Fresh, organic produce is flourishing in my vegetable greenhouse.
During this time of year, lots of attention is directed toward my large vegetable greenhouse, where I grow delicious leafy greens, root vegetables and herbs through the winter season. I love sharing my vegetables with my family and friends, but I also use them for my daily green juice.
All my vegetables are started from seed - some in trays in my main greenhouse, and some directly sown into the nutrient-rich soil in this temperature controlled structure. Starting from seed is not difficult to do, but it does require careful observation and patience. And, once the seedlings start to develop, it’s important to keep up with maintenance care - thin out seedlings that are weak, and prick out those that are growing too big or growing out of line.
Here are some tips on our seed thinning process. Enjoy these photos.
I love this vegetable greenhouse down behind my Equipment Barn. It uses minimal artificial heat, where many cold hardy crops can be grown and harvested through the winter. Its construction a few years ago was inspired by Eliot Coleman, an expert in four-season farming.
In early November, we planted several crops including lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, carrots, beets and many others. The seedlings for my vegetables are in different stages of growth. I am a big fan of succession planting, which is following one crop with another, in order to have edible greens all season long.
As the plants germinate and begin to mature, it’s important to conduct regular maintenance care, so they continue to thrive.
Germination is never guaranteed, so multiple seeds are always planted. This provides a better chance at least one will take root. Here, Ryan is assessing the condition of the lettuce sprouts.
When the seedlings are a couple inches tall and have reached their “true leaf” stage, which is when each seedling has sprouted a second set of leaves, it’s time for a process called selective thinning.
Selective thinning prevents overcrowding, so seedlings don’t have any competition for soil nutrients or room to mature.
When thinning, Ryan carefully inspects the seedlings and determines the strongest ones – he looks for fleshy leaves, upright stems, and good positioning in the space.
These lettuce seedlings now have more room to develop. Most lettuce varieties mature in 45 to 55 days. Looseleaf and butterhead leaves can be harvested at just about any time in their development. Heading varieties take longer to mature – romaine takes 75 to 85 days and crisphead 70 to 100 days.
Here is the spinach. The more mature plants are looking great – so lush green and healthy. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach can be thinned by gently pulling the unwanted plants. The spinach varieties we planted include “Seaside” and “Emperor”.
Here is an overcrowded line of spinach seedlings. Overcrowding can stress the sprouts, so Ryan assesses these as well.
And pulls the smaller, weaker, more spindly looking seedlings, leaving only the stronger ones to mature.
Once selective thinning is complete, there should be a good amount of room between each pair of leaves.
Here is the chard. The stalk colors are so vibrant – they usually come in white, yellow, or red.
Chard is also known by its many common names such as Swiss chard, silverbeet, spinach beet, seakale beet, and mangold.
Chard is a leafy green vegetable often used in Mediterranean cooking. In the Flavescens-Group-cultivars, the leaf stalks are large and are often prepared separately from the leaf blade.
Here, Ryan removes the young plants that are less robust.
And here, Ryan is thinning out the carrots.
Thinning while the soil is damp will help remove just the excess plants while leaving the ones you want to keep.
Carrots can be more sensitive to thinning because disturbing the roots while young can cause deformation.
This is our turnip crop. Spacing will vary by varieties and whether you want your vegetables to grow to full size, but in general, leave enough room for the anticipated size of the mature vegetable plus a couple of inches on either side. The seed packet will list optimal spacing needs.
You may recall, I had two trellises built on one end of the greenhouse. They were constructed for our climbing plants such as cucumbers and tomatoes.
As the cucumbers grow, they are clipped to these vertical netting strips. As the plants and vegetables mature, the vines will grow up the trellises and the cucumbers will grow down from the net. These clips are from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/tools-supplies/crop-supports/clips/tomato-trellis-clips—100-count-9624.html
We also grow arugula underneath the trellis, which will be harvested before the cucumbers are fully mature – I always try to use as much space as possible in my gardens.
Planning carefully and using a garden’s space wisely makes it possible to grow more vegetables almost anywhere. These vegetables will look excellent come harvest time.