kohlrabi2018

WHAT GROWS HERE & WHAT DOES NOT

This will now be my 3rd year gardening at 9,000 feet. After some trial and error, I’ve chosen only to grow the things that will grow well in the outdoor garden, and use my limited greenhouse space in the summer for a few favorites while saving some room for early fall planting there. Some of the vegetables that grow very well have not been my favorites (kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, rutabagas) but since they do grow well here and are good for us I’m learning to like them more and cook them in new ways.

Our last frost date in spring to the first frost date in the fall is about 92 days. I carefully select only the varieties that boast the shortest maturity period. Nothing grows as fast as promised. If the seed packet indicates 60 days, in most cases it will be 80-100. For example, I planted Masai Hericots Verts bush beans with a maturity range of 58 days. I harvested them about 88 days after planting. Often, seed varieties boast that they are well-suited for northern climates. I’d thought that those would also work well in high altitudes, but no. We do not get as many sunshine hours in the day as do northern areas in the summer. I believe that this, in addition to our cool nights, slows down the growth of many plants. Here is a list of what grows well and what does not.

 

WHAT GROWS WELL OUTDOORS

  • broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, bok choy & all brassicas
  • lettuce, spinach, chard and a variety of other greens to be eaten fresh or sauteed
  • root vegetables such as beets, rutabagas, turnips, radishes and carrots
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • peas
  • herbs such as parsley, cilantro, thyme, sage, oregano, dill

WHAT GROWS SO-SO

(I do still grow these outdoors, but they’re not the best)

  • onions (they don’t get big and the season is too short & cool for them to bulb well, but after a successful experiment last year I’m giving them another try)
  • summer squash (they need covering early on when it’s cold, and help with pollination)
  • winter squash (So far I’ve had only one variety that actually produced squash, Gold Nugget, and it did not taste good. I’m determined to get some winter squash to grow based on the success of some other local gardeners, so I am trying two new varieties this year.)
  • bush beans (a smaller yield than in warmer climates, but they are suitable)
  • celery (got some thin celery last year, am trying one more time)

WHAT I PROBABLY WON’T ATTEMPT OUTDOORS AGAIN

  • tomatoes or peppers (they just began to ripen when the fall frosts began, even though they were faithfully covered each night)
  • corn (tried an Alaskan variety bred for short, cool seasons, but it did not produce)
  • dry beans (it froze before I had a chance to harvest these)
  • cauliflower (grew very spindly, did not make a good head)

WHAT I GROW IN THE SUMMER GREENHOUSE

  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • cucumbers
  • basil
  • winter squash – still on trial one more time outdoors

 

 

greenhouse500x333

GREENHOUSE

GREENHOUSE

The greenhouse at Golden Gaits Ranch is complete and plants are growing beautifully. The solar collector, used to heat the greenhouse and our household hot water, is fully operational. It is now the end of February 2018, and we have enjoyed greens such as lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, and bok choy. We’re continually eating fresh tomatoes and zucchini. I’ve harvested (and eaten) turnips, beets, daikon radish, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower and one nice head of cabbage, which was made into sauerkraut. Herbs growing are thyme, rosemary, tarragon and basil. Still growing are some leeks and garlic in the beds, with ginger and turmeric in pots.

POND-Holds 200 gals water

HEATING

For the month of January 2018, the greenhouse temperatures averaged 74°F during the day, and 56°F overnight. (The outdoor temps ranged from -9 to +62, averaging 11 at night and 48 during the day that month.) We have been installing insulation over the glazing each night to retain the heat that has been collected during the day. The floor and soil in the beds are heated from the sun during the day, and the soil stays at about 70°F.

2019 UPDATE: The concrete floor, the soil and the pond (which holds about 200 gallons of water) all provide thermal mass storage. When the greenhouse was planned and built, we installed radiant in-floor heating, to be heated with water from our solar collector. Over time, we determined that this was not necessary. We also no longer put up the insulation over the glazing each night. The concrete floor and the soil beds stay plenty warm without the in-floor heat, but what needs more warmth overnight and on the coldest days is the air. This past year, Tim purchased and installed a used wall heater which uses the hot water from our solar collector as its heat source. This has worked quite well to keep the greenhouse warm overnight most nights, and we have an electric space heater set on a thermostat to add more warmth on the coldest of nights. (It rarely comes on.) As an additional source of heating, we have a unique situation. The greenhouse is built on the side of our home, and includes a door to our crawlspace. The crawlspace temperature remains quite even–not too hot, not to cool. Tim has added a vent with a fan to blow the hot air from the greenhouse  into the crawlspace during the day to warm it up. At night, the door to this crawlspace is left open, so the warm air stored in it can circulate back into the greenhouse for added warmth. In the summer, the coolness from the crawlspace can help keep the greenhouse cooler. Just an added benefit of attaching the greenhouse to the house!

 

WHAT GROWS IN THE GREENHOUSE

As fall has turned to winter, I’ve learned a few things about how things grow and when and where I should plant things in the future. I’d had high expectations that things would grow like they do outside, since the optimum warmth would be kept high. However, without the addition of an artificial light source, the plants receive fewer hours of light per day and are growing much more slowly than in summer. Now that the days are gradually getting longer, the plants are growing faster. Some things are doing better than others: the cold-season crops such as kale, chard, spinach and lettuces have done well. The tomatoes are producing, but the tomatoes are smaller and ripen much more slowly than they would have outside. The sweet peppers did not do well but the hotter peppers did better. A couple of the hot peppers (“Biggie Chile”, an Anaheim type pepper) are so tall they are shading the plants behind them, which I didn’t expect. One tomato plant, “Principe Borghese”, got so huge, with so few buds, I ripped it out. (Sometimes the Principe Borghese tomato is listed as “determinate” and other times “semi-determinate”. This particular strain seemed to be the semi-determinate, quite tall and bushy.)

When planting the beds by the windows, I put some of the larger things, such as kale and swiss chard, at the back of the beds, thinking that the shorter plants in front should be more accessible, but I wasn’t thinking about the larger plants by the windows shading the plants closer to the inside edge. Although the shorter plants may be harder to get at, they should have been planted closer to the windows behind the taller plants from the perspective of where I stand to work. In addition, the larger plants near the windows make it more difficult to put up the insulation each night.

Vertical Zucchini

I’d read that growing zucchini vertically is a space saver, and a good way to grow it in a greenhouse. I tried that, and I’m glad I did. Rather than having the plant sprawl across the bed, it is growing nicely upward, saving space around it for other things. The zucchinis are easy to see and easy to pick. Unfortunately, a couple of turnips that were growing behind it didn’t get much light and grew very slowly. (I had thought that they would grow more speedily and be harvested before the zucchini got too big, but that didn’t happen.)

I thought it would be nice to grow an indeterminate tomato up the center post, then train it along the bottom edge of the roof support. I’m not yet sure whether I will do that again. It is creating more shade than I thought it would, keeping the plants behind it in the dark. I’ll have a better idea as time goes on—when the lower leaves begin to die off, it may not be as much of a problem.

Many of the plants that were started in the fall have been harvested, and now I am beginning new plantings of lettuces, spinach, kale, beets, and a couple of tomatoes. I’m planning to start some onions in the greenhouse which will be transplanted outside in the spring. Although I am itching to replant some of the areas where plants have been harvested, I’ll just have to hold off for a bit. I need to leave space for the things I want to put in later. In the spring the greenhouse will be used for growing transplants which will later go outside, and closer to summer it will need to be used for tomatoes and peppers, which will stay in the greenhouse all summer.

Tim has created a detailed document describing all the “nuts and bolts” of how the greenhouse was made and why we did what we did. It can be viewed HERE. He asked me one day whether there was anything I’d do differently. Not much, but I’d like it to be taller. If it were taller I could hang more plants! I’d also kind of like it to be larger in area, but keeping it to this size is good for me so I won’t overplant and have too much. This is a good size for just the two of us and will do just fine. I don’t really *need* more space.

We are glad to have this project complete and definitely enjoy the veggies we’ve been able to eat. What’s for dinner tonight? Quiche, made with spinach from the greenhouse and eggs from the ducks.