The Four Seasons of Greenhouse Gardening

Keeping your green thumb busy all year is possible with the help of a greenhouse. Spring time may be the most exciting gardening part of the year with Mother Nature kicking into high gear, but tricking or working with the change of seasons can yield a bounty of produce for the table with the application of a few simple greenhouse techniques.

You may be green to greenhouse gardening but there is no reason to be green about how to best enjoy their delights! An important first step is to plan ahead and know harvesting as well as planting times. Let’s peep inside the greenhouse seasons and see how this can be achieved by the hobbyist gardener.

Steamy Summers

The summer weather is perfect for growing the heat loving veggies such as cucumbers, peppers, melons (take a lot of space), and tomatoes. But the greenhouse can become too hot for comfort for the sun seekers such as the herb brigade of basil, dill, parsley, cilantro, and the fruit and veg contingent.

When temperatures climb high in the day, above 90°F for example, damage to fruit can occur. Pollination can also be negatively affected by too much heat.

Defeat the heat by adding shades or blinds, passive and mechanical ventilation and keep the greenhouse humid by damping down the floors and surfaces with water from a hose.

It is essential to also avoid water stress to the plants you are nurturing. Regular small amounts of water should be fed to the plants themselves but keeping the greenhouse humid with a humidifier unit or frequent manual watering down of the space will significantly help the plants thrive. The more humid the environment the better you limit the amount of water that is evaporating from the leaves of the plants which will help mitigate any wilting or burning of the leaves. This is essential in the care of young plants who are more fragile and thus more susceptible to big variances in temperature or extremely high temperatures.

Different plants prefer different watering techniques, so if you aren’t certain of what prefers what it is well worth investing some time to learn about plants that prefer wet leaves, dry leaves, root watering etc. Don’t forget to fertilize the soil, attend to its looseness or mulching capacities too and of course be on the lookout for annoying visitors like aphids and red mite spiders. It pays to know your bugs and be vigilant when it comes to protecting your hard work from invasion.

Many plants can be started outside in the garden in Spring and then brought inside during summer months to bring them into fruit production more readily and increase the yield. Strawberries and salad greens are two examples of produce than can be brought along quickly and efficiently inside the greenhouse.

Delights for the summer dining table include mocktails and cocktails made with muddled mint and lemonades, oregano plants to dress the center of the table and mitigate the attention to the space of pesky flying and biting insects such as mosquitoes, and cool refreshing cucumber and cantaloupe soups to ramp up the health of the diners without filling them before the main course. Dips for fresh bread and crackers made from dill and cilantro or parsley chimichurri’s on a grilled protein add a fabulous touch of flavor and visual appeal to the fare.

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Don’t Fail to Find Fall Favorites

 Don’t get yourself in a pickle about pickling. The method of making jams from the fruit harvest, chutneys from a balance of fruit and veggies and an array of pickled peppers that any Peter Piper would enjoy are all simple tasks that can be quickly learned and implemented to salvage large quantities of left-over summer produce and provide something for the Fall feasting season that includes Thanksgiving.

Cooking and canning, pickling and preservation methods do require some safety measures to ensure the seal on mason or other style jars are properly executed.

Aside from banking all the produce you can from the garden before a deep freeze occurs the Autumn offers the opportunity to get set up for winter produce by seeding plants for their wintertime inside. The greenhouse offers the ability to provide a consistent temperature haven for the plants, but you don’t want to be switching temperatures back and forth during winter so seek to grow produce or flowers that like similar conditions.

If you live in a region where winter temperatures dip below freezing and you don’t want to have to heat your greenhouse too much in winter then think about planting produce that likes cooler temperatures such as kale, lettuce, collards, and onions and certain herbs. You can also use the greenhouse to accelerate the growing time of early maturing veggies likes radishes, chives and onions.

Consider the length of growing season the vegetables will need and the amount of space they are likely to require before planting out longer maturing delights such as beets, carrots, leeks and cabbage.

The Winter Challenge

The greenhouse is a great environment to grow tomatoes for winter harvest if you have the money to spend on keeping the greenhouse sufficiently heated and adding grow lights to lengthen the daylight hours the plants will need. Most climates across the U.S.A. will dictate that some form of heat and light source is needed for greenhouse growing through winter.

This can get expensive fast if not properly managed.

Greenhouse techniques to minimize the spending on keeping it sufficiently heated include adding bales of straw around the base of the greenhouse. Packed tightly together a low hay or straw wall can protect the greenhouse from wind and snow while still allowing the light to enter the greenhouse from above.

Remember that plants need heat and humidity to thrive. But plants won’t be the only thing that enjoy the cozy environment inside the greenhouse, so will plant diseases and pests. It’s a good idea to provide some system of air ventilation and plant some marigolds between produce to repel insects or purchase ladybugs to release in your greenhouse to help protect the crop.

On a sunny day the temperature inside your greenhouse may be high enough to be detrimental to winter vegetables. This is easily resolved using a fan or by simply opening the doors.

You can help keep the temperatures inside your greenhouse equitable between day and night using a water barrel. This is a common practice and very effective method of mitigating the risk of high variances in temperature inside the greenhouse, regardless of whether your greenhouses is sided with plastic, glass or polycarbonate. The latter material has the added benefit of providing 100% protection against ultra-violet rays.

Flowers and house plants can also be grown throughout the seasons in the greenhouse and there is nothing better than being able to decorate your holiday tablescape with fresh greenery and colorful blooms you have harvested from your own backyard. Popular winter flowering plants include Amaryllis (from bulbs), orchids, gladioluses, pansies, lilies, and impatiens. For flower lovers check this Chicago gardener’s blog out for help.

Spring Will Spring

Every gardener loves the advent of Spring. Preparation for Spring greenhouse growing should start late winter and the plants from the previous season should be harvested and pots and beds cleared out and prepared for what is to come.

The advantage of the greenhouse in Spring is clearly the early start that vegetables can be given in their growth cycle. To germinate seeds, you’ll need interior temperatures to be in the 70°F to 80°F range. There is a huge range of options for the early Spring season seedlings, peas, broccoli, Swiss chard, garlic to name but a few.

Enjoy this great resource on what fruits, vegetables and flowers to start and how from The English Garden.

Take Home Message

As with many things in life with a little thought and planning there are many rewards to be enjoyed throughout the seasons, and gardening delights bought to the table or household décor are one of them. Long winter nights sat by the fireside reading seed catalogs are fun but being able to get outside and still play with your garden in a greenhouse can provide some relief and gives you a head start on the growing season. Don’t be shy to take your greenhouse all season. It’ll keep you entertained and fingers in the soil, and all of us gardeners love that!