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Eco-Friendly Greenhouse Watering Systems

Designing a custom watering system for your greenhouse is never an easy task. There are so many different types to choose from depending on what you are planning to grow. The first thing to decide on, of course, is what types of plants you are planning to nurture, because the type of watering system you will ultimately need is greatly determined by the types of plants most often grown in your greenhouse. For example, tropical plants require more water and often grow best with a misting delivery system. Ask yourself if the plants you are growing will grow best with a drip irrigation system, a misting system or even a running water system. Each system has it’s own unique features and setup that help you achieve the perfect balance of water to your greenhouse, and keeps from wasting water.

Drip System – A drip watering system usually sets down in the pot or soil and has a slow, steady drip that keeps plants moist without over watering the soil. Drip systems are usually made from hoses or bottles with tiny holes. The holes in hoses cause a high surface ratio and only allow small amounts of water through. If you don’t have the means to buy a drip system, you can always make one out of a gallon jug or a 2-liter bottle. By cutting a few holes in the cap of the bottle and a few around the sides of the bottom, you can make your own drip system that will keep your plants well watered even if you forget about them from time to time.

Misting System – These systems are good to use for plants that only need a small amount of water, such as cacti because their root systems make the most of any water applied. In addition, these can help to cool your greenhouse and add humidity in dry climates.

Running Water – Running water systems are probably the easiest to fabricate and can be made using PVC pipe, just like any other irrigation system. A great idea for the running water systems is to use barrels to collect rainwater. This is a great way to water your plants by conserving water and cutting down on the costs of upkeep. When designing your running water system with rain barrels, be sure to put in a good working valve so that you can retain all of the water you catch from the rain.

Greenhouse watering systems can be as unique as the gardener who is using them. There are many different types and uses and can either be pre-made or designed yourself. It is best to keep the plants together which have the same basic watering needs, just to make it easier to adequately water each plant. If all else fails, consult your local gardening expert to help determine which type of watering system is right for you and you might be surprised to find they could already have a system drawn out that fits your eco-friendly watering system needs.

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Greenhouse Supplies

Harvesting Cool Weather Crops Before Hot Summer Days

Late March Planting = June and July Harvesting

I am not a sophisticated vegetable gardener. My growing expertise focuses on perennials, shrubs and trees. Vegetable and fruit gardening needs to be simple for me to enjoy. If you want to be successful in growing your own crops, I recommend starting off with radishes, swiss chard, and snap peas.  The seeds are large, easy to handle and have a high success rate.  I find it fun to get the family involved and a great way to encourage future generations to get bit by the gardening bug…

 

General Planting Tips for Cool Weather Veggies 

startswood-template• Look for seeds that are “open pollinated” or marked “organic”.

• Radishes, chard and peas are considered ‘cool’ weather crops. They can be grown through summer months in succession or you can rotate your crops after harvesting has occurred. I am now planting carrots in place of the radishes. The peas are still producing in mid-July. The chard can be harvested almost year-round.

• Make sure to add compost to give them a rich home to develop strong root systems.

• Build the soil up in rows and into little mounds with compost.

• Take a 6″ wide piece of wood with notches carved into it at every 12″ to use as a template for sowing seeds. Placing the wood sideways twice will calculate 1’ space you need between rows so you can walk through them easily for harvesting and weeding later.

• Water daily to establish seedlings and then whenever the temperature rises over 80 degrees. Check the water saturation level by driving a dry #2 pencil into the soil and see how far it comes out wet. This trick will let you know how far your watering has penetrated into the soil.

• Mark rows with recycled plastic forks to hold seed packets.

 

Radish flowers Weeding, Pests and Diseases

radish-flowers• It’s important to keep weeds down so veggie starts can grow as fast as possible. Hand weeding is recommended on all produce.

• Slugs seem particularly fond of young radishes and will nibble on the “fruit” exposed about the soil line. Putting a clean tuna fish can filled with cheap beer will keep the slugs occupied.

• I find it strange that I scrutinize produce at the local grocery store or farmer’s market, but have no problem accepting defects in my own produce. I do not spray for pests or diseases’, so keeping an eye on developing plants is critical. Using a floating row cover may be desirable if you notice heavy pest damage early on.

• Water early in the morning to keep fungal diseases to a minimum.

 

 

Radishes Raphanus sativus

 
French Breakfast Radishes“Petit Dejeuner”French variety that can either grow long or round. They have distinctive white bands at the bottom followed by deep red to the leafy green tops. Rainbow Radishes‘Easter Egg II’ These little beauties come in a variety of colors ranging from white, shades of pink, cherry red, deep burgundy, and violet. Exactly round they all have brilliant white centers no matter the outside coloring. 
radish-dej radish-easter

  

Planting February – May    (spring harvest), August – October (fall harvest)
Did You Know?  Radishes will be spicier in hot weather as opposed to being harvested in cooler temperatures.
Thinning  Thinning is really hard as I want everything to grow and succeed in my garden. But if you do not thin, your radishes will be thin and weak.After 3 weeks, take every 2-3 seedling out and leave on with 1” space between each.
Bolting If radishes are not thinned properly, they will be weak, skinny and small.
Flowers I let a few go to flower to see what the flowers looked like. The flower heads are simple 4 petal flowers either in pink or white. Seed pods grow along the length of the extended stem. While still fleshy, you can eat these as well. Pods have the typical radish bite flavor, but are similar to miniature pea pods.
Harvesting Tops of the radishes should peek from the ground. This variety is the size of marbles when mature. Can harvest in succession.
Uses Radishes are great eaten whole, used on sandwiches or sliced in salads. They can be used in bunches to create a wreath to hang on the door for a unique decoration.
Storage Tips To keep fresh, store fruit in a cold bath of water in refrigerator for up to three weeks.

 

Swiss Chard Beta vulgaris

 
Rainbow Chard‘Bright Lights’Stalks come in a vivid range of yellow, pink, red, yellow and orange.  Large, dark green ribbed leaves. Container Chard‘Easter Egg II’ Brilliant gold stems hold deep green and ribbed leaves. This particular variety is great either in the ground or in containers for small, urban gardens.  
chard-rainbow chard-gold1

 

Planting February – September  Chard does well in containers and in the ground. Hard seed kernels are easy for little fingers to handle.
Did You Know?  Chard heirloom varieties harkens from New Zealand.
Thinning  Thinning to 8” apart to allow for ample growth. Bolting One main stem will shoot up a flower spike. To keep chard leaves tender, remove any flowering stem. Flowers Will spring up from a flowering stem. Cut the flower stalk off and use it in an arrangement.
Harvesting Chard can be a perennial in the right conditions. If the winter is mild, it may grow back again the next spring.Continually harvesting will produce shorter, sweeter leaves and stems.
Uses Chard is great in salads or steamed like spinach. It can be used in soups or lasagna.
Storage Tips To extend life, cut stems and store in a glass of water with stems submerged.

 

Peas Pisum sativum

Edible Pod Bush Peas  ‘Sugar Sprint’peas

• A stringless pea variety that is great to grow on bamboo trellises, or iron teepees covered in netting to give the vines something to scramble up on.

• Make sure to train the vines when small to grow upward.

• Large seeds can be pushed directly in soil with a #2 pencil. Mark 1.5″ up the pencil to make sure they are consistently sown to the same depth.

Planting  February – May (spring harvest), July – August (fall harvest) Soak seeds in water for at least one hour prior to planting. Grows to 24” – 30” tall.
Did You Know? Peas are nitrogen fixing so not only do they provide food, they supply nutrients for the soil as well.
Thinning Thinning to 2” apart to allow for ample growth.
Flowers  Simple, pure white pea flowers will cover the vines and be replaced with pea pods.
Harvesting Grab a bowl and pluck plump pea pods off the vines.
Uses Sugar snap peas can be eaten right off the vine and may not make it to the dinner table.They are great in stir fry, salads, dips or served steamed with butter.
Storage Tips Place in Ziploc bag in refrigerator or freezer to use later.

 

Learn More

For Pacific Northwest seed choices; visit the following seed companies online:

• Renee’s Garden

• Territorial Seeds

• Ed Hume Seeds

• Seeds of Change

Great books to research include:

• The Edible Garden, Sunset Books

• Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, Steve Solomon

Help Your Neighbor

Are your beds overflowing with fruits and veggies? Do the neighbors close the blinds and won’t answer the door when you come knocking with zucchini in a basket? Don’t waste that produce!

 

logo_par_1Plant a Row for the Hungry is a non-profit cause led by Garden Writers of America. Since 1995, over 14 million pounds of produce providing over 50 million meals have been donated by American gardeners.

Please consider planting one extra row of food to donate to those who need it most. Check with your local food bank or better yet, independent garden center that move local produce to people in need.

Feedback: Have you had any experience with growing cool weather crops in your garden or greenhouse? I would love to hear your experience and comments!
Garden and pea photos taken by Dawn Hummel. Radish and chard photos provided by Renee’s Garden.