2009-08-20 / News

Time for greenhouse maintenance projects

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

It may seem a little odd to do it while the weather is so warm, but if you own a greenhouse, now is the time to check out the heating, lighting and other systems. If you have to paint it, do it now while the greenhouse is empty. If you’re anything like me, however, your greenhouse is never empty and maintenance is done on the fly.

When I paint, I typically end up with paint-spotted tomato plants and banana leaves. But I have learned to pick the banana leaves before I paint – they’ll last in the freezer until I make pork or chicken wrapped in banana leaves. If anyone wants a banana tree for indoor growing, call me at 423-1400. The parent trees have six or seven young plants right now and I plan on potting them in a few days.

If your greenhouse is standing empty, check its heating system now. If you have supplemental lighting, check all your fixtures and make sure that all the lights are in good order. You should also check the pumps for any fish ponds or irrigation systems, and make sure the filters are clean. Check, too, for any air leaks or gaps in the insulation that will allow your precious heat to escape. Be sure to check for mouse holes, since field mice can get through tiny holes and eat seeds and plants.

Finally, it is time to clean the glass inside and out. If you don’t clean the glass, green algae grows on it and the light value decreases. You won’t notice it until next spring when your plant leaves burn or drop off as soon as they are put outdoors. Low light levels inside the greenhouse become tolerable to plants; then, when you put them outdoors in bright sunlight, they can’t get acclimated fast enough and they burn.

I figure we have approximately two months until temperatures drop below freezing, so any bare patches in the garden can still be planted. After digging approximately 60 pounds of all kinds of potatoes, I have a large patch of bare soil that has been seeded with lettuce, kale, spinach, chard and other greens. I’m also about to start a new crop of sugar snap and snow peas in the back of the cold greenhouse. With any luck, I will have sugar snaps on the Thanksgiving table.

With all the rain, the pumpkins are huge, but they are also turning orange and will probably be brought indoors in a week or so. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not a problem. I grow Rouge vif d’Etamps, a French variety known for its red flesh and good eating. This pumpkin can easily be made into puree and stored in the freezer for pumpkin pies at any time later in the year.

The other squash plants are also growing quite well. I’d like to see more fruit and fewer flowers, but that’s partly due to the cool wet weather we’ve had. Now that we are seeing more sunshine, the plants should set more fruit. A feed of fertilizer will help the fruit grow, too.

In looking over the rest of the garden, I’ve noticed that the tomatoes are late this year, with lots of green fruit, but a moderate harvest of red. Once again, this is due to the wet conditions we’ve had. The one good thing is that we won’t see much blossom end rot this year, which is usually caused by poor watering conditions.

Finally, it’s time to harvest and dry herbs such as sage, oregano, thyme and tarragon before they go to seed. With little effort, you can make a large mason jar of dried herbs for next to nothing instead of buying the tiny jars they sell in the store for $7 to $10.

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