Tag Archives: Kale

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.

Long Division and the Great Potato Experiment of 2016

My garden is exactly 10’x20′ in size, 2 plots in the local community garden.  Each bed in  the garden is about 10’x50′-60′ (Can’t remember which it is now but you get the idea.) and contains 5 or 6 10′ long plots.  The long sides of most of the beds are walled in with 2″x12″ boards and the ends are open.  My 10×20 is a fraction of the approx 40’x60′ garden I left in Southern Kentucky but plenty for my wants, needs and amount of free time.  The small size means every square inch counts and that I have to be selective about who gets a spot to put down roots.  Each individual gardener has the ability to amend our spots to our hearts content and as such, some plots end up being taller than the plot next door. This means that 6-8″ on the end of the taller plot is pretty much unusable as water just runs off to the lower beds.  This happens again at the end of the bed where my plot is. This year some of the gardeners have added divider boards and end boards to their plots.  By capping it off on either end that last 6-8″ is usable.  Anita was nice enough to pick up a couple of boards for me as our car is too small to carry much of anything over 6′ long.  It was raining when I arrived at the garden this morning.  Not a hard rain but the gentle rain so common in our area.  Historically I would not garden in the rain but I only get two days off every week and I have to take the time I get.  It didn’t take long to trench out the area for the boards using the narrow hoe.  After all was said and done I figure I’ve gained about 10 square feet at 6″ x 10′ x 2 sides.   I pulled some of the volunteer nasturtiums that were growing in the walkway and tucked them in along the inside of the middle board.  They will look nice spilling over the board later this summer.

The potatoes I planted 41 days ago in 8″ deep trenches are looking AWESOME! The trenches have been filled as the plants grew and they are looking very lush. That being said, if I had it to do over I would have planted them in large containers like the guy over at the Allotment Diary in the UK.  I stumbled upon his video about growing potatoes in containers and will definitely go that route next year if I grow them again. The growing part isn’t what makes containers great, it is the harvesting part. From what I’ve read and been told, harvesting potatoes without cutting into some of them and/or leaving some behind to sprout next year is problematic.  Dan, Mr Allotment Gardener, plants potatoes deep in containers, the way I did in the trenches, filling with compost as they grow. The containers are partially buried in the garden early on so the roots can grow though into the soil below for nutrients and moisture leaving the potatoes to develop in the containers.  Harvesting consists of dumping the entire container onto a tarp and fishing out the little bundles of starchy goodness.  His most recent video shows him harvesting new potatoes from plants in small pots he started 2 months ago. A much easier task when they are grown in containers. If you have any interest in potato growing check him out. I think the environment in his part of the UK is similar to ours here in the PNW.

greens

In other happenings, The lettuce is LOVING the wet and cool weather we have been having. Today after getting the boards in, I harvested red, green and oak leaf lettuce as well as a mess of some mixed kale like greens. The Palco spinach is ready to go but my bag was full. Perhaps tomorrow. Again this year I was reminded that there is really not much to gain by using lettuce transplants. The beds I direct seeded have caught up to the bed with the transplants. I should save my money but I get so impatient in the early spring and want to se SOMETHING green. I had planned to seed some zucchini this weekend but not sure it will like the 50+ degree days we’ve been having. I suppose I could start it under lights inside. There isn’t much of a rush though as I’m not really sure where I’ll stick it yet. I had originally thought it would go where the kale was but I put the chard there. Decisions…decisions.

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.

Spring has Sprung

Last year was so hot, watering was pretty much a daily event in the raised beds and Rockfarm. This year many of us are adding some peat moss in hopes of a bit more water retention on those hot days. Hopefully it won’t retain too much water if we have a wetter growing season.

Impatient for some lettuce, I picked up a couple of packs of lettuce from the local garden supply. I opted for a variety of red, green and speckeled. In addition to the lettuce I picked up a 4″ pot of Sorrell. It has a nice lemony flavor and the young leaves are a great addition to salad. Its a perennial so it will be around for some time…I hope.

A half row of peas went in on the end where the garlic was last year. Some folks are adding boards at the end of their plots to hold the soil in. I think I will too.

The spinach I planted last month doesn’t seem to be doing much so I put in another 1’x5′ section of Palco. This variety didn’t bolt as soon as bloomsdale did last year. The leaves are larger and paler than Bloomsdale. They stay tender and tasty even when they get large.

Potatoes were never something I could grow in Kentucky without using boatloads of poison. The colorado potato beetle decimated the crop both years I attempted to grow them. I even tried the Bt that was supposed to work on CPB to no avail. Now this was a number of years back so perhaps things have improved since then. Here at Rockfarm in WA the potatoes I’ve seen growing seem to be doing fabulous so I thought I’d give them another shot. I opted for some Russian Banana fingerling potatoes. I decided to dig a couple of ditches, plant them deep and replace the soil from the trench as they grow. Since potatoes are formed along the stems planting them deep is the way to go.

I ended up pulling the Roquette. It was too bitter for my liking. As with the greens from last year I dug it into the soil and will plant over it later.

The cutting lettuce and mesclun blend I planted last month are coming up nicely. We had a couple of hard rains not long after I seeded the two 1’x5′ beds and I was worried the seed would all be washed to one side of the bed. It appears there was a little condensing of the bed but not too much.

The overwintering kale has shot up and will be ready for a picking soon. This year I want to get it out sooner. Last year I let it go to flower in hopes of getting more leaves and all I ended up with was more flowers. :-/

As expected the Arugula has made itself at home. The few plants I put in the ground last year has reseeded into a thick mat of seedlings. I’ll have quite a harvest in the coming weeks.

Dirty Knees and a New Toy

Today was my first REAL day in the garden. The rain had finally stopped long enough to dry things out enough to get down to business. I planted some “Palco Spinach” next to the overwintered Kale. Some ‘Cut and Come Again Lettuces aka Renee’s Baby Leaf Blend” went in between a couple of rows of garlic. I opted for two types of beans this year. Today I planted a single 5’ row of the long cylindrical beet and two rows of “Red Baron Dutch Beets”. I don’t know what makes them Dutch beets or if that really means anything. I picked these two varieties because they were among the offerings at the local garden shop and their days to maturity were 10 days apart.

On the ‘because one can’t have too many greens’ front I planted a mild mesclun blend. It is in Territorial Seeds ‘Groumet Greens’ group. We shall see. The greens I planted last fall were a bust. Too late I suppose. My goal was to cover them and tend them through the fall. Life had other plans and they were left on their own. Perhaps this year.

The mystery greens I discovered in late Jan are going to town and have been identified. I looked back through my photos and notes to discover that I planted Roquette in that spot in early October. Looks like they are probably going to go to seed. If the arugula that went to seed last year has its way I’ll have enough of that in a while to furnish all of Kitsap County.

2' Grow light In the name of getting the starts I really want when I want them I purchased a small 2′ grow light. Living in a condo I don’t have NEARLY the room I had in my last place. There I had a double 4′ light in the basement where I could start to my heart’s content. Now I have to find a corner (on the office floor) to place a small light that will allow me to start some hard to find (and not so hard to find) goodies for the coming season. I eneded up choosing this unit. I ended up getting two 1′ square flats with the little peat pods rather than a 1’x2′ flat. This way the shorter starts can be lifted a bit to raise them to the same height as the taller ones if need be. My first seeding was a row of each “Litt’l Bites Windowbox Cherry Toms”, “Persian Carpet Butterfly Zinnias”, “Bandit? Bunching Onions”, “Italian Pesto Basil”, “Bright Lights Rainbow Chard” and some more “Russian Red Kale”.

Another Year Begins

Last year I missed the leeks at the garden center so I decided to seed some leeks rather than try to buy some starts. I used one of those plastic salad containers that you get greens in. They have a lid and are about 6″x8″ and about 4-6″ deep. I’ll kept them in front of the sliding glass door where they will get bright but indirect light for the most part until they sprout.

January has been a dark, cold and wet month. Today was my first trip to the garden this year. No real work today, still recovering from surgery in late Dec., this was an ‘OMG I have to get out of the house lets go to the garden’ trip.

The garlic is up about 4-6 inches and looks good considering. I ended up losing all but a couple of the green onions and half of the shallots which was disappointing. The Egyptian Walkers seem to have made it though.

There are 4 or 5 Russian kale plants from last fall that seem to be doing well. We found clubroot not far from where they are planted so how they will do remains to be seen. A couple of the curly leaved variety are laying over and not looking very well. I’ll probably end up removing them during my first real work trip.

I seeded some greens last fall that didn’t end up making a showing but are up now. I’ll have to look back at what they were.

I ended up pulling the overwintered carrots. Very chewed up with root maggot I suppose. I think carrots are one of those ‘more trouble than they are worth’ here. I suppose I could cover them but it never seems to happen.

The horseradish I planted in the sunken clay pot is poking up. Darn, I had hoped to get it dug before it started growing again. I pulled the pot to take it home to deal with later.

All in all it was a great trip. If nothing else a learning experience. It was nice to get in the fresh air and get my hands dirty if only for a little bit.

Cleanup

Today saw the bulk of the cleanup for this year. The zucchini and cucumbers came out as did one of the two half rows of carrots and the hybrid kale+whoknowswhat I planted this Spring. That was a disappointment. The leaves were a bit too thick for my taste and the flavor wasn’t great.

I ended up leaving a a few kale as this will be the last year I’ll be able to grow them. I also left the Helda beans as they have slowed dramatically but are still putting out beans. I stopped by the farmer’s market to pickup another head of garlic. Was hoping for Inchelium but found a huge head of Lorz Italian I’ll try this year. The green onions are doing great. I had started another batch about a month ago and those are very small but doing well too. They may end up going under cover later.

During cleanup I found a lone little lettuce seedling with about four leaves. I transplanted him to an empty spot where I had buried some refuse a few weeks back.

I didn’t take a pic of the garden after cleanup as it isn’t quite done. Instead I’ll add a sunrise pic I took on the morning commute.

Lessons Learned: 1. Just because a seed pack says great for containers doesn’t mean it won’t get large. Not sure the size of container they had in mind for those cukes. 2. Planting 3 zucchini plants in a hill for 2 people is too much. Go with 2 next time. 3. Carrots should probably be grown under cover here.

Harvest

The broccoli almost as tall as I am.
The broccoli almost as tall as I am.

Returned from vacation yesterday to a garden ready to harvest.  The overwintering broccoli is almost as tall as I am and was full of little purple shoots just prior to the pic.  I’ve been harvesting on these three since last month.  The flavor is a little peppery when raw but not so much when cooked.  The color doesn’t really remain when cooking.

Bloomsdale and Palco spinach
Bloomsdale (left) and Palco (right)

The lettuce is beautiful as is the spinach and overwintered kale.  I harvested all three today.    I had attempted to harvest a couple of heads of Red Sails lettuce, roots attached, before leaving for vacation on the 8th.  These were bagged and left in the fridge.  I returned home to find they had wilted and were a total loss.  I would have been better just to leave them in the ground it seems.  I was concerned the heat we had been having might cause them to bolt but upon returning they were beautiful with no hint of bitterness.  Two plantings of lettuce were ready to harvest.  A couple of more heads of Red Sails and also the lettuce mix.  The latter is a cut-and-come-again type that will keep providing leaves when you give the plants a ‘haircut’.  I scattered the seed in a 1′ x 5′ area and it is thick and lush right now.

Dill
Dill

The Bloomsdale spinach that was planted back in early Feb was harvested and the plants pulled as they were just starting to bolt.  I will Nigella flowers in the empty spot once I get some seed.  I had attempted to plant some with the dill back in March but they have been choked out by some very healthy looking dill.

I seeded the zucchini a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. I couldn’t stand seeing the bare ground any longer.

Pea Trellis & Plans Gone Awry

The garden isn’t called Rock farm for no reason.  The beds are raised and bed rock is about a foot down, less in some spots.  This can make putting up posts for a pea or bean trellis somewhat of a challenge.  I left the posts in place from last year’s early peas but I’m still harvesting last years fall broccoli that is growing between them now.  They will hold the netting for pole beans later on.  The short row of peas needed its own posts.  I picked up a couple of small t-posts for that and hooked a 3/8″ green landscape bar across the top to hold the netting.  Pretty sure I got them in the ground far enough to hold.  The trickiest part was getting the netting on the top bar and attached to the side.  Tricky but I did prevail.

I had to pull all of the cauliflower and the single perennial kale today.  Something had gotten to the roots (root maggots?) so that meant digging out the soil in the area surrounding each plant for disposal.   My guess is that since they were planted so early, before anyone else had anything in the ground, the adults that were out looking for a good place to start a family all ended up there.   I put some Lisbon White Bunching green onion starts I picked up at Bainbridge Gardens .  I also put 8 Aspabroc “Baby Broccoli” in the Pak Choy bed.  This was sold as a ‘natural broccoli/asparagus’ hybrid aka broccolini.  We shall see.

I also found an ‘Egyptian Walking Onion’ at BG.  I used to grow those back in KY so I picked one up and tucked it in a corner of the garden.

I laid a perimeter of sluggo. and will probably go back tonight to plant a couple of short rows bush beans.  The plan calls for zucchini but I am not sure it has warmed up enough for that.  I’m thinking I’ll swap the two on the plan.  I haven’t been adhering to the garden plan 100%.  Still learning and adapting as I go along.

April’s Lessons Learned: Do not start brassica from seed too early. They may bolt.  Being the first to plant means the bugs will be in your bed first.

by: kerry