Tag Archives: greenhouse

Better Late Then Never

After getting started tremendously late (due to landscaping issues), my garden isn’t looking too bad – all things considered. My corn and beans are growing nice. Peas… not so much. After the birds pecked them to nothing they’ve been slow to recover. I might get a taste, but certainly not anything for the freezer. Carrots…well, let’s just say that their current average height is about one inch. Radishes grew tall, flowered, and had nothing to show for it at the bottom.

But potatoes…. Now they might do something. I’ll at least have a good stock of baby potatoes if nothing else.

Potato flowers

Now that my greenhouse is up, my tomatoes are coming along too. I’ve got some good golfball+ tomatoes right now and lots of flowers.

Tomato Flowers in my greenhouse

And of course, old reliable. The one that never fails. Rain or shine, sheet or hail. Nothing can stop… the weeds! But at least something is growing. And they’re kinda pretty too.

Pretty Weeds

Hoop Frame Greenhouse in New Zealand

It seems everyone is in the greenhouse building mode! Ok, well, maybe not EVERYONE, but many are. I’m still working on plans for my next  greenhouse, but until then I wanted to show you another greenhouse that was built from my plans in my article “How to Build an Inexpensive Hoop-Style Greenhouse“. This one is from Farshid out of New Zealand. It took him three afternoons to build (after work that is), and cost about $200 NZ – that’s about $137 Canadian.

Hoop Frame Greenhouse in New Zealand

Hoop Frame Greenhouse in New Zealand

Thanks Farshid! Looks great!

My “Inexpensive Hoop-Frame Greenhouse” Design in Nova Scotia

Recently I received a comment on my post “How to Build An Inexpensive Hoop-Frame Greenhouse” from Stacy in Nova Scotia. Using the design she found at AlbertaHomeGardening.com, she built a 10 x 22 greenhouse. I asked her to send along a few pictures and she did. So I thought it would be good to share them with you to show you another example of how you too can build your own greenhouse. So here is her comments and her pictures. Thanks Stacy!

Well, we just built this greenhouse, with a few changes, we made ours 10×22. We put a piece of strapping 2 feet off the floor running the length of the greenhouse to sturdy it up. We also used strapping in the top centre (instead of pipe and zip ties)attached to the hoops with the metal electrical bands , we got a box of 50 for 8$.

Nova Scotia Hoop-Frame Greenhouse
It was complete in 2 days! Its wonderful! When we bought our farm it came with a huge pile of electrical conduit, enough for 3 or 4 of these greenhouses. We plan to build another very soon. We couldn’t have been happier to find this design! Good job!

Nova Scotia Greenhouse
It is now full of many vegetables, flowers and herbs getting ready for the upcoming season.
Happy gardening,
Stacy

Seven Essentials to Growing Tomatoes

This is my third season of growing tomatoes, and believe me, I have learned a lot in three years. But perhaps one of my greatest sources of knowledge came from a Hydroponic Tomato Growers Workshop that I attended last spring in California. This workshop was geared towards people who were considering starting their own greenhouse tomato business. This was a HUGE source of information for me! There were so many things that I wasn’t doing, and so many things that I was doing in the wrong way. So, from my experience and from what I learned at that workshop, here are are Seven Essentials to Growing Tomatoes.

Me & the tomatoes

#1. Start ’em Early

Ok, you probably knew this one. In Canada our growing season is so short, not only due to the cold, but also due to our limited sunlight hours in the winter. We do have enough sunlight to grow foliage (like lettuce and the like), but we don’t get enough sunlight to produce fruit until about March. So if you have a sunny south window (or artificial lighting), start your tomato plants in late February/early March. That should give you a well established plant to transplant into your greenhouse. Read more about transplanting tomatoes…

#2. Grow Tomatoes in a Greenhouse

You know, tomatoes can be grown in the great outdoors, but they will be one or two months behind those that are in a greenhouse. I’m not sure how many frost-free days you have in your specific area, but you probably don’t want to lose two months of them.

So build a little greenhouse. It doesn’t have to be huge, although you can build a good sized greenhouse for little money as this article explains. Otherwise, Alberta’s weather may greatly hamper your bumper crop.

#3. Don’t Plant ‘Em Too Close

This can be said for lots of things. But especially tomatoes. They are such little plants when you transplant them, it’s easy to forget what a jungle they will grow to be in a couple of months. I did it. (twice) My mother-in-law did it. But don’t do it.

Tomatoes need proper air circulation, not to mention that pruning a jungle is difficult. The exact spacing will vary with variety, but as a general rule, put at least two feet between plants.

#4. Mulch Like Crazy

A good layer of straw mulch will help in a couple of ways. First of all, it’ll suppress the weeds. (That alone is worth it.) Secondly, it’ll keep the soil moist. Tomatoes are heavy drinkers and need a lot of water. A drip irrigation system coupled with a good thick mulch will make sure your tomatoes get the water they need. Just be sure not to over water – that’s what causes your tomatoes to split.

#5. Prune Often

This is the one that often gets missed. Some people believe that the more leaves the plant has, the more energy the plant will receive. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Yes, plants do need some leaves, but too many leaves will actually drain energy away from the plant. All the water and nutrients that the roots soak up must be distributed to those extra leaves, instead of the fruit. So here’s what you need to do.

First, eliminate all suckers. Suckers are the little shoots that appear in the elbow between the stem and a branch. Just bend it over and it will snap right off.

Tomatoes Needing Pruning

Secondly, remove any branches that are brown or wilting at the bottom. These do your plant no good. Get rid of them. For these, grasp the stem firmly in your hand and push the branch down with your thumb – it will snap off at its natural breaking point.

Did you know that it only takes three branches to support one cluster of fruit? A healthy, unstressed tomato plant should put out three branches, then a cluster of fruit, three more branches, another cluster of fruit, etc… Once the tomato plant has reached a good size, you can start removing three branches per week from the bottom of your plant. Thus, by the time you are ready to pick your tomatoes, there will be no leaves below that fruit cluster. Sounds crazy, I know – but that’s what the professionals do!

Note: For all tomato pruning, avoid cutting them off with a knife or other tools. Snapping them out with your fingers is very easy and the wound caused by breaking heals quickly. A cut is more likely to allow disease to enter.

#6. Pick BEFORE Tomatoes Are Ripe

This is another one that sounds crazy. Popular belief would have you “vine-ripen” your tomatoes. Surely they are sweeter, tastier, and probably better for you…. NONSENSE.

The fact is, by the time the tomato just starts to turn color (that slight greeny-orange color), it already has all of it’s goodness in it. And it’s actually the seeds inside that make the tomato ripen. As the seeds release ethylene (the gas applied to green bananas to make them turn yellow), the tomato ripens.

Don’t get this confused with the tomatoes in the store that are picked green and sprayed with ethylene – these are picked too early and do NOT have all the goodness inside yet.

So why not let them stay on the vine? A plant’s job is to reproduce itself. If the plant thinks it has successfully produced fruit, it will begin to shut down and produce less. But if you take the fruit away before it sends the “Mission Accomplished” signal to the plant, the vine will continue to pour it’s energy into producing fruit. (I hope I didn’t get too scientific for you there…)

#7. NEVER Refrigerate Tomatoes

Store tomatoes at room temperature. Never refrigerate. Temperatures below 12° for even a half an hour will begin to destroy the flavor. They may keep longer, but the amazing flavor that comes from a home-grown tomato will be lost.

So there you have it – not a comprehensive list by any means, but it’ll certainly get you on your way to growing delicious tomatoes in your own backyard. If you know of any other essentials to growing tomatoes, feel free to leave your comments!


Greenhouse Update

Remember the article I wrote back in May about How To Build An Inexpensive Hoop-frame Greenhouse? Well, my mother-in-law (who is greatly enjoying her Mother’s Day present), took some pictures of the things she has growing in there. So I thought I’d share them here to further inspire you to build your own greenhouse next year.

Tomatoes down the length of the greenhouse

Mom's Greenhouse

Roma Tomatoes

Mom's Greenhouse (tomatoes)

Beefsteak Tomatoes

Mom's Greenhouse (tomatoes)

Zucchini

Mom's Greenhouse (zucchini)

Beans

Mom's Greenhouse (beans)

Watermelon

Mom's Greenhouse (watermelon)

Peppers

Mom's Greenhouse (peppers)

Inspired yet?

Oh, and incidentally… I just visited my brother’s A-frame greenhouse, built in the same style as my plasticless A-frame greenhouse, and it’s doing beautifully. He used the woven poly from Northern Greenhouse Sales and it’s showing no signs of wear. I am absolutely going with their plastic next year.

My Greenhouse Plastic Gets Destroyed

Today is certainly a sad day. After much work in building my A-frame greenhouse and covering it with plastic, a gusty afternoon storm has ripped my plastic in pieces. I’m afraid the six mil. plastic simply wasn’t strong enough. As the wind pushed against the plastic, the plastic simply stretched to the breaking point.

Greenhouse plastic ripping

Eventually, one of the holes along the northwest corner tore right off, and the wind ripped the plastic right down the middle of the north side.

Greenhouse plastic ripped in two

So I’m a little disappointed. Even if I could patch it back together, the plastic is just too thin to withstand the winds. So I may be greenhouseless this year.

But perhaps you can help. If this blog has been a benefit to you, would you consider sending a donation to help cover the cost of new greenhouse plastic? The long-lasting woven poly that I would like to put on my greenhouse will cost about $500. If I can raise that much money in the next two weeks, I’ll be able to order it and hopefully get it up before the hail season begins. If more than $500 comes in, all extra money will go towards a local kids camp. Just click the flower below to help keep my greenhouse growing!

Update 2009: I’ve learned my lesson and got the good plastic. Check out my newest greenhouse! It’s made it through some major wind already and is looking good!

Enjoy this post? Send a donation to help keep my garden growing!

My Giant $160 A-Frame Greenhouse

As of today, phase one of my giant A-frame greenhouse is complete. It stands about 12 feet high, 24 feet wide, and 48 feet long. I have a single layer of 6mm plastic on the north and south sides with the ends currently open. I plan to enclose them before the frosts this fall (that’s phase two), but I’ll leave them open throughout the summer.

A-Frame Greenhouse

The entire structure is built on top of fence posts. I did this because my lumber wasn’t treated – this way the wood won’t sit on the ground a rot right away. The lumber for the structure is just rough 2×6 boards that I got for a real deal. It’s in pretty rough shape (warped and cracked), but it’ll do for this purpose. It’s cross-braced by some wire my father-in-law had, and the the plastic cost a total of $80. The raised beds are made with 2×10. All said and done – it cost me about $160, plus a good chunk of my time. I’m glad I’m done this far – it was a lot of work. Now I get to do the fun part – planting, growing, and enjoying!

A-Frame Greenhouse

Originally I was going to have a water trench down the middle to for heat storage, but with small children around I opted for a compost trench that should let off quite a bit of heat anyway. Well, see how it goes.

I’m not sure how well the plastic will stand up, but I’m hoping it’ll last the year anyway. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to pay for the more expensive (but much better) 11 mils woven poly.

How to Build an Inexpensive Hoop-Style Greenhouse

One of the most valuable assets in my garden is my greenhouse. It has allowed me to grow plants that I normally would not be able to grow, produce crops that the season is not usually long enough to produce, and protect my plants from frosts, hail, or other severe weather that normally would have destroyed my garden.

But I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a greenhouse. I just priced out an 8’x12’ greenhouse for $3,500. I would love to have a large, professional greenhouse, but that simply isn’t financially feasible for me. So, instead I’ve found a way to make a large greenhouse that is functional, easy to build, and inexpensive. This article will explain to you exactly how to build a 12’x32’ hoop-style greenhouse for under $400.

Starting Tomato, Cucumber, Watermelon, and Pepper Seedlings

Yesterday, April 7, 2008 , I planted my first seeds of the year. If you’ve never started your own plants from seed before, you’ve got to try it – it’s amazingly simple! Here’s what I did.

First I collected my supplies:

  • A plastic starter tray complete with transplanting inserts (72 cells)
  • Some potting soil
  • Plastic labels (plastic margarine container lids cut into strips)
  • And yes, seeds
Planting Seedlings

Then I filled the cells with the potting soil and lightly patted them down. Each cell then received a finger poke in the center. My daughter and I then dropped two seeds in each little hole. (The weaker of the two seedlings will get pinched out after they’ve sprouted.)

Here’s what I planted:

Garden Plan & Seeds for 2008

With spring not all that far away, folks are browsing the seed catalogs and are starting to put together their seed orders for this spring. And of course, once compiled, these lists make their way onto the internet for our viewing pleasure. So where’s my list?

Well, instead of a plain ol’ list, I thought I’d show you the full meal deal. You see, I have tendency to be way too organized and since I’m quite adapt with a computer, I just so happen to have a full color diagram of everything I plan to plant and where I’m going to plant it. Care to take a gander? Then here goes…

Oh, by the way, click the image to download a full size .pdf file to study at your leisure.

A-Frame Greenhouse Plan

A-Frame Greenhouse Plan 2008 (pdf)The main crops in here are tomatoes, watermelons, and cucumbers, but you’ll also a variety of other things as well. Something new for my greenhouse this year is pumpkins. I’m going to try to grow a giant pumpkin or two inside my greenhouse. I’m also going to try raspberries in my greenhouse to see if I can extend their season. The blank plot in the upper left corner is where I’m going to plan a mini-replica of my main outdoor garden just to compare how the plants grow differently in the greenhouse.

Just a note about the “Phil’s Strawberries”: Those are a type of strawberry that I’m getting from my brother Phil who is a u-pick fruit grower. I’m not sure exactly what type they are.