Ups and Downs in the Greenhouse

As many of you already know, this gardening blog started back in 2016 by sharing information and tips on four season greenhouse growing. For one, I wanted to explain how winter salad growing is possible and second, to get you all on your way with season extension. But, with any gardening project there are always ups and downs! Time to take a quick look at how my greenhouses are doing this winter.

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2017 saw such a warm fall, that I hesitated to pull my climbing cucumbers and tomatoes out of the greenhouse. When I finally did it still seemed much too warm to be planting. All of the salad greens in my unheated 12×20 gambrel greenhouse were planted in November. Pretty late for winter growing. Between the long periods of cold and possibly too many mice, my greens are looking quite pathetic. I do know that enough of the kale seeds spread so there will be plenty of fresh seedlings in the spring!

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Winter greens can be the best greens!

The floating row covers are in place for added protection over the greens. I’ve been trying to keep adequate moisture in the greenhouse by adding a bit of snow to the stone floor. This may sound strange but the snow melts gradually then adds much needed moisture to the micro-climate inside the unheated greenhouse. Things can dry out even in winter. Next chance that I get I will organize my potting bench and get ready for spring.

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Clearing away the snow load with a foam car scraper.

Keeping the snow load off of the greenhouse roof is also important. I use a car snow cleaner. It gently sweeps the snow off without damaging my expensive greenhouse plastic. The plastic is real greenhouse grade plastic. We put it on the greenhouse in 2009 and I’d like to get a salad many years as possible out of it. There’s are also 2×4 pieces of wood bracing the center of the greenhouse for extra support. Winter maintenance in the unheated greenhouse is minimal but necessary.

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Using my Victorinox serrated harvest knife.

Our outside mini greenhouse got off to a great start. The greens were at the point of harvesting in November. Some of the plastic came free during a recent wind storm but I buttoned it up and it hasn’t budged since. I did a quick greens inspection and found everything was doing well.

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Greenhouse surrounded by snow.

Depending on the weather, I can harvest greens from the greenhouse through the winter. This winter I’ve been leaving them alone in hopes of an abundant spring. Maybe even in February I can start picking.

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60-70 degrees in the greenhouse.

There are always ups and downs in the greenhouse, in every garden for that matter. Greenhouse growing has been a fun challenge for me. Most of the time things go well. Every few years, things tend to fail a little. Overall, four season growing is successful and I’m looking forward to seeing how my greens do this spring. If winter gardening is a new concept for you, click on the blue links above. The Everlongardener site has many articles to get you started and to see how I began! I hope that you are knee deep in gardening plans this months! Thanks for checking out my site and don’t forget to subscribe for more weekly posts!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Snowy hydrangeas!

10 Gardening Trends For 2018

Do gardeners go by the trends? Probably most of you don’t. It seems a little funny to me that there are gardening trends, as if they were like fashion trends. I do think it’s quite interesting that trends come and go like lasts seasons fashions. The truth is, these yearly trends are presented to you in seed catalogs, gardening magazines and even at your local greenhouses. These are some of the current leanings from the world of gardening!

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1. Color of the Year

From paint chips to fabric swatches, color trends rule the commercial world. Believe it or not, these fads do influence growers and not just the latest color of your phone case. This year, the Pantone color to watch is called Ultra Violet. From petunias to purple podded vegetables, this shade of violet will be popping up in greenhouses everywhere. I’ve seen some of the accompanying color palettes to go with this color and they look something like a roll of Necco wafers! I have to say that all shades purple have always been welcome in my gardens.

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Purple belongs in every garden!

2. A Home Sanctuary 

With the stresses of life mounting around us, a home garden can be quite the respite from the outside world. An hour here and there to dig your fingers into the earth. Some time to sow and then to harvest. Take that up a notch with some al fresco dining on an outdoor table. Perfect for entertaining and relaxing! If the bugs aren’t out that is!

Making your outdoor space, no matter how big or small, a sanctuary need not be a huge task. A brick patio, a fire pit, a few potted shrubs. Some torches or string lights. How about just an outdoor table and chairs in a shady patch of lawn? Simply eating or even reading outside can really make a difference.

3. A Water Feature 

Some homes have a natural water feature, whether it be a stream or a pond. If you have either, have you designed your landscape to show it off as a focal point? What if you don’t have this characteristic in your yard? If having a water feature is what you really want, you could go big with a hole and a pond liner. Add a waterfall and you’ve really got something!

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A water feature can be nice.

On the other hand, simplicity may call for a fountain or tabletop water feature. An elegant birdbath may be just the thing to bring that liquid element to the garden. Another idea is to put a pollinator watering station together. All you need is a low plant pot saucer and some stones or glass marbles. Put in some water but leave the rocks or glass sticking out. This will provide a landing spot for bees and butterflies to take a drink!

4. Up-cycled Garden Decor

Garden junk, garden art…whatever you want to call it. Old urns and vacant receptacles used for garden containers. A retired wheelbarrow spilling with ivy geraniums. Dented watering cans, corrugated metal, antique tools. A few creatively placed pieces can put a touch of whimsy to the garden.

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An old birdcage turned plant holder.

Turning old items into functional ones is a great way to recycle and an inexpensive way to give a structural feel to the yard. Take a look around your garage, you never know what may be transformed into something grand! Of course, this is not a new idea for the garden but using these treasures can take your space to another level.

5. Small Gardens, Small Spaces

Just because you have a small property doesn’t mean you can’t grow a few things. A doorstep or deck container garden could be just the thing. A mixture of showy flowers and container loving edibles would make a welcoming sight at your doorway. With a wave of urban gardening sweeping the nation the last few years, consider having less lawn and putting in more garden space.

It doesn’t take much land to make a vegetable garden!

Growing vertically in a small space can also help you achieve your gardening goals. Just one stationary panel at the end of a raised bed could allow you to grow cucumbers, beans, peas, squash and the list goes on! We installed cattle panel arches between out raised beds last year and added a lot more growing space to the beds. Sometimes, just putting a little thought and planning into your small garden can make all the difference.

6. Cater to Pollinators 

Welcoming pollinators of all kinds is always a good idea. How do you do it? Grow what they like. Mix in flowers such as zinnias, calendula and marigolds into your vegetable gardens. Grow flowers in masses. Imagine large landing spots of echinacea, bee balm and butterfly weed. Herbs such as chives, borage and lavender.

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Monarch butterfly searching for food.

Another way to keep them around is to keep a steady flow of blooming plants in the garden. Plants with a variety of bloom times will provide continuous fodder for all pollinators.

7. Imperfect Gardening 

If the idea of garden toil and immaculate gardens scare you away from the tasks, why not try ‘imperfect gardening’? Some even call it ‘Bed-head gardening’.  With a focus on mass plantings of native and low care plants, the idea is to just sort of let things go with minimal tending.

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Oregano can go wild and take care of itself!

What if you designed your landscape like this in the first place? You could simply chop it down once in a while.

8. Have a Few Houseplants 

It’s no secret that a few well chosen houseplants can contribute to the air quality in your home or office. IToo many tired, dusty plants in the house can really be a terrible sight. How about a few manageable and attractive plants instead of many unruly ones?

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Some houseplants to freshen the air.

Some have great success with orchids while others enjoy succulents. The old standby spider plant is a good choice. Ferns, pothos, Baby’s Tears, snake plant, aloe…the list goes on. I like them all but I now try to choose just a few. I’ve really weeded out the amount of indoor plants that we have. I could probably even get rid of a few more. It’s amazing how much time it takes to dust and care for so many. Careful placement and proper care can ensure a gorgeous display of indoor plants!

9. Grow Your Own Food

It would not be very realistic for a home gardener to grow all of their own food unless they made it their full time ambition. Most of us just simply don’t have the time. Even a small garden filled with a few prolific veggies can supplement your vegetable intake. Salad greens, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes can be harvested over long periods of time.

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A bountiful harvest!

Starting plants from seed, buying seedlings and direct sowing are all ways to get a productive garden. Don’t try to make it too difficult. Stick with what works and try something new each year. Even growing a little of your own food can make you feel like you’ve really done something.

10. Food Trends

It’s hard to think about certain veggies and fruits going in and out of style. I recently read that kale is on it’s way out. Kale was king for a few years there. Whether it’s so last year or not, I’ll still be planting kale of all sorts in my garden for years to come. Plus, it’s way easier to grow than cauliflower! According to the Organic Produce Network, broccoli crowns, button mushrooms and oranges are also out. Grapes and rutabagas too! We would not want to be caught with unfashionable produce would we? Instead, the previously mentioned cauliflower, interesting mushrooms, chard, berries and turmeric lead the way. Avocado is also right up there.

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Kale is supposedly out of style!

I don’t know about you, but I eat what I like. I don’t usually allow fads to dictate what I grow or eat but trends will always be coming and going. What are you growing this year? Will you incorporate any of these ideas into your garden? These are just a few gardening trends that caught my eye while doing a search. I thought it would be fun to share with all of you. There are of course many gardening fads out there and I guarantee some of them will quickly be “so last year”! Happy garden planning!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Planning Your 2018 Garden

It’s that time of year again, when garden planning goes full steam ahead! We’ve been stuck in an arctic blast for the last few weeks. Brrrr… This has made it kind of hard to be outside, let alone harvest any greens. No better time for planning and scheming! Do you need ideas for planning your 2018 garden? Do you need help getting a plan going? Let’s go through some suggestions to get started!

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Looking Back to 2017

I was looking back at my post from last year on garden planning. It has oodles of gardening tips. If I could have, I would have simply published this one again but it’s a new year and it’s time for a fresh start!

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Highlights from the last year!

Just scrolling through my photos from the last year is enough to make me forget all about the drought. One after another, pictures of grand, showy flowers and ripe vegetables. There were failures and successes just like every other year. I find myself always thinking of another spring. A gardener’s mind is always hopeful for the next chapter.

Gardening Goals

A fantastic way of setting your gardening goals in motion is to put things on paper. A garden journal can be the key to gardening success. Sketch your gardens out, compare them with last year, rotate your crops. Start with a list and go from there.

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Get organized!

Do you want to start a new garden this season? Have you decided upon a traditional tilled garden or raised beds? Are container gardens the way to go? Have you looked into no-dig gardening for less work?

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We love our raised bed gardens!

Maybe you just want to revamp existing beds. Plan on removing any surface weeds. Start with a top dressing of good compost or aged manure. That’s all it takes to freshen up an established garden bed!

Do you lack space on your property? Try adding edible plants in an existing landscape or construct a container garden on your deck.

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Nasturtiums from the vegetable garden.

Have you always wanted to grow a particular flower or vegetable that you’ve never tried? Give it a go! Start with one or two new species that spark your interest. This way you won’t take on too much. Whatever your plans, do what you can and don’t get overwhelmed!

Get Organized 

Once you have decided on a plan, make sure you order any garden seeds that you need. Go through any leftover seeds to see what you can still use. Many local garden centers have a wide selection of garden seeds also. If you are starting your own seeds, make sure you have a good setup. Otherwise, you may not be super successful in growing your own seedlings. Many crops can be grown from direct seeding straight into the garden. For more information on any of these topics, click on the blue links throughout the post.

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A flurry of seed catalogs.

Don’t panic! Winter is here for a while so you have plenty of time for planning your 2018 garden. Make some hot cocoa and curl up with a cozy blanket for some warm garden planning fun. I’ve been slow on ordering my seeds this year. I may just use this blizzard to finalize my list. The frosty temps here in Maine have been making us all a bit stir crazy around here. Simply walking to the mailbox requires a full snowsuit. Beau has been finding all kinds of trouble to get into lately. We are all looking forward to getting outside when the temperature rise a bit! Here are a few pictures of what’s going on here. The greenhouse and some poor little arugula struggling through the cold.

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Scenes from the greenhouse.
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Sad looking arugula in the cold greenhouse.