Sunday, May 27, 2012

Winter Lingers On - Plants Can't Wait

As some of you might know, I have the most northernly greenhouse in Quebec, and one of two (to the best of my ken) north of Kuujjuaq.

All winter long I have been planning a second greenhouse for warmth-loving plants like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, etc.  To make sure I had seedlings ready to transplant, I began some of my seeds as early as April 8, giving them at least two months in my bedroom nursery to grow large enough to put out. And grow they did - profusely.  My bedroom looked like a scene from the movie Jumanji, with vines and foliage spreading out every where.

I thought I could plant in the greenhouse I built last year in mid-May, but the temperature at night is still below freezing, much below freezing.  But keeping them inside wasn't much of an option either since they were getting far too large for their peat pots.

The best I could come up with was to build a greenhouse inside my greenhouse, and blow some heat underneath like a tunnel.

Today I planted my first seedlings, robust vegetables such as brussel sprouts, kale, lettuce and bok choy.  I could hear the corn snow hitting the plastic skin of the greenhouse as a snow squall passed through as I was planting.

And here is my internal greenhouse.

I'll only know tomorrow morning if I made the right choice.  Tune in later for an update.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Greenhouse Results from 2011

Before talking about my plans and results for this year, I feel I should summarize what happened in the greenhouse last summer.

Basically, any leaf crop grew really well - lettuce, bok choy, spinach, napa cabbage.  Also, they seemed to grown much faster than what I remember from my outdoor gardening in Montreal.

Root crops had mixed results.  Radishes flourished, but they will do so almost anywhere given their very short planting-to-harvest period.  My turnips (rutabaga) did not fare so well, almost all their energy went into foliage rather than root development.  Beets fell somewhere in between - I was able to get only one meal from them. Perhaps there's a local market for baby beets, but once you've peeled the skin off there's hardly anything left.

Peas grew really well, but I was unable to entice any bumble bees into greenhouse, so no pod set.  I've since watched a number of Youtube videos on pollinating plants by hand, so this is the route I'll take this year with anything that needs it.  Somehow, though, I feel it's something best done in a back alley for money by someone else.

Finally - flowers.  They went nowhere, slowly.  I never really paid close attention to the seed packets, but flowers need a really long lead time in order to flower before the hard frost sets in.  Definitely something to start in March inside the house.

From front to back: spinach, radishes almost going to seed, turnip, bok choy and napa cabbage.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last Year's Greenhouse Build

After the children and dog's ravaged the tubs I planted outdoors in 2010, I realized that I had to build a greenhouse with a lock on it.

My design measures 22' x 10', and is made with 2" x 6" pine, 6 mil poly, and 3/8" plywood braces.  The general idea was to do away with conventional walls and make the whole thing out of rafters which are attached to the base plate.

All I had to work with was a skill saw and a small Black and Decker table.  Personally, I think it came out very well all things considering (i.e. so-called "helpers" who magically disappeared at the mere site of me going to the back yard.

The greenhouse is still standing despite a stormy winter (110 kph winds, minus 40 C temperatures), even the poly, which I did not expect.

Here are a couple of pictures from the construction phase last summer:

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Cost Of Thinking Has Just Gone Up

The Royal Canadian Mint just announced the striking of its last penny.  Within the past two decades we got rid of the paper one-dollar and two-dollar bills, and there is some talk of converting our five-dollar bill into a coin (the "gooney"?).  Our rag-content bills are being polymerized - I felt one of the new $50-dollar bills and had the urge to fold it in half and blow on the edge to make a farting sound.

Personally, I'd be glad to do away with cash (in whatever form) all together - this way my wife and kids can't go through my pockets to my perpetual impoverishment.

A nickel for your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Chasing the Elusive Tundra Radish

I know that for most of you, it is only a radish, one of the most pedestrian of vegetables.

For me it is my pride and joy - the first vegetable I have ever produced (my children notwithstanding) up here north of sixty.

In my other life I had a large backyard garden which I loved.  From March onwards each year I spent many a late night consulting seed catalogues, drafting layouts and propagating seeds for those plants needing a head start in the relative tropical Montreal climate.  Then came the outdoor work - tidying up, fertilizing, rototilling, planting seeds, planting transplants . . .

After that most of the work was done except for weeding, making sure the cut worms and Colorado potato beetles didn't get my offspring, and watering a bit during hot spells.

I was always successful in most part (except for beets which rarely co-operated).  The fall was spent in pickling and freezing, and a good sized portion of my vegetable needs were filled for the balance of the year before taking out stakes, pulling old plants and generally putting the garden to bed.

But I tell you, I have never had the pride and sheer sense of accomplishment of that first radish from last year.  It was simply the perfect radish - looked great, tangy tasting but not too strong, no splits, and colours borrowed from the Dutch masters.

So I have decided to resurrect my old blog, do some entries on my efforts for 2012 and fill you in on what happened in the greenhouse last year.  And if you behave yourselves, I might even insert a few rants and reminiscences from my, er, salad days.