So I have this new small greenhouse, and now I have room for about 32 trays of plant starts instead of the 12 that I could fit in when I was using only lights in my basement.   Maybe I should have just bought more lights.  Check out the photo below.

5 trays of zinnias

5 trays of zinnias

The front-most tray has Benary’s orange zinnias.  The next three back are Benary’s scarlet, mix, and yellow zinnias.  The back-most tray has Oklahoma mix zinnias.    They were all planted at the same time, but when I moved the zinnias to the greenhouse, the orange ones got left under the lights because there wasn’t room in the greenhouse.  Look at them now.

In my previous state of ignorance, I would have expected just the opposite, thinking the zinnias would just love the greenhouse and the ones left behind would sulk and fail to thrive.  Nope.

As I mentioned two posts ago, I’ve had trouble keeping the greenhouse from heating up into the 90s (F), whereas the basement is a pretty constant 70F.  I suppose that must account for the difference.    Unless Benary’s orange are gigantic compared to the other colors.   I kinda doubt that.

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I’ve found that the hardest thing about my small greenhouse is keeping it from getting too hot inside.  Even with the end door open, it is often 80 – 90 F inside on a sunny day, which is way too hot for the seedlings I am trying to raise in there.  I made a simple vent out of a couple of scrap 3/4 inch pine boards that I sawed into narrow strips and screwed together along with a spare piece of greenhouse film.

Basically, it is made of just two rectangular frames, one frame an inch bigger on both sides so it can fit around the smaller one.  The bigger frame is covered in plastic.

Frame has been screwed down.

Frame has been screwed down.

The small frame was screwed down to the greenhouse frames on top of the plastic film.  The film was then cut, wrapped around the sides of the frame and stapled.

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The bigger frame just sits on top of the smaller one.  There are no hinges.  I just lift it off and slide it in through the opening on sunny days.  I will probably need to hold it down somehow, maybe with a bungee, but that hasn’t happened yet.

The top frame with plastic

The top frame with plastic

Finished

Finished

There are lots of happy plants in the green house now, and a few …  ehhhhh, not so much.  My purple majesty millet is getting pretty big, but I think it needs a little somethin’.  A lot of its leaves are pretty pale looking.  I gave one tray a quart of diluted fish emulsion for a perker-upper to see what happens.  Jeeze, is that nasty-looking stuff.  I had a septic tank pumped out once and the resemblance is strong.

Getting kind of full in here

Getting kind of full in here

I’m also having an issue with my digitalis.  Some of the seedlings are scrawny and struggling, with pale leaves and green veins.  I sought some help with this and my problem may be (1) It’s too hot for them in the greenhouse (2) They are lacking iron (3) I’ve kept them too waterlogged and the little beggars are drowning (4) Some combo of one through three, or (5) Something else.  I gave them a shot of iron, and am trying to keep them cooler and dryer.  So far most of them still look like little sad sacks, though one is quite big and healthy-looking.  Odd, huh?

How nice that it is good and truly spring now in the north country.

Now, two weeks later, there really is some green to look at.  You can see spinach in the bucket along with digitalis camelot, knautia, blue bedder salvia, and dianthus amazon in the trays.

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I have to confess that I’m really growing these under lights inside, except for the spinach, and just bringing them out in the greenhouse for short periods of time.  We are still having nights in the 20s and I can’t trust my water buckets to keep it from freezing in there.  According to the maximum/minimum thermometer I have in the greenhouse, it has gone down to 30 right on top of the buckets a couple of times.  I believe that the water in the buckets is just not getting very warm during the day.  I could add a little heater at night.  I’ll have to do something soon, since, as of today, I have twelve flats of plants started, which uses all the room I have under the lights.

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Two trays so far

Two trays so far

There are twenty-two 5-gallon water-filled pails wrapped in garbage bags to act as heat collectors.  Thanks to Nell for the garbage bag idea.  It’s 45 F outside right now and brightly sunny.   I have the top half of the outside door open , and it’s still 90 F inside the greenhouse at shelf level.  The tray on the floor has dianthus seeds planted and the soil temp in it is about 70 F, which is a little warm for those seeds according to what I have read, but what can I do?   I guess I could set the tray out in the snow.

The tray on top of the buckets on the right has some foxglove seedlings that are close to two weeks old.  I have them under the shelf to shield them from the sun a bit, as I started the little guys under lights and they are probably pretty tender.  In fact, I should probably go move them back inside.  Hold on a minute, OK? …

I’m back now.  Here’s what they look like.

Digitalis Camelot

Digitalis Camelot

I also have a few spinach plants growing in a bucket to see if we can get some early greens to put in our salads.  They’re also about two weeks old.

Spinach

Spinach

It may be only a start, but after a long cold winter it feels great to have green plants again, not to mention ninety degrees.

Winter blew in about three weeks early this year.  At first I thought Mother Nature was just teasing us, as she likes to do in November with some here-this-week-and-gone-the-next snow, but no, she meant business this time — lots of snow and shiver-me-timbers cold.

With no sun to speak of, I haven’t tried growing anything in the greenhouse yet.  There is one forlorn little left over campanula just sitting on the shelf awaiting it’s fate.  We’ll see what happens to it.

There really is a little plant in the tray.

There really is a little plant in the tray.

It’s been a little bit surprising to see that, even on cloudy days, it stays warmer in the unheated greenhouse than outside.  Today, for example, it is 24 F outside, yet inside, it is still above freezing.

A little cold for growing?

A little cold for growing?

At least the snow is pretty.  I took this shot looking out the door of the greenhouse a few days ago.

A Snowy Day

A Snowy Day

Someday, the greenhouse will be living up to its name, but not for a while, I’m afraid.

It turns out that a greenhouse is a great place for a little boy to play in the dirt.  Our 3 1/2 year old grandson, JMM, was here yesterday, and, as usual, wanted to take his toy tractors and trucks outside to push dirt around and make cool tire tracks.  It was 32 F out there, so he and I put on some warm duds and, miniature machinery in hand, headed for the best dirt patch, out by our small barn.

The cold breeze soon had me thinking of a escape plan, and I had my Aha! moment.  JMM was agreeable, the sweet little guy, so off we clomped.  The greenhouse felt like a sauna (okay, it was really 54 F) compared to outside.  Off came our hats, jackets, and gloves, and J got down to some happy dirt moving.

We will be doing that again.