Nearing the end of a successful first season
This year we set up a greenhouse at our cabin as we were not having the best luck out in the garden. It was either too dry or too wet – and our season is short – so we wanted to try the idea of a somewhat controlled atmosphere with some increased warmth.
Except my basil plant which I bought at a local hardware store as a small seedling, everything in the greenhouse was grown from seeds. I started them back at home in front of a sunny south-facing window. When it was time to plant them – I planted a lot. I still had a few extra tomato plants and pepper plants so I popped them into the garden. I gave them the same luscious compost rich soil but I will admit I didn’t give them much more attention than that. On weekends I would water them but they were not the benefactors of our irrigation system in the greenhouse. In essence they became my control subjects. What is the difference if a plant is grown in the warmth of a greenhouse with a twice daily drip irrigation system?
The control subject (tomato) in the garden by the porch is relatively healthy and has some tomatoes forming
Control subjects (peppers) growing above sceptic tank with onions -show minimal signs of growth
In comparison to the control subjects, the plants that were placed in the greenhouse have for the most part flourished. Some tomato plants are over 8 feet tall and they are heavy with ripening tomatoes. The pepper plants have all done fairly well with all of the plants generating peppers and more still to come.
In the greenhouse the tomatoes are like a jungle
The pepper plants are healthy and producing a delicious variety of peppers
The harvesting begins
Overall the greenhouse experiment has been exceptional and exciting. A verifiable success. A controlled environment of good soil, some fertilizer, regular drip irrigation, protection from wind, and most importantly the lovely warmth (approximately 38c most days).
Filed under Cabin, Farm, Garden, Joy
This year we have a healthy harvest of Saskatoon berries. We have spent a few hours each of the past weekends gently shaking loose the ripe berries into metal bowls. The berries are so plump and juicy. We have a few bushes by our vegetable garden but there are also little secret hidden bushes down in the woods by the pond.
We have been giving away the berries to friends who are ambitious and want to make fresh pies and other baked goods. We tucked away a big bag in the freezer for future muffins and waffles. A sweet little burst of fresh berry flavour brings simple recipes to life.
A perfect moment
The best gift of berries that I gave – was to a wonderful friend who not only helped me pick the berries but she sorted and cleaned them – and then best yet she turned them into a delicious Saskatoon crumble that I ate for breakfast (with a fresh coffee and the paper!) Oh yes. Sweet little berries.
Filed under Cabin, Garden, Joy
Golden hour in the hayfield
The golden hour just before the sun sets is a magical time in the country. The sky to the east is a subdued version of the sunset to the west. The light is a warm glow. When the hay is growing the sun catches the tips of the hay, and if there is a slight breeze to cause them to sway like waves – it is a sight to see. I also save a little piece of my heart for round hay bales. I love how they sit out in the fields silently waiting to be collected and taken to feed livestock. There is also something almost architectural about hay bales. I don’t really want to know exactly how they are made as I prefer to just see them as little mysterious hay rolls. During the golden hour they are organic monuments to farming in the golden age.
Filed under Cabin, Farm, Joy
Beauty fills the moment
Some times after a week of trying to fit too much into every minute of every day – I am out in the country and a moment will just make me pause. The beauty in the moment forces me to take it in. Pause. Focus. Breathe. Exhale. repeat.
I captured this moment by the back gate. It was one of those stunning Alberta skies filled with the colours of Easter eggs. The moon was unexpected, bright and lit up the darkening clouds. I was smitten by the deep rich green tones of the grass. My eyes were drawn to the rhythmic lines of the brown fence. As I stood and took this photo I promised myself to remember to grab these moments. Pause. Breathe. “Keep your promises,” I whispered to myself.
Everyone continues to grow
The plants have all been in the greenhouse for one month now. Many seeds were started three months ago and it is hard to believe how far these plants have come in that period of time. Most of the tomato plants have been moved down to the floor now to give them room to grow up toward the top of the greenhouse. I have pruned the plants to keep them focused on growing the main stem. Most have the telltale yellow flowers and a few have small tomatoes starting.
Might have peppers, eggplants and melons after all
My plants that were all so small I wasn’t sure they would make it have started to show real progress. For the first time I think it is possible that I might actually harvest some peppers, melons and eggplants. All were so small that they would have been dwarfed by large pots so I chose to grow them in the smaller peat pots. It is exciting now to see the melons reaching up the twine and starting to form yellow flowers.
The real early producers have been my cucumber plants. Outside of the greenhouse these failed in my garden the past two years of attempts so this is particularly exciting for me. In the greenhouse these plants are easily reaching up the twine to start to grow along the wires.
Socrates cucumbers are the early stars of the greenhouse
My little cucumbers are developing and will soon find themselves on my plate! One month in the greenhouse and I am still excited with our success.
Filed under Cabin, Farm, Garden
The String Experiment
After adding yet another five tomato plants to the greenhouse – we moved them around and reset up the irrigation system to handle the additional plants. The indeterminate tomatoes in large pots were moved to the ground so they have the most space to grow vertically. Vertical is the theme of the greenhouse. After watching a number of YouTube videos of other greenhouse enthusiasts I decided to give the string theory a try. We placed three wires across the greenhouse. Two along the sides and one in the centre. Then for all the plants that need support and will grow up a string (cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes) we attached jute strings that either connect with the wires or wrap directly above on the rafters.
The cucumbers seem quite happy to have the support of the string and the space to stretch out. The melons aren’t all large enough to even reach the string but in time hopefully they too will grasp the jute and head upward.
Happy Yellow Flowers
The tomatoes will apparently need coaxing to use the string. I almost feel like I can watch the tomatoes grow in the greenhouse. They have been very happy with the heat and the drip irrigation system. The top of the soil looks dry but the water has been flowing out the bottom of the pots when watered. The plants all look so healthy and happy so I am presuming that the roots are having to find the water deep in the pots which is making them that much healthier. They seem to all be standing a little bit taller with the string supports.
Happy healthy plants make for a happy healthy gardener. Another little experiment I am trying is to place milk jugs full of water in the greenhouse on the north side. The theory is that they heat up during the day and release that heat at night which will help keep the ambient temperature a bit warmer on our cool Alberta evenings. Though I read that I should paint them black – I went with motivational statements instead which make me happy regardless of whether or not they are doing their job.
Gardening is a series of learning moments. This jute string theory is yet another opportunity for me to grow.
Filed under Cabin, Farm, Garden, Joy
Everyone has grown
After only one week the plants have all clearly grown and settled in to their new home. All week I was worried about how they were doing. We had a few very sunny days so I knew they were feeling the extreme warmth of the greenhouse effect. I was also concerned about whether or not we were watering them appropriately with our irrigation system. Too much and they would all be over watered or too little and they would be completely parched in that heat.
Healthy Happy & Green
One tomato plant didn’t make it through the week but most had nearly doubled in size and are looking vibrant and healthy. I am excited as all but the basil has been grown from seeds. It makes the successes that much more satisfying but it also makes the losses that much more disappointing.
The seedlings that were small to start with – were my biggest concern but they seem to have weathered the change and are all showing signs of growth and happiness. My melons, peppers and eggplants all seem much happier in this warmer environment.
There is hope for the little guys.
I planted a tomato outside the greenhouse and though he was doing ok – I can really see that the greenhouse experience is successful at providing a better environment for growing tomatoes in Alberta.
Filed under Cabin, Garden, Joy
The plants settle in to the Greenhouse
Today was a busy day of planting. We brought up a huge bag of self-serve compost and nine and a half bags of soil as well as some vermiculite to lighten the soil mix. We used it all and still need to fill a few large fabric bags. I also planted some corn, cucumbers, scallopini and tomatoes in the garden today. All the bending, shovelling, reaching, dragging, and walking – was followed with a few advils and some quiet time blogging! I am going to be sore tomorrow! Gardening is lovely but these annual planting days are absolutely exhausting.
The plants which were grown from seeds made the trip up to the cabin Friday night. The car was so full of soil and plants that we had to leave the cat at home this weekend.
The seedlings spent their first night in the greenhouse and then were potted in a variety of pots including fabric, plastic, and fibre. It is a year of experimentation. It will be interesting to see which pots, which tomatoes, which cucumbers, and which peppers we prefer – or at least which ones are successful.
After all the planting was completed the irrigation system was set up. We went for a drip irrigation set up and we are experimenting with two ten minute sessions per day to start. I have read that as the plants increase in size we may have to double that timeline. It can get quite hot in the greenhouse. We have seen the thermostat up to 50c but some days it is more in the 30c range. It is hard to say what the right amount of water will be when we are only here on weekends (and the occasional mid-week visit).
The steady flow of water
The greenhouse experience will be a season of learning. So far we are really excited to see how this experience goes for us. The optimism is palatable.
Filed under Cabin, Garden, Joy
Crab apple blossoms signify that Spring is officially here
Last fall we had a fully built greenhouse delivered to our property but then the snow came and so it sat and patiently waited all winter. Spring is here and we cut out the lawn, and pulled the greenhouse into some trenches that we dug. Now all nestled into its new home we had to install the floor, shelves and next the drip irrigation system.
The floor is dirt covered with garden fabric and then patio stones and pea gravel. It has the quaint country greenhouse feel that I wanted. I feel like I have travelled across the pond to a small town in the United Kingdom when I go into my little greenhouse oasis.
Inside we have installed some initial shelves that still need to be secured in to hold all the weight from the garden pots that will sit upon them. We will also add some lower storage shelves and hooks to provide for winding twine or hanging small pots. There is room for pots to sit on the floor or for us to even add a potting bench at a later date.
We still need to add the drip irrigation system…and of course all the plants! I hope to grow primarily tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs. I will try some eggplants and melons as well. I would love to try a cold box inside the greenhouse in the fall and see if I can grow some winter kale and other greens throughout our freezing cold winter. The possibilities are endless!
The door is open – awaiting the opportunity to host some plants!
As we continue to work away at setting up the greenhouse my seedlings await in small pots by a warm south window in my house – waiting to be transplanted into large growing pots and to make the journey to this warm and welcoming greenhouse. The greenhouse awaits their visit.
Filed under Cabin, Farm, Garden, Joy
Winter is like a relative who visits and stays too long. At first there is the excitement of getting reacquainted. All those great memories you shared over the years. Cozy evenings by the fire, building snow forts, walking in the snow on a crisp sunny afternoon, and the glistening frost decorating the trees branches. But winter just stays and stays for months at a time. You wake up in the morning and look outside – and winter is still there.
While spring is arriving south of the border or out on the West Coast, here in Alberta winter keeps hanging around. Day in and day out winter continues to deliver snow covered fields, slippery sidewalks and cold that bites at your flesh when you dare to not cover up completely.
Winter, Winter Go Away – come back another day…
Spring will come, followed by a short but wonderful summer and then a colourful quick fall – and then winter will be back again. There are four seasons and yet winter monopolizes the year by staying for about six months. November, December, January, February, March, April…and even into May. Last year after following the rule of waiting until after the long weekend in May to plant seedlings – winter squashed my dreams of fresh cucumbers by killing my seedlings with frost. Over the winter months the garden is blanketed with snow but surely by May the growing season can begin?
We Canadians love our four seasons, our winter sports, our white Christmases, our fashionable parkas and knitted sweaters – but we also love to complain about how winter overstays its welcome. Winter – take the subtle hint and pack up and leave.
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