Our greenhouse is finally finished, and producing some wonderfully lush little seedlings. Our only problem is that it is too full! We obviously will need a larger greenhouse in the near future, but for this year, it will do. We intend on trying to sell seedlings locally for the first time ever, and then in a month or two, start selling veggies and flowers at local farmers' markets.
Our greenhouse adventures were not without near-disasters, though. The first night after the greenhouse was finally finished, we had a wind storm with 50 mph gusts. In the morning, we found eight of the panels over 200 yards away, having been blown right off the aluminum frame. I promptly returned to Harbor Freight and requested an additional 260 panel clips to secure the polycarbonate panels better, and we also decided to use 200 aluminum rivets- making the panels secure and permanently attached. Since then, no panels (thankfully) have blown away! Crisis number one solved!
Not two weeks later, we had a more serious near-disaster occur. Temperatures had been dipping fairly low at night, and so we put an electric heater in the greenhouse, running an extension cord from the garage. That was working pretty well, though it wasn't cranking out the heat needed for a really bitter night, so Alex decided we should put a kerosene heater in there as well. Which worked for a few nights.... until one morning when we looked outside and noticed that the windows of the greenhouse were black.... FIRE!! Apparently the kerosene heater had flamed up, which produced enormous amounts of sooty black smoke, and had continued to do so until we got out there.
It was truly a mess! The windows were coated with black soot, inside and out (the smoke condensed onto the outside of the panels as it escaped through the cracks), and even the poor seedlings were covered with soot and black particles. What a clean-up job that was! The cilantro never quite recovered, though the rest of the plants seemed all right. We used Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Magic Soap to clean the windows naturally, so that there would not be any harsh fumes lingering in the greenhouse. It worked marvelously!! I finally got to put Dr. Bronner's to the test, and, as usual, it lived up to its name!
Since then, our only other mistake has been to leave some delicate seedlings outside on a much-too-chilly night. Because our greenhouse is much-too-full, we move plants outside on a daily basis, to make room for new seedlings. On a night when we are expecting frost, we move all the plants into the greenhouse, on the floor, under the tables, or wherever we can squeeze them in. We had been celebrating Greek Easter that day, and returned home late, carelessly leaving some cucumber seedlings outside. They did not survive the night, and we learned a valuable lesson.
Having a greenhouse requires a lot of babysitting. The temperature must be checked at least 4-5 times a day (especially in a small greenhouse like ours, with less thermal mass to hold heat and maintain steady temps), plants watered frequently on hot, sunny days, windows opened, windows closed, fans on, fans off, and on and on. I guess I imagined that a greenhouse would create a self-sustaining haven for my plants... and didn't realize how much care I would still have to put in to ensuring their survival.
Every day that we undertake our new farming adventures, I have a growing respect for farmers. It is no easy lifestyle, and their work is so very necessary for our survival. As a former city person, I had become so disconnected from the food I ate... I really had no idea where it came from and how much work went into producing it. This certainly is a humbling journey for us!