Thursday, April 4, 2013

Early Spring...Under Glass

I love to tinker. I love to collect "junk." I love to experiment, explore, and create. I love to roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty, and work my tush off for the things I want to accomplish. This is me. And as I continue to grow in years, I also feel like I have come to appreciate this aspect of myself; it's no longer something to be shy or embarrassed about. No, it's time to embrace it and enjoy it in its entirety!

Having said this - almost as a warning for the off-the-wall crafts projects I come up with ;) - I have really come to enjoy the time I spend trying something new. And today was no exception! Aside from the intense winds that billowed around my house, today was a perfect spring day in which to putter around and create.

I was able to withstand the wind long enough to transplant my Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, swill chard and spinach, plant my arugula, radish, green onion, and mustard green seeds, and plant my lettuces in my lettuce table!! That was productive. But out of necessisity I also had some time to be simply creative.

The days are getting longer now and the temperatures are rising...slightly. Unfortunately, since we are in the high desert, the nights still get down into the low to mid 30's, which is still too cold for may delicate garden plants. But I have decided to try to come up with a solution. Aside from owning a greenhouse (which I one day long to have, but right now, I am limited on space and funds!), I know there are ways to mimic more desireable temperatures thus lengthening our growing season. Cold frames, high tunnels, hoop houses...the list can become expansive. But given our strong winds, and my lack of space, I feel I am limited to what I can do.

This last summer we finally broke down and spent the money to have three of our larger windows replaced (they were completely broken and falling out of their frames! It was about time we did it, ha!). Part of the instillation process included the removal of the old windows and frames. Being me, I asked the men if I could keep the old windows. You should have seen the look on their faces as I made my request. One would think I had just asked for a vital organ! It was priceless, yet I felt somewhat embarrassed to ask. But these were huge window panes; unbroken and unblemished. The possibilities for these double-paned pieces were something I was willing to risk embarrassment for!

Now, when Cam returned home from work that day...that was another story. I'm pretty sure the look he gave me when he saw the old windows still sitting in the front of our house and hearing that I requested they be left behind, was one of shock. He couldn't wrap his mind around the possibilities I envisioned. I saw a cute lean-to greenhouse to protect my tender plants; a wall of windows on a small Victorian chic inspired shed, where I could house my delicate - perhaps tropical - plants all winter and would be able to spend time consumed by my passion for the garden; a picture of a small Victorian greenhouse even passed through my mind. But Cam saw junk. Garbage that needed to be disposed of. Period.  I assured him that I would, at some point in the not too distant future, put these windows to good use but that did little to ease his mind. But my powers of 'wife' prevailed and he decided to let me store these windows, tucked into the back of the garage, until I could put them to use.

Several months have passed since that day. Fall and winter have come and gone. Now spring is upon us and I am anxious to get out there watch my garden grow and thrive! Unfortunately the weather isn't on the same page as I am at this point and I am learning a lesson in patience. But my gardeners desire is proving to be quite persistent and I find myself searching for ways to extend our short growing season of the high desert. 

My cool weather plants (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels spouts, Bok Choy, and others) are ready to move into their permanent outdoor home but admittedly, I am nervous for their survival. I have hardened them for four days, but the cold nights are still worrisome...perhaps because I am still a new gardener but I'm not ready to lose them all because I couldn't be patient.

A greenhouse would be ideal right about now, and one day I would LOVE to own one. I can only dream of how much I could do with one! But in the mean time I have tried to create a more economical way to help accomplish my goal.  I decided to finally put those discarded old windows to good use and create a little greenhouse to protect my small and young plants from the harsh elements! These are the two I've created and have put to use so far!

Last year I built a very rustic raised bed in my serenity garden (a name a refer to it as because it is completely blocked off form the dogs which keeps it pristine and all mine :). As I began to make plans for my garden, I decided this bed would be perfect for growing my bok Choy, radishes, and spinach. Knowing I wanted to protect these plants a little for the cold nights and extreme winds, I decided to take the largest of my windows, prop it against the outermost edge of the bed and lean it so it rested on the fence directly behind. There is plenty of ventilation but the glass warms the soil nicely during the day and holds some of the heat in at night! So far, my spinach and bok Choy are looking great!

The next is just as simple. I decided that I wanted a little more protection for my new Brussels sprouts that I planted into the ground away from any form of refuge. I decided that a little glass tepee  would be the perfect solution. I took two window panes and placed one on each of the outer edges of my planted area. I then leaned the two panes into the center - towards each other - so they came to rest on each other, sturdily. The warmth this creates from the sun during the day creates a natural hot house! My spouts are thriving!!

 After months of saving, I've finally put those windows to good use! My seedlings are holding up quite well in their new sheltered homes and I am hoping it may even help with germination times for the seeds I just set out! And another perk...I think they provide visual interest in my garden at a time when things still look barren. I'm enjoying it very much and hopefully I'll be reaping some of the rewards of early plantings soon! :)




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