Garden On, Vashon

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WHAT a Nice Day! (and more coming…)

February 26th, 2014 at Wed, 26th, 2014 at 4:53 pm by Karen Dale

T’was a day that began beautifully and only got better. Looking east at dawn, blue clouds stained red in a golden sky. And in the western sky just then (or so I heard) a tiny crescent moon hung daintily over the snow-capped Olympics. THANK YOU, Zeus and all ye weather gods for sending us a respite from the recent cold.

This gorgeous spell may last until Friday. So outdoors I hope we ALL GO, to clean up, catch up, do what needs to be done.

2014 New Greenhouse skin

In my case, the Big Chore was to re-skin my little homemade greenhouse with The Good Stuff—6 mil hoop house plastic, guaranteed to last and transmit sunlight fully for four years. Up until now I’ve used cheap clear plastic tarps, furniture wraps, whatever big pieces of plastic I could find, only 12 months later reskinning the darn house when the sun & wind turned its cheap plastic to shreds.

After shopping around, the best price I could find was a 100×10′ roll through McConkey’s wholesale nursery supply for $125. Used 17′ at a time, changed out every four years, I think I’m set for hoop house film until, oh… 2034.

If you want an un-funky greenhouse, True Value has a spiffy little greenhouse on display this week: a 6′ x 6′ x 4′ plastic greenhouse for $229. This is a big version of my little Start Cart that I’ve used indoors to start seeds for years. What I liked about this house at True Value was the shelving: two-level, coated-wire shelving wrapping around 3 sides of the house. You could fit a LOT of flats in there. Also, the thing has a door and a back wall with vent windows. Overheating and condensation might be problems, but a person home during the day could just open it wide on sunny days and let the heat vent off.

Start Seeds Now – and With Some Heat, Please

I’ve got greenhouse on the brain, as I’m coordinating the vegetable growing for the annual garden club sale again. With the high school greenhouse in limbo due to construction*, eight club members have volunteered to grow vegetables in their own greenhouses. Some of us sowed onions and some tomatoes this week, and those without heating coils or pads are finding that their greenhouses can’t do it on their own. “It’s only 48° under my lights!” one of the Greenhouse Gang moaned to me last week. Another found that she was only getting a 5° raise in temperature in her new, not-quite-fully-covered greenhouse.

Folks, a heating-pad or heating coils under your seed flats is a must, around here. At this time of year—when we really MUST sow tomatoes or not have ripe fruit, come September—even the farmers with fully sunlit greenhouses use auxiliary heat to sprout those seeds.

At the very least, save up $25-50 and get a heating mat from Country Store, Territorial Seed Company, or Gardeners’ Supply. (No, your bed’s electric blanket won’t do.) They come in one-flat or two-flat sizes for up to $50. If you cover that warmed flat with a clear dome or a blanket of clear plastic, you’ll raise the temperature up to the 60-80° range that seeds really like for germination. Then once the seeds have sprouted, you can move that flat to a cooler space and start another 1-2 flats of seeds on the heating pad.

A slightly cheaper way is to get a heating coil—a 6′, 12′ or so plastic-coated wire with a thermostat and an electric plug. You thread these across your shelving or in a shallow box of sand   (taking care not to cross the wires as they will short out) and then put your seeds flats upon them. I got one from Thyme Garden in Oregon, online, for a reasonable price. Here’s the germination set-up at Shoulder-to-Shoulder Farm: you can just see the gray coil in the far corner of the sand-bed. Notice that lid on the back bed: it’ll hold the heat close to the seeds instead of trying to heat up a greenhouse that isn’t being used.

Shoulder to SHoulder germ bed

With heat, your seeds will sprout in about a week. Without heat, your seeds will take weeks, all the while enduring the cold moisture of your watering (or the drought of your neglect.)

Warmth. Your seeds need it. Provide!


* LATE-BREAKING NEWS: as of this last day of February, the high school is opening the greenhouse doors for us. A little karmic reward for stepping up with our own greenhouses, perhaps? I meet with officials today…






gardens on the south end of Vashon Island, on a sandy hilltop overlooking Quartermaster Harbor. "Garden On, Vashon" shares what the Island has to teach us about gardening HERE—from making soils to sowing seeds to raising plants to harvest, cooking, preserving, and designing new ways to cultivate your little chunk of Vashon Island. To contact me, email, or leave a comment.

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