Tag Archives: Herbs

Mini Greenhouse: Using Roofing Panels to Warm the Soil

Using Fiberglass Roofing Panels to Create a Mini Greenhouse, Extend the Season or Warm the Soil

A few weeks back we had a spell of warmer weather and I waited till the end of it to attempt a sowing of pole beans. A couple weeks after the fact I decided to look for the seed as nothing was coming up. I dug around and found…nothing. The soil didn’t look disturbed so I’m not thinking it was birds. I’m guessing it was just too cool and wet and the seed rotted. When the weather gods predicted another bout of warm weather I was on it. It occurred to me that I could possibly get a jump on sowing if I could warm the soil. Remembering a mini greenhouse I used in gardens past I made a trip to the lumber yard and came home with an 8′ long roofing panel. Once upon a time these used to be made out of fiberglass and perhaps you can still find them but any I’ve found locally have been PVC or ‘polycarbonate’. I’m hoping they will work as well (and last as long) as the fiberglass panels used to. I’ve used them to extend either end of the growing season when just a few degrees can make all the difference. My hope in using them this time is that they will help to warm the soil a few degrees so that the bush beans I plan to plant there will have a better shot at germinating should the weather cool again (a very real possibility around here).

Shopping List

  • 1 clear or semi clear roofing panel. 26″ wide and the length of your choice. Mine was 8′ long
  • 4 1″x2″x16″ stakes per panel
  • length of wire or twine to secure the panel

Preparation and Installation

  1. Cut a 1/4″ notch into each of the stakes, a few inches from the top. This will insure that the wire or twine stays put. I cut my panel into 2 4′ sections but they can also be left whole.
  2. Once you decide where you want your panel to sit, drive two of the stakes into the ground approximately 6-12″ in from each end of one side of the panel.
    Drive two more stakes in 12″ from the first two. If two panels are being installed next to each other you can use 2 less stakes as the middle stakes can secure both panels (see image).
  3. Gently fold the panel into an upside down U shape and set it between the two stakes.
  4. Tie string or wire, crossing over the panels. Thats all there is to it!

Garden Happenings

Harvest

2 large bags filled with lettuce, kale and spinach
The Palco spinach is showing signs that it is about to bolt which necessitated harvesting that 1′ wide bed. Since I wanted the space on either side of it I decided to harvest one of the beds of the Mild Mesclun mix that was ready. I also harvested the rest of the red and butter lettuce from the bed next to the peas. I ended up with two large bags of green goodness, one filled with lettuce and the other with spinach and kale. Way more than we will ever eat I decided to fill some 1 gallon bags for the local food bank. I ended up getting 8 1 gallon bags in total. 3 spinach, 2 kale and 4 lettuce. 8 to go to Helpline and 1 bag of spinach for us.

Sowing

It may be too warm but I sowed two short rows of Renee’s Farmer’s Market Blend lettuce in the shade of the peas.

On the balcony I started a pot of SMR-58 cukes, Astia zucchini and another attempt at “Italian Pesto basil. ALL of the batch I started inside this spring ended up dying. Not sure if it was a rot or ? Need to investigate that.

Out with the Old

I really can’t be trusted when it comes to garden centers. I’m like an addict. Each visit I swear I don’t need any more plants or seeds and just about every week I find myself there looking for my next fix. Today I ended up with two horehounds plants and some California poppy, sweet pea and zinnia seeds. Ask me where I’m going to plant them. :-/

I had a big day planned in the garden today. The kale was coming out and some goodies were going in. The chard and kale that I started under lights back in March needed a spot. Finding somewhere to put them was no easy task. I ended up harvesting the rest of the overwintering Kale, digging in some peat moss and fertilizer before putting four of the chard in its place and another one elsewhere. I tucked the four kale in next to the chard. I had one left over of each but not where to put them. They are now on the table in the center of the garden waiting to be adopted. I spread some Sluggo around here and there. I was told that slugs love dahlias and mine are just now coming up. My first attempt at dahlias and I don’t want to lose them to the slimy ones. I ran across a huge ant while watering my bed post planting. Pretty sure it is a carpenter ant. Probably there to for the wooden rails that line the beds.

When I initially joined the garden, the routine was that for every plot you rented you grew a row in another plot for the local food bank. It worked that way for the first two years and was a great way to get fresh veggies onto the dinner plates of folks who might not otherwise be able to afford it. In addition to our rows, Anita managed several VERY large beds that grew pretty much everything. It was a TON of work I’m sure. Rarely was I at the garden that I didn’t see her watering, planting or fixing hoses. This year instead of growing a row we signup for one or two time slots a month to, weed, help work the food bank rows or whatever else needs to be done. They actually started this later last year and it seems to work really well. It helps to take some of the load off Anita and we get to be part of the process in the areas that really need the work. I’ve weeded, cut back raspberries, harvested blueberries, watered and planted corn. Today was my first day this season. After working in my own plots for a couple of hours I watered several very large (10’x50′) food bank beds. Everything is looking great. The plants all seem very happy.

At home it was time to plant some of the Tiny Tim and basket tomatoes I had started from seed. I ended up putting a couple of the basket tomatoes in a long planter that sits on the balcony railing. I added a couple of the variegated nasturtium seedlings too. Not sure how they will do but worth a shot.

Running out of Space

I’m typically much better in the planning department garden wise. I have a map and a schedule and while I don’t always follow it 100% I am pretty good about getting just about everything in and out if not on schedule pretty close to the plan. This year is totally different. No plan, barely a map and the garden is full well before I am ready to quit planting. Part of the problem was the many rows of garlic I planted last fall. Nobody needs that much garlic but like an addict needing a fix I just kept planting. Fortunately the kale isn’t long for being pulled. I picked one plant clean this weekend and will get to the other three as soon as we can eat what we have.

The leeks are about 5″ tall and went into the ground today. I planted about 30 for us and had barely made a dent in what had come up. I gave the extras to Anita, the owner of Rock Farm.

I accidentally demolished one of the rows of beets I planted last month. Large feet and not paying attention. Today I planted a 2 more rows of the cylindrical beets where the Roquette was. I noticed a few beets survived the winter as tiny seedlings and are sending up some seed pots. They are next to the ow kale and will come out as soon as I can get the kale picked and pulled.

I also scattered some dill in an 18″ circle. Last year I planted the dill with the nigella. Not a great idea as they look too much alike.

It looks like the birds have made off with the bulk of my peas. 3 seedlings have emerged and there are holes where the others should be. I replanted into some 4″ pots that I’ll keep on the deck till they get big enough to be able to fend for themselves.

The kale, chard and zinnias I started under lights were large enough to go into 4″ pots. The basil is suffering. Not sure what the problem is but it isn’t happy. The green onions were a bust too. I picked up some variegated nasturtiums and started 6 pods of them under lights.

Thyme/Time Enough

Thyme enough for food…My Nesco oven is on the back porch cooking a thyme roast. Mmmmm. I love thyme and it is so easy to grow. If you have never had thyme chicken you must try it. Just mix up some fresh or dried thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Loosen the skin of a chicken and stick the mixture under the skin. Broil or place on a rotisserie. One of our faves.

Time enough for work… The tomato fence has been repaired. The rogue maples and redbud saplings have been cut down. The containers are fertilized. The horseradish from Donna is in the ground. The yellow raspberry from Rita is in the ground. The spirea from Carol is in the ground. The volunteer grape toms have been moved to a new home. The rest of the garden has been mowed and the soaker hoses have been placed. The only thing left to do this weekend is bathe the dog.

Time enough for wine… The gooseberry wine I started a week ago went into the secondary and I started a batch of rice wine last night. Not saki, just rice wine. I’ve never tried this recipe before so we’ll see if it is any good. The recipe is basically brown rice and raisins. I added a banana peel from this mornings breakfast and replaced the juice of a lemon for the acid blend. Time will tell.

Time enough for rest… well, not quite yet.

Bag-o-basil

This will probably be the last big harvest of basil here. I say big but it is all relative right? This is a 3 gallon bucket of basil I picked this morning. I’ve been picking off of 3 plants of sweet basil this summer and 1 plant of purple ruffles. Generally I would cut the plants back drastically when I started to see the flower heads forming. I made sure to leave a couple of sets of leaves each time and the plants rewarded me with even more growth. As a rule I give them a shot of fertilizer right after harvest. If the weather holds out this fall I may get another small cutting. This year the plants were grown in containers, two with my grape tomato plant in a half barrel and the other two in another large planter. They have done better than in previous years probably because they are easily accessable and I can see them when I water which means they are more apt to get what they need when they need it and are harvested promptly. I think next year I will double the number of plants in containers.

bucket-o-basil

The leaves were brought inside and cleaned off. I don’t spray them with anything so generally I just give them a good shaking just in case there are hitchhikers. Any chewed or touch older leaves go into the compost pile. I may or may not remove the leaf rib. If the leaf tends to tear away from the rib it is removed if it all comes off in one piece i pinch the leaf stem back to the beginning of the leaf blade. The pile of leaves and tips is then run through the food processor to chop fine. I add some olive oil to the chopped leaves and scoop it into a freezer bag. The 3 gallon bucket yielded a quart sized bag of basil about 1/4″ thick. This goes into the freezer and I pinch off what I need.

A New Freezer

A couple of weeks ago I went to get something out of the almost 20 year old chest freezer for dinner. As soon as I opened the lid it collapsed and a bunch of water poured out. What I had not realized was that the small cracks that had developed on the underside of the lid (in the plastic) had allowed condensation to gather in the insulation of the lid. Over time the water gathered and the weight proved too much. Oddly enough I had been recently thinking that the old freezer probably should be replaced before too long. That is what I get for thinking I suppose. Being a little nervous about the mixture of water, electricity and the outer metal casing I started looking for a replacement freezer. This time, I wanted an upright. I’m not getting any younger and I am tired of losing items in the bottom of the chest freezer only to be found on the next defrosting. A frost free was desired but wasn’t a deal breaker. I did however, have to have a hight temp alarm and wanted a door alarm too. I had heard way too many stories about upright doors left open.

In a couple of days I had located the unit I wanted, a 14 cf Frigidaire online. I started making phone calls only to discover that apparently these freezers only exist in theory because they were nowhere to be found locally. Gardening season is my guess. T and I discussed it and we decided to go ahead and get a size larger for a little more. It had the alarms I wanted, was frost free, was a little shallower ( a good thing where it has to sit) and had an extra shelf that the 14cf didn’t. Only problem was it wasn’t at the Lowes nearby. They checked and a store about 15 miles away had one. We were off.

Once I decide I want something I have already had to wait too long. Also, I am too cheap to pay someone else for something I can do myself so we picked it up at the store. It took two of us and a dolly to get it up the 4 steps and into the house which went off without a hitch. Thank God we don’t live on the second floor though. When I started removing the box I realized that the freezer we had looked like it had fallen off a truck somewhere or that something reeeeallly heavy had sat on it as the sides and handle were buckled. So… the next morning it went back on the truck and back to the store. They had one more unit so I requested, (insisted) they remove the box for inspection before we left the store. Everything looked good and the swap only took a few minutes.

Back home, back up the four steps and into the house. At this point there was no more freezer moving in me. I decided that if we plugged this one in and it didn’t work they would have to come and get it. Fortunately it works great and I am loving it. I cleaned out the old freezer and found stuff in there I had long forgotten even existed. Needless to say I am trying to be a bit more organized in the new one. I repurposed the baskets from the old freezer and as soon as I get a cabinet to go in its place it will either go to the trash or to freecycle. I suppose if someone was creative they could replace the inner lid with a piece of plexiglass and some new insulation. It does still freeze.

The rest of the week I spent cooking and canning. I made 6 lasagnas and froze 5. Made some meatloaf, canned 7 qts and 30 pints of tomatoes, made 10 pints of mixed berry pancake syrup and harvested the dill seed. I left a lot of seed on the plants to fall and reseed the spot so I would have dill next year. All in all a very productive week.

Basil

This morning’s basil harvest includes, Sweet, Purple Ruffles and an unknown miniature variety. After cleaning, this batch will be chopped and enough olive oil added to coat well. It will then go into the freezer for several future batches of pasta salad.

Berry Good

I often get up long before I have to start getting ready for work to browse the garden. The morning is cool and the birds are out in full chorus. I do the container watering at this time, harvest what I can and just enjoy the morning. This morning on my rounds I came up with some of the early raspberries, the first couple of blackberries, a couple of handfuls of blueberries, currants, the first of the gooseberries and the last of the strawberries. What an awesome breakfast!

The dill is just getting large enough to take a small harvest. This batch went into a couple of small paper bags to dry. The bags will get a shake once or twice a day to insure even drying.

Volunteer Army

Dill is classified as an annual but it is one of those annuals that will come back indefinitely if given the chance. These seedlings are from some dill I planted here last year. My goal is to establish it here so as not to have to reseed it. By leaving at least some of the seed heads on to drop seeds at the end of the season I will be assured a perennial dill patch.

Volunteer Stevia

Woo hoo my lucky day. I found 2 volutneer Stevia plants about 10 inches tall. I had grown some there last year and let them go to seed. Its funny, when I was weeding the bed a while back I noticed this clump of stuff coming up. I didn’t pull it because I thought it looked familiar but couldn’t remember what it was. I figured I’d give it a while to grow and see if I recognized it. Glad I didn’t pull it. Just now I was pulling weeds and found a second plant that I had missed earlier. Too cool.

Stevia is a natural sweetener that is supposed to be tolerated by diabetics without causing fluctuation in blood sugar levels. It has been used in South America for centuries and in the last couple of years has been gaining popularity here in the US. I’ve grown it a couple of times. Its very easy to do. It likes part sun to full sun and needs to stay moist. I have mine where they get about 4 hours of sun per day. Harvest before they go to seed if you want the leaves. I pinch mine back throughout the season to get some leaves for my tea and encourage branching. Usually I’ll go out and gather a handfull of mint leaves and a few Stevia leaves and I am set for a nice cup of tea. If I am in need of relaxing I might add a few catnip leaves to the mix.

by: kerry