Friday, 31 August 2012

What to grow in your Greenhouse


So you have a greenhouse.  Now comes the problem of what to grow in it.  Sure, you can think of all kinds of things you want to  try your hand at.  Probably some exotic things as well as the regular mundane things.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Greenhouses are just naturally humid most of the time and not all plants like that.  A screened opening in the door plus a screened window at the opposite end will keep that down as much as you can expect but if you are not careful you can end up with plants too close together and with the dampness they can have problems.

What do you want to grow?  Make a list of those things and beside each item make a note of the cost to purchase these items and perhaps even a note of why you want to grow them.  It will also help if you make a bit of a sketch of the "ground area" of the greenhouse and draw in how much space each item will take up.  You might want to check out "Square Foot Gardening" as that is one way of making the best use of limited space.

Next you should study the list and decide which items are worth taking up the valuable space you have available, and how much of your space you have to devote to that planting.  Also think about how much of that particular crop you want or need.  And do you just want some good stuff to eat as it develops or do you want to preserve or store some?  Of course it depends on the size of your beds and your greenhouse, and also some people use raised beds that are not on the ground but are really raised up and easy to tend without bending over.  With this type of bed you need really good soil and it has to be fairly deep.  I have never used this type of bed as I prefer a raised bed with the bottom on the ground.  For ease of reaching to plant and weed my beds are 2' wide.

First on your list should be the items that cost the most to purchase and are your favourites.  Things like potatoes?  Well, one plant won't take up much room - if you have lots of room to spare, and early new potatoes are great.  However, they are usually quite inexpensive to buy and I don't think the extra flavour from home grown is that great that you should take up much room with them.  They do well out in the open and use up lots of space.

TOMATOES are high on my list.   You should be able to be picking tomatoes when store prices are still very high and even when they are lower in price they are seldom as tasty as home grown ones.  Remember they will need support and if you keep them pruned they will probably take up 2' of bed space.  If your rafters are on 2' centres like mine are, then you can put a galvanized nail or hook into the rafter and hang a string for the tomatoes to support them.  Lots of varieties, and when you look at the list you will see some are more "meaty" (less seeds)than others.  
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PEPPERS are another crop that is usually costly in the stores but you can grow yourself.  Keep  in mind they like lots of sun but are fairly low growing so I would plant them on the south side.  Do you like them hot or mild?  Long or bell?  I found yellow banana peppers grew well for me and were mild, not hot.
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CUCUMBERS are often favourites to grow as you can pick from a large choice  of varieties.  They also do well growing on strings hung from the ceiling/rafters.  I have found that many of the varieties sound good but will take a while to produce then give you an over abundance for a short time and then quit.  They are also quite inexpensive to buy.  Lots of varieties to try - long, short, round, burpless and more!
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CARROTS don't take up much room as you can plant them in between the tomato plants.  They are companion  plants to tomatoes so that works out well.  Pick the right variety and you can end up with juicy, crunchy sweet carrots that taste great.  The come in "normal" type like Nantes or you can choose "baby finger" type or even purple ones!  Many to choose from.

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BEETS do well in the open garden.  I grow some in the greenhouse but I think they do better in the open.  However, you can get them going quicker inside and have an early crop sooner.  And don't forget to try "cylinder beets" - they slice into nice diameter slices for pickles.  Then again you might want to try some of the other kinds...check them out!

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PEAS take up quite a bit of room, often get mildew from the humidity but I like to grow some as you can put them in very early.  Try some as soon as the danger of heavy frost is past.  On the coast I have started them as early as February with good success.  If the soil is still cool it would be wise to sprout them inside the house before planting them out.  You might find they tend to grow  much taller in the greenhouse than it says on the seed package.  My 24"peas grow to over 48" and for support I use wire mesh.  It sure is nice to have an early feed of peas!  Of course there are many different varieties of snow peas,  snap peas and shelling peas.
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STRAWBERRIES!   We like to have a small patch of everbearing strawberries in the greenhouse as you get fruit earlier and the birds don't get them.  They also taste better than the giant ones we get from California or Mexico.  And you know what has been put on them in the way of chemicals!
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CANTALOUPE can be grown but WOW!  do they ever take up space!  If you want to try them, I would suggest making a support rack against one wall and when the plant starts sending out vines just guide the vine onto the support.  You could put the support about a foot or two above the level of the dirt.  This also helps keep the fruit clean and away from "critters".  Let the fruit grow until it is to the stage when you can smell the aroma, then gently lift the cantaloupe up and if the vine comes off easy it is ripe.  And GOOD!  You will be amazed at how good vine ripened cantaloupe can be.  On the coast we need to choose an early ripening variety due to cool nights.
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RADISHES are something that grows quickly but they are inexpensive to buy and how many do you really need?  Instead of a row of radishes, try planting them with your carrots.  ???  Yes, they make dandy row markers.  It is hard to see where the rows of carrots are, but if you drop a radish seed every couple of inches they will pop up quickly so you can see where the rows are.  And talk about a lot of varieties!  Long, short, red, white, purple or pink - take your pick!
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BEANS do very well.  We grow some purple bush beans (they turn green when cooked) and find you can get about 6 beans in a 24x24 area.   Does that sound like not enough?  You would be very surprised to see how many beans you get!  You will need to pick them every few days as they do produce a lot and quickly.  Depending on how many people you are feeding you might want to do a few more plants but you can bag them in the fridge to accumulate enough for a meal.  For the two of us (Gramma and I) we can keep a steady supply on hand easily with just a few plants.  Many other varieties of green or yellow bush beans - even speckled.

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BRASSICAS can be grown inside where the dreaded cabbage moth won't get to them but you can end up with club root and really - are cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli that expensive?  
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Don't be afraid to try different things but remember to check to make sure things are compatible.  There are lists of COMPANION PLANTING available online.  And I found out the hard way that some things should NOT be planted after others have been planted in that area.  Strawberries are fussy about that I believe.

NOW - get out the seed catalogue or go online, check out varieties and see how long each one takes to mature.  Buying plants works good but often the choice of varieties is limited.  Possibly you can find a place to start a few plants yourself inside the home. or maybe a heated garage with a window.


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