Fresh, organic produce will soon be growing in my vegetable greenhouse.
As the temperatures get cooler here in the Northeast, and outdoor garden beds are cleared and cleaned at my Bedford, New York farm, attention is directed toward preparing my vegetable greenhouse for planting - a structure that uses minimal artificial heat, where many cold hardy crops, such as root vegetables and brassicas, can be grown and harvested through the winter months. I love this greenhouse - its construction several years ago was inspired by Eliot Coleman, an expert in four-season farming.
Recently, my gardeners, Ryan and Wilmer, planted the seeds for our next growing period - enjoy these photos.
We spend a good amount of time preparing the soil before planting any seeds. This includes cleaning the beds and adding organic, nutrient-rich compost I call “black gold”.
The soil in this greenhouse is about two-feet deep. Wilmer tilled the top six to eight inches of compacted soil using a cultivator fork and then added the new compost.
Once the soil was amended, Ryan and Wilmer measured the area for the layout of the beds.
Each bed is measured perfectly to keep them all uniform in size.
Ryan and Wilmer walked along the perimeter of the measured beds to create the footpaths.
This easy technique creates just enough space to get around the beds for weeding, harvesting or any other kind of gardening maintenance needed during the season.
Wilmer goes over the same paths with a shovel to make them more defined and tidy.
The footpaths do not need to be wide – just wide enough to walk through comfortably. I prefer to use the space for planting as much as possible.
Once the beds were lined up, Ryan distributed plant food formulated specifically for vegetable gardens.
Wilmer uses a lawn rake to tidy up the top layer of soil and to give it a finished look.
Here, six small beds are perfectly measured, edged and nearly ready for planting.
Ryan uses this bed preparation rake from Johnny’s Selected Seeds to create furrows in the soil. Hard plastic tubes slide onto selected teeth of the rake to mark the rows. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/
It’s a cleverly designed tool for making multiple straight rows in one pass. The depth of the furrows depends on the amount of pressure placed on the rake as it moves through the soil.
Ryan goes over several beds, planning exactly where each crop will go.
Ryan labeled wooden markers for the different crops. I am very fortunate to have the room to plant many different vegetables indoors during winter.
This season we planned for kale, swiss chard, chervil, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets and many others. I share my vegetables with my daughter and grandchildren, but I also like to grow them for my delicious green juice.
Seeds are available online and at garden centers. I have lots of seeds at The Home Depot. My collection includes seeds for both vegetables and flowers, and all are 100-percent certified organic. http://www.homedepot.com/b/Outdoors-Garden-Center-Seeds-Accessories/Martha-Stewart-Living/N-5yc1vZc8qlZ4tg
The markers are placed at the ends of the assigned beds, so they can be seen from the footpaths.
The seeds are very small – it’s hard to believe these tiny seeds produce such beautiful vegetables within weeks.
Ryan sprinkles the seeds in the furrows and then gently covers the rows with soil.
Turnip greens are easy to grow in any well-drained soil. The turnip is a root vegetable commonly grown for its white, bulbous taproot.
Ryan planted my “Danvers” carrots – rich, dark orange carrots that grow six to eight inches long.
We always plant beets. Closely related to spinach and chard, and once called “blood turnips” because of their bright red juice, beets can be golden, white or striped. Beets are also an excellent source of folate and a very good source of manganese, potassium and copper.
Spinach contains vitamins A, E, K, and C plus calcium, iron magnesium and potassium. The spinach varieties we planted include “Seaside” and “Emperor”.
This is a tine weeding rake, also from Johnny’s Seeds. It has multiple uses, which vary depending on the amount of downward pressure put on the handle. This model is for working in tight areas such as greenhouses or raised beds.
A sprinkler hose is positioned and secured to the ground with garden staples or anchors, so it doesn’t injure any of the growing plants.
Most of the energy in the greenhouse comes from the sun through these big windows, which can be programmed to open for ventilation or cooling, when needed.
Ryan is pleased with this season’s crops. We’re looking forward to the first winter harvest.