It’s mid September and most of the greenhouse starts have gone out into the garden to thrive in the cooler fall weather. There are still several weeks of growing season left before our first frosts in November. The greenhouse is warm, creating a thriving environment for plants who seek tropical weather. That’s the whole point of a greenhouse right? Well, the greenhouse also controls rain and moisture, two things that could greatly reduce production of many hot weather crops like okra and tomatos. Where the outside plants that are exposed to the elements have already begun to wind down, the plants still inside the greenhouse are growing and blossoming without hesitation.
The tomato jungle in one corner dominates the space with a mass of green, heavy with fruit that has yet to fully ripen. These tomato plants are also of a particular variety which grows continuously until killed by frost. This indeterminate gene offers a longer lifespan and production to the plant, as long as it is kept warm enough and offered light. The other common verities of tomato are determinate, or bush tomatoes. Now that I’ve been properly introduced to indeterminate species, I will be focusing on them in my greenhouse next year, making sure to position them on the north side of the greenhouse wall so as not to block the southern sun from the other plants. This tangled mass of fabulous fruit production is on the south-west side of the building right now, and as the vines grow up higher and higher, shade continues to block out the north-west corner of the room, where I have now piled my empty planters and pots.
The greenhouse has been a wonderful place to experiment with seed germinating, and I am happy to say that I’ve successfully grown a few temperamental plants, which are often difficult to manage from seed. I coaxed basil, rosemary, and even some oregano out of the soil. Okra was also a marginal success, considering the Pacific Northwest summer climate can often be cool and damp, which is not friendly to southern crops at all. I’ve got enough okra at this point to have one meal of my most favorite vegetable on earth. Though it will be a special treat to eat home grown okra this year, I will not be trying this again, as there are so many better crops to choose from for production, and still more to try out in the greenhouse next year.
Right now, the greenhouse is getting a clean out to make space for fall planting. Lettuce, beets, and kale are being sewn into larger pots with plenty of soil to protect against frost. The greenhouse should offer enough protection through November, but the winters here are sometimes unpredictable, and a week or two of teen temperatures would make my non-heated greenhouse impossible to harbor anything but the most hardy winter plants. This will be a time of more observation and note taking for the coming year as I learn what can best grow in these conditions through the colder months. Cold frames and cloches in the kitchen and front yard garden will also offer hospitable growing conditions to more winter greens, and I hope to glean at least a few salads of freshness through the winter. Stay tuned!