I think I’m Going to Sleep Here!
I cannot believe it’s here and I love it so much! I think I may actually sleep in our new greenhouse–it’s that gorgeous!
Last year I was seriously outgrowing the current greenhouse space, and as I would jenga my way in amongst flats of basil, thyme and scented geraniums the little greenhouse troll would whisper …. “You need a larger greenhouse space!”
At first I ignored this. There was already so much on our plates with the work we already had. And how would I explain to my husband that I needed even MORE space? I could already imagine his face and the silly questions …
1. “You are only one person, how are you going to grow even more plants and have time to take care of them and the rest of the farm?”
2. “How is this greenhouse going to be different from the one you already have?”
3. “Where are you going to put it? I don’t think we can fit another building on the property and what about zoning? How are you going to pay for it?”
So many boring, ludicrous and nonsensical questions, but that is how his mind works. And I had answers for all of them.
1. “I’ll get up earlier (I may have been crossing my fingers behind my back) to take care off the extra plants.”
2. “This one is going to be bigger. Made of wood and polycarbonate to keep the plants warmer. And I can heat it (that last one may not have made it into the explanation. I can only tell CJ so much of my grand master plans, otherwise he thinks I’m “complicating” things).”
3. “And I’ve already decided where I can put it, contacted and spoke with a supplier and spent time over at the assessment office and got the green light. All I need to do it formally fill out the permit application! Oh, and since I am growing every year, recently received my mail-order certification and orders are rolling in, I’ll just reinvest some of what we made this year into the new greenhouse.”
I’ve obviously thought this all through.
And in time he realized it too.
By mid-winter I placed my order, and a few weeks ago it arrived and up like a carni-ride it went!
The only concession I made to the hubs was that he wouldn’t have to install it. That made him a lot happier … particularly since I may have mentioned I wanted him to build me some more garden beds and a new compost bin system.
He really is such a good guy to put up with me and my ever-expanding plans.
So up it went in a matter of hours!
I am loving the powered roof and side vents. All I have to do it set the temperature and it takes care of itself!
I really, really, really could sleep here!
Oh, and did I forget to mention benching …
Oh yes, all new ebb-and-flow benches! When I was in college and working at a farm in New Jersey they got these and I was in love! I thought all they would ever be is a fantasy.
Now in case you have not fully grasped my excitement, here is a taste …
I may have run and jumped around a bit too.
But how could I not? All my garden dreams are coming true! It’s just like Cinderella, just without the pumpkin and glass slipper!
Now I just have to transfer all my plants from the potting shed into my new fancy-shmancy greenhouse!
My Favorite Top 10 Seed Sowing Tips
I never mind propagating – whether sowing seed or taking cuttings. And there are a number of things you can do to get your seedlings off to a great start … these are my absolutely favorite tips:
1. Use great soil! Happy, healthy, lush plants start with a good base. My favorite all-purpose potting mix is Pro-Mix BX with Mycorrhizae.
2. Moisten your potting mix before you sow your seeds. Watering afterwards often results in seeds sliding around the container. Also, it is hard to ensure the entire potting medium is moist if it’s watered from the top.
3. Label. This step seems obvious but it’s easy to forget every once in awhile (even for me)! For entire or half flats, I use painter’s tape along the side, and for individual pots/plants I use old mini-blinds cut into 4-6-inch lengths. These labels are waterproof and you’ve done your part for the environment by recycling!
4. Keep your seeds and seedlings well lit. I use shop lights over my flats and pots. Yup, the same one from the hardware store. I suspend them 2 inches above the soil and raise them up as the plants grow.
5. If possible, water the trays from the bottom. Place your seeding tray into a standard 1020 tray without holes and let the plants soak up water from the bottom.
6. Use bottom heat to speed up the germination process. You can pick up heat mats at your local hardware or garden center. A great garden hack is to use incandescent (not LED) Christmas rope lights under your flats! They will warm, but won’t burn. Then, remove the plants from the heat source once they’ve germinated. (Note: seedlings don’t require as much warmth as seeds.)
7. Get a basic fan. You can find these for a few bucks at Walmart. A little air movement goes a long way to building strong root systems and healthier seedlings. Additionally, air circulation is a good defense against disease and infection.
8.Feed your seedlings once they have 2-4 true leaves with a gentle fertilizer. I prefer a fish emulsion and kelp mixture at half strength. It gives your plants a little boost.
9. Harden them off! Gradually expose your seedlings to cooler temperatures over a week before planting them outside. This avoids shock and transplanting stress.
10. Milk jugs and 1 to 2 liter soda bottles make great DIY cloches! Cut the bottom off and place them over the transplants, sinking the bottom about 1 inch into the soil to anchor it against the wind. On warm days, take the tops off to vent and replace them in the early evening!
11. BONUS: Give your seeds and seedlings a light dusting of cinnamon when sowing. It’s a natural fungicide!
Spring is in the air!
The calendar says it’s spring, but the snow outside my window gives me serious doubts. Still, I know the white stuff will disappear in a few days (hopefully less) due to our unseasonably warm weather. My garlic, chives and comfrey are all awake and I’ve been running flats of herbs and scented geraniums wrapped in frost blankets between the hoop house and potting shed. Even thought Mother Nature is teasing me, my plants and my garden, I will not let her get the best of me.
Aside from my little tirade about the weather, there are many lovely things happening and growing at Bowery Beach Farm. We have a new four-season greenhouse going up next week, the base of which is finished. This past fall we received our official mail-order nursery certification and our spring orders are already rolling in. And last, but certainly not least, my first book, The Backyard Kitchen Gardener, will be published by Lyons Press next Spring (2017). Their senior editor contacted me last fall and I signed my first very first book contract.
Needless to say, we’ve been quite busy, but also quite grateful!
Hellebores are here!
There are not many plants that thrive in the winter, but Hellebores are one of them!
I love these plants so much I cannot get enough of them. In fact, last year I started my very own collection of these pretty girls in one of my garden. And I just bought two new additions this winter that I plan to plant out in the spring. First is the traditional white Helleborus niger that currently is residing in our guest bathroom.
Then there is this green-flowered hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, that I’m crushing on. Can’t wait to see how it stacks up against the Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) – which by the way does NOT stink – and the purple flowered hellebore from Slovenia, Helleborus atrorubens.
Planning the Garden
While it’s still chilly and cold outside here in my office I’m nice and cosy. I love this time of year. There’s nothing to do in the garden but imagine what can be …
Time spent pouring over seed and bulb catalogs. Mostly likely with a glass of wine.
Making meticulous layouts of this year’s garden that will be modified many times over before the season is over.
And catching up on some of my favorite movies like Anne of Green Gables.
Just the way I like to spend a wintery day.
Bulbs are Busting Out!
Potted up in late October, now is the time of year I can begin pulling my forced bulb pots from the cold.
Most were potted in soil, but I did some hyacinth water forcing in the fridge. And they look ready to bust open!
Every year I’m amazed that within one day the shoots go from white to green. It really is the magic of forcing. And just think that in a few more weeks my house – which is shrouded in wintery, cold snow (grrrr!) – will be filled with color and the sweet scent of Spring!
Most people start the New Year off with promises and resolutions … me, I start it off with a little hibernation.
I can’t wait to shower, get some fresh jammies and curl up on the couch and read one of the books I’ve been diligently adding to my “Have to Read” list during the growing season. A glass (or two) of wine may, or may not, be involved!
Merry Christmas from my family to yours!
Every year it’s the same old story …. I cannot believe it’s almost Christmas! And I’m sure it is the same in your house this time of year. The most magical time of year is always going so fast.
As I do every year I made my gingerbread house. But this year I made it significantly bigger and Houston, we have a problem. The roof broke. But no worries.
A little super glue (we don’t eat our house, its more just to look pretty), more frosting to ‘hide’ the damage, and some string to hold it together while the glue and frosting reset and we were all good to go. again.
Then after spending some quality time with Pinterest I just had to make some of these DIY Snow Globes. Which I was rather satisfied with.
One of my favorite traditions of the season is to wrap all the gifts. My husband always says he plans to help but seems to ‘disappear’ when it comes time to wrap. But that’s okay. Me and Mr. Bert settle in with a pile of Christmas movies and go to town!
This year I went old school with my wrapping plan. I used brown kraft paper, greens and wild rose hips cut from the garden and some bakers twine to hold it all together.
But the gifts would be nothing without the tree …
A few years ago my mom and I found a local nursery that sells these sparsely branched ‘Charlie Brown’ trees which I just LOVE! Hope you all are finding time this holiday season to enjoy your favorite traditions.
12 Christmas Tree Tips
Your Christmas tree only has two essential needs, cool temperatures and plenty of water! So as long as you make sure your tree has water and isn’t drying out, the only problem you are facing are needles. Follow this guide for a longer-lasting Christmas tree, and stop the drop
Tip 1: Choose and cut your own tree. The longer your tree sits cut on the lot, the more moisture it loses. By cutting your tree down, you know it is as fresh as it’s going to get!
Tip 2: Inspect tree before purchase. Choose a healthy tree. It should have a good scent, and it’s needles flexible at the tips, not brittle to the touch. If the needles fall when gently brushed, then the tree has been sitting too long.
Tip 3: Make fresh cut. When a tree sits, the sap collects at the bottom and blocks the stem from getting enough water. So if choosing a pre-cut tree, saw off the bottom half to one inch of the trunk, making the cut perpendicular to the axis. Do not angle the cut, or it will make it more difficult for the tree to take up water.
Tip 4: Thin out crowded branches before bringing indoors. Remove any sad-looking or congested branches outside. This not only makes the tree look better, but also reduces moisture lost through the needles.
Tip 5: Shake and see them drop – shake the tree outside to knock of any dead or loose needles so you have less of a mess in the house. Norway Spruce, Red Cedar, Virginia, White and Scotch Pines are known for dropping lots of needles initially, so be sure to shake them well.
Tip 6: Place the tree out of direct sunlight in a bucket of water outside. Once home you may need to prepare the space for your tree. Most trees can go 6-8 hours without water and still take up water, but to be on the safe keep it in a cool place with lots of water.
Tip 7: Keep your cool and avoid the heat. Don’t place your tree in direct sunlight or near sources of heat. It will last longer if kept cool and away for fireplaces, heaters and vents.
Tip 8: Use a traditional tree base with plenty of water! The best is a reservoir-type stand, and the rule of thumb is that the base should hold 1 quart of water per inch in tree trunk diameter.
Tip 9: Use a stand that fits your tree. Sounds obvious, but if you attempt to squeeze a larger tree into a too-small base it will die quicker. Whittling away around the edge of the trunk only opens up opportunities for infection, faster drying and reduces water uptake.
Tip 10: Monitor for freshness. Check your water daily to be sure your tree has enough to drink!
Tip 11: Reduce drying by using low heat lights, and be sure to turn them off when going to bed or leaving the house. The extra heat will dry out your tree faster.
Tip 12: Select a non-drop needle tree. Ignoring the obvious artificial tree, some trees drop less needles than others. Consider choosing a Nordmann Fir or Fraser Fir tree since they are known for excellent needle retention.