As you know, I am a very serious gardener, and am always thinking about new ways I can improve the productivity of the gardens and the greenhouses at my farm.
Here at Bedford, I have a large collection of warm weather plants, including citrus trees and a vast array of other tropical specimens. Because I live in a four-season region, during colder months, it’s vital these plants move indoors, where the temperature and humidity levels can be controlled. Fortunately, I am able to keep them in high-grade greenhouses, where they can continue to thrive all year long. Until now, I kept my citrus collection in a hoop house next to my Equipment Barn. This year, I decided to store the citrus plants in my vegetable greenhouse in order to make better use of its vertical space - I knew the lush greenery would look so beautiful in the glass enclosure. We completed this project last week. Take a look at our photos, and let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Dwarf citrus plants can be kept outdoors as long as temperatures stay above 40-degrees Fahrenheit. With cooler temperatures on the way, it was time to get the collection indoors. While frost won’t kill a healthy, mature lemon tree it can certainly inflict damage when temperatures drop below 29-degrees Fahrenheit for longer than 30-minutes.
This special greenhouse was constructed several years ago and inspired by Eliot Coleman, an expert in four-season farming.
There is so much height in this all glass greenhouse, so I wanted to store the plants raised on logs. The house is also minimally heated, just above freezing, mostly utilizing energy from the sun.
For this project, we needed quite a number of cut logs. I always recycle felled trees whenever possible. During the course of the year, my outdoor grounds crew amasses large amounts of organic debris – felled trees, branches, leaves, etc., but none of the material goes to waste.
Using the Hi-Lo forklift, Chhiring lifted a log out from the pile.
The log was slowly carried to a nearby clearing where it could be cut into smaller sections.
Pete cut this log into two and a half foot long pieces. He also cut a number of smaller ones – about a foot long.
Pete and Chhiring then loaded the cut logs onto the tractor.
These logs are so useful around the farm. We either mill the logs, put them through the tub grinder or the chipper, or split and stack them for firewood. If I cannot save a tree, it is comforting to know I can reuse the wood left behind. These logs will serve as bases for potted plants.
Pete began the Herculean task of moving these logs into the greenhouse.
I wanted the taller logs to be on the perimeter – these logs are very secure in the gravel – they won’t go anywhere.
Some of the logs were very heavy and required two men to carry them.
Here is one row of logs against the back wall of the greenhouse – each spaced about two-feet apart.
The tops were cut perfectly level, so each pot sits straight and secure.
Shorter pieces were placed into the garden bed, and will be used for taller citrus plants. The greens below are spinach plants – I always have some on hand for my morning green juice.
It’s looking great so far – we positioned plants along the entire perimeter of the bed – my collection has grown quite a bit over the years.
Dwarf citrus trees require at least eight to 12 hours of full sunshine and good air circulation to thrive. Ryan adjusted the plants once they were on the log bases – it’s important to place them so none of them touch.
We used the middle section of the greenhouse for more potted plants. The end sections will continue to be planted with vegetables – this greenhouse has a lot of room.
Tall citrus trees were next. The pots were extremely heavy, and had to be moved in carefully, so their branches wouldn’t be damaged, and their fruits wouldn’t fall.
Citrus limon ‘Meyer’ – my favorite lemon because this thin-skinned fruit is much more flavorful than the ordinary store-bought. I love to use them for baking and cooking.
Chhewang and Chhiring carried another tall tree into the greenhouse.
Citrus plants dislike abrupt temperature shifts and need to be protected from chilly drafts, blazing heaters and fans. Consider the needs of the plants when deciding where to store them indoors.
I am so fortunate to be able to grow citrus here in the Northeast. The temperature in the greenhouse adjusts according to the level of light. In general, a temperatures of about 55 to 68 degrees is ideal.
This is a photo of the greenhouse last winter – it’s filled with amazing produce, but the space above is empty.
This year, we will still plant lots of delicious fresh vegetables, but the added citrus plants provide more texture and beauty. And, all the citrus plants are now safely tucked in for the cold season ahead.