Checking in on the greenhouse plants

Last winter was the first year for my temporary greenhouse, and I was out there almost every day checking the temperature, seeing how the bamboos were doing, and just enjoying all of the green during the blah days of winter. I'm not sure what's different this year -- maybe the novelty of having a plastic sheeted refuge from the cold has worn off, maybe I'm too busy with other things, or maybe since the bamboo in the yard is larger this year I've got enough green to look at -- whatever the reason I haven't been going out to the greenhouse very much this year.

In fact, I think I've only been out there one time since moving the plants into it, and that was to check for leaks and to add some magnets to flaps on the roof (to keep the wind from lifting the flaps). So this weekend I decided to go out there and see how everything was doing.


The other day my wife said to me "the greenhouse looks a lot better than it did last year".

It's not really a thing of beauty but I had to agree with her, and it's held up quite nicely to the wind, rainstorms, and snow we've had so far this year (last year's design dismantled itself in the wind and I had to redesign on the fly, resulting in a not so attractive structure).

The only drawback to this year's design is the lack of a good door:

this is the door.

here's another look.

That's pretty much it, a wall-length flap held closed by bricks. Maybe that's another reason I'm not coming out here very much -- too hard to get in! Anyway, the bamboos near the greenhouse are doing pretty well, with only minor signs of cold damage:

Inside the plants are doing great, as expected:

Since this is an unheated greenhouse, it still gets cold in here. Cold enough that some plants (like this maypop) have suffered some damage:

This other one looks pretty good though, considering it's supposed to die back to the ground in the winter here:

I can't remember if this bamboo started looking like this before I moved it in here, or if it's a recent change:

In either case the plant will most likely be fine, sending up new shoots and leafing out again when it warms up.

This garbage can full of water is the only heat source in here:

It absorbs the heat from the sun during the day, then releases that heat into the greenhouse during the night. It's a time-proven, simple, and cheap way to help keep the interior a bit warmer than outside. Our recent heatwave has melted all but a thin layer of ice, although I expect this will freeze quite a bit later this winter.

The open container of water also provides plenty of moisture to the air, which is something the plants love:

It's not so great when you accidentally brush the roof with your head and get some icy sprinkles down your back, or all over your camera. I'm glad to see it though -- it means there are no major air leaks in here and I won't have to worry about watering the plants.

I think I noticed a couple of new shoots on some of the bamboos, and now I'll have to check on them every couple of days or so. I can't resist the power of bamboo shoots -- I must watch their progress so closely. It's almost an obsession. So I'll be out here a lot more often now... least until I start some seeds inside.

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Steve Lau  – (January 5, 2011 at 6:33 PM)  

It takes some pretty severe temperatures to really drop a greenhouse with a heat sink to extreme temperatures. I've only checked mine once in the last 2 months during the warmup just to find everything doing fine. The only problem is that some of the more root-bound plants dry up pretty quickly and those need a quick sprinkle.

Alan  – (January 5, 2011 at 8:37 PM)  

Last year we had those severe temps, as I remember the garbage can frozen at least 50%, maybe more. Hopefully we will avoid that this year.

Unknown  – (January 5, 2011 at 10:17 PM)  

I love the idea of the garbage can full of water--why didn't I ever learn that trick? Thanks for sharing! I just took a huge leap of faith and ordered a commercial greenhouse--smallish for commercial (12 x 20), but definitely large for our little suburban microfarm. I'm slightly hyperventilating but know it's necessary for my business. I have one good greenhouse, but my other two cheapies bit the dust with our two inches of Christmas snow--the first white Christmas in SC since 1963...and my cheapie greenhouses collapsed. Thankfully, I didn't have seedlings in them yet. What seeds will you be growing? Are you drooling over the seed catalogs yet?

Alan  – (January 6, 2011 at 7:55 AM)  

Julie - I'd love to have a "permanent" greenhouse of some kind, and 12 x 20 sounds HUGE. =) I haven't decided what seeds to start yet, except I know I'll start a few cardoon (those will be the first) and probably some more echinacea. I haven't decided yet if I'll grow all of the veggies from seed or buy starts. I've got a little time to decide still.

And I'm not so much drooling over the catalogs as tripping over them, although there are less this year since it's been a couple of years since I ordered from them.

Steve Lau  – (January 14, 2011 at 5:35 PM)  

Checked my greenhouse today and I found that the more root-bound plants have used up most of their water so I had to water them manually since the hose was under 1ft of snow. Despite no leaf growth, I think they're still growing in there perhaps in root mass.

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