The Winter Greenhouse
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
During the winter months, the homestead's growing dome is quiet--resting from all the activity of the past summer. But even in the stillness, there are many things happening and several tasks still to be done.
From the beginning of December to the end of January, short daylight hours at our latitude limit the growth of fall plantings. The seedlings in the growing dome are on hold through these months, waiting for brighter days. Some of the more cold-hardy greens overwinter, providing fully developed leaves before any of the new spring plantings. Ruby Red Swiss chard, Red Russian Kale, Bull's Blood or McGregor's Favorite Beets, and Fenburg Lettuce can withstand the cold temperatures and carry over from one year to the next.
One of the primary wintertime tasks in the greenhouse is cleanup from the previous growing season. As the year wanes, the last of the summer plants die back, debris from the growing season collects in the beds, and the plants' foliage thins out. Winter is an ideal time to get a look at plants and evaluate what foliage needs to be trimmed back or removed entirely. It's important to keep the dead and decaying material in the greenhouse to a minimum. This prevents mold from developing and spreading in the closed, indoor environment. It also encourages airflow around the plants during winter and opens up the plants so light can reach the new growth.
Another task for winter in the dome is pruning perennials. In our growing dome we have several, including a Hachiya Japanese Persimmon, Suffolk Red Grape, Meyer Lemon, and bay laurel. We also have a few perennial herbs and flowers. Winter (while the trees are dormant) is the ideal time to make necessary cuts to shape these trees, open them to light and airflow, and remove broken or diseased areas.
CLEANING NON-DECIDUOUS TREES
Non-deciduous trees like the Meyer Lemon and bay laurel don't shed their leaves each year, meaning that over time the leaves accumulate dust and grime. This can encourage development of mildew on the leaves that will inhibit photosynthesis and growth in the coming year. At least once each year, we need to use a soft cloth dampened either with water or with a natural fungicide (like Doctor Zymes) to wipe down the leaves and remove the build up of debris.
CLEANING THE GLAZING
The plants need all the light they can get during these dark months. As the weather begins to warm in late winter, it is important to clean the greenhouse glazing. During the growing season, a film of dust accumulates on the inside of the polycarbonate, reducing the amount of sunlight that is able to penetrate the dome. Using a soft cloth and natural cleanser (like a vinegar/water solution) to wipe down the inside of the glazing removes the buildup and encourages the most possible light for growing seedlings.
A few of our greenhouse crops get their start during the cold days of winter. Dutch Yellow Shallots (read about them here: Dutch Yellow Shallots) are planted at the beginning of winter; peas are planted at the end. We also start a variety of spring greens in February (read about them here), as the days lengthen and the dome begins coming back to life. After the work of winter is done, the greenhouse is ready for a fresh start and another season of production.
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