Friday, November 3, 2017

Autumn Catch-Up

Autumn greetings from Iowa! It's been more than six weeks since I last posted, since, as I mentioned in that last post, I've been overwhelmed with all the work of remodeling a new space for my retail store, moving everything into the new space, and organizing it all, but things are finally starting to get settled there. My house went mostly uncleaned and my gardens completely untended for more than six weeks, and blogging had to fall by the wayside -- but now things are once again tidied up indoors and frost has taken care of many things outside, so I have time to make a quick report.

The big new addition to my gardens are the new greenhouse and cold frame that my handyman and I put together next to the garage. I felt that I really couldn't be a serious gardener unless I had at least a very small greenhouse in which to start seeds in spring, so I ordered one online last May, and finally assembled it in August:

The shiny new greenhouse, back in August, on a
paving stone base that I laid myself. The new cold frame
is just beyond.

Unfortunately, all the panels blew out several times (we live on a windy hill in open country), and this is what the greenhouse looked like by October. Even the door blew off -- Grrr. I had gotten the builder who remodeled my front porch into a sunroom to build a wood base around the bottom and to firmly attach the frame to the side of the garage, using spray foam to seal the gaps, so at least the frame didn't blow away. But the panels just wouldn't stay in, despite my buying extra clips to attach them, and then trying to tape the panels to the frame and to each other.

By last week with frost approaching, I decided that I simply hadn't used enough tape, and used a whole roll on both outside and inside to hold the panels in place. Not beautiful, but it seems to have held together thus far, and it's better than looking out in the morning to see polycarbonate panels strewn across the lawn.... I think I'll further batten it down by wrapping the whole thing in plastic sheeting, held on by -- yes -- more tape.

Since we got such a late start, all that's in the greenhouse this fall is a lone, sad-looking
tomato plant. It was mostly eaten by tomato hornworms (giant green caterpillars that my husband
picked off at least two dozen of ) so we have scant hopes for ripening tomatoes.
However, it's an experiment, to see how long the unheated greenhouse can keep the
tomato plant alive as temperatures get colder.

My husband also planted some lettuce and chard in the cold frame, but again, we got a pretty late start because the cold frame wasn't in place until late September.

We plan to use the both the greenhouse and cold frame only to extend the growing season in both fall and spring, and may heat the greenhouse only minimally, if at all, in springtime. My sunroom is pretty good for starting seeds until about the first of March, when the angle of the sun is too high to shine directly into the sunroom very much. At that time I plan to transport seedlings to the greenhouse to grow on, and a heater might not be needed much, if at all. (I did install an automatic opener on the venting window on the top of the greenhouse, to control for too much heat.)

At any rate, it will interesting to experiment with using the new greenhouse and cold frame, and I'm glad I finally have them -- I feel like "real" gardener now!

Some other scenes:

By late October, my Scented Garden around our patio, which I designed and made this year, was starting to look pretty over, despite some last blooms of the annuals. 

But alas, it was struck down by frost last week. The Four O'Clocks were utterly destroyed overnight.

In advance of the approaching frost, I had over the past month been bringing many potted plants inside to their winter home in my sunroom, which is pretty full again. A number of plants will also overwinter in my basement, under florescent lights. 

More house plants, back inside for the winter.

A nice spot for home school lessons with my two kids, as well as for reading alone and napping (preferably with cats). On sunny days in winter, this is my paradise, my tropical vacation right at home.

But very sadly, our outdoor cat, Little Kitty (next to the newly-planted Scented Garden in May) developed pneumonia, and despite my veterinarian husband's treatment, she died last week. We buried her at the edge of our windbreak. She was my outdoor gardening companion, often purring next to me as I planted or weeded, and is greatly missed.

There is still garden work ahead of me this fall -- bulb planting, some potted starts that I desperately need to get into the ground, tidying up annuals, etc. -- which I hope to do in the next week or two. But I actually find myself looking forward to winter spent among my plants indoors -- the sunroom has made all the difference.

I hope you are enjoying a gentle autumn in your own gardens, and settling cozily into warm sweaters and comfy slippers as winter approaches. Best wishes for the coming holidays, and Thanks for Reading. -Beth