Last week, I wrote about three things I have learned in just a few years of owning a greenhouse. Our greenhouse is 20 feet long and 14 feet wide, and 9 feet tall in the center. This is the perfect size for our family, but I still have issues with space.
Here are few space management techniques that have worked inside our greenhouse.
1. Make a game plan early. Start simple, and read up on each veggie you think you want to grow, including varieties, temperature zones, how much space the plant needs, and especially time from sprout to fruit. Doing your homework pays off big, I can tell you. I thought I knew enough the first year, and just started planting — what a disaster that was. Things were coming up way too soon or too late, and some plants didn’t do well because they were meant for a different temp zone. Some plants like cucumber and melons almost do better by waiting and planting the seeds directly when the soil warms. Also, most tomato plants don’t like the soil to get below 60 degrees at night, so we hoop them outdoors when we plant tomatoes early.
2. Be prepared. Gather your nursery pots and soil early. The last thing you want to do is be waiting on an order of pots to come. For our operation, I use 600 3.5 inch square black pots, and 100 six pack containers, planting big seeds like four o’clock directly into individual pots.
All veggies go in 3.5 inches pots, and flowers like alyssum, baby’s breath, and marigolds can go in six packs. We learned this year to broadcast plant all small flower seeds in 1 foot by 1 foot boxes with good drainage, then transplant them into individual containers as they sprout. This really saves space and time. If you are not catching rainwater, you should be. My plants do so much better on rainwater. If you don’t have a roof to catch water with, get creative. Maybe you can use your greenhouse to create a rainwater catch. It can be as easy as a tarp funneling into a bucket.
3. Don’t be afraid to transplant. As your greenhouse gets tight, use more broadcast boxes to start your fall crop or summer flowers. Most plants transplant well, only losing a few days as they re-root. Transplanting can be a real space saver.
4. Kick your plants out. If plants can handle cooler temps, find a place outside for them. You can always bring them in at night, filling the isles and walkways inside your greenhouse. We split up hostas this spring, and planted them in groups of 3 plants per ½ gallon container, and they took up every corner in the greenhouse. So we kicked them out, putting them in a cool spot shaded by the north side of the dairy barn. They love it there, and will sell for $5 a pot next week at the farmers’ market. Alyssum, inpatients, and baby’s breath can go inside the barn at night and be brought out into the yard at day.
5. Temporary tables give extra room.
As your babies grow up, set up temporary shelves in corners and along outside walls. We use buckets and old doors, putting them away as they are no longer needed. This can be a lifesaver when things get tight.
Most of all, be particular about what you plant. If you are trying a new variety, start with just a few seeds. Nothing drives me crazy like waiting for a new plant to sprout. Use your space on tried and true varieties. And don’t forget: Keep it fun, make it a passion and you will surely succeed!