fall and Winter planting. The soil is warm, the weather has remained warm, and there is plenty of time for seedlings to germinate and get some growth on before the cold of early Winter hits and growth slows. I am already drooling over fresh, homegrown, hearty Winter Salads!

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