A-Z Gardening in Zone 3-4

For the organic gardner struggling in the short season climate

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cucumber netting

netting for cucumbers to climb up on

cucumbers growing on netting

cucumbers growing on netting

cucumbers on vines

cucumbers on vines

We grow cucumbers in our greenhouse because the season is so short here. In May, after we hang  netting that has large spaces in it from the roof of the greenhouse, we plant our seeds in the soil of the greenhouse floor.  Then we put black plastic between the rows to keep the weeds down and to heat up the soil. Yes, we have weeds, they blow in the open windows and doors and we bring them in on our feef and clothes.  After that, we sprinkle Concern, ( diatomaceous earth, organic crawling insect killer), over the seeds before they come up.

You should be able to order Concern, at gardening stores or gardening catalogs. See the post (: https://51chevy.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/catalogs-that-…nhouse-growing/ ) If you still can’t find it click this site http://www.victorpest.com/search?page=1&search=concern.  Concern kills crawling insects like slugs and pill bugs that eat plant shoots and young plants.  It can be used in the garden, on house plants, or in the greenhouse.

I recently learned that Concern, cannot be shipped to all states, however, another product called Safer, diatomaecous earth can. Go to http://www.saferbrand.com/store/insect-control/51702  to order on line.

There are two different kins of  diatomaceous earth, one is used to filter swimming pools.  This type should not be used as it is dangerous to breath it in because it can cause lung damage.  The variety used for gardens is a much finer powder and does not pose a health hazard.

As the cucumbers grow up the netting you must weave the vines in and out of the netting spaces.  This is necessary in order for the vine to support the weight of the cucumbers as they grow.


Tomatoes and Peppers

Tomato and pepper seedlings in the greenhouse.

Mid-March to early April is the time to start tomatoes, peppers and any flowers, like impatience, that take a long time to germinate or to flower. Some seeds, such as petunias, might need to be planted even sooner.

Linda’s husband Tim made her a heat and light stand so she could germinate plants more easily indoors. It has 4 shelves, 3 have heat and 4 have fluorescent lights. The germination stand moved from her house to my front porch about 10 years ago when we started gardening together. I had the land, she had the ability to wield the garden tiller and gravely tractor.

We have been growing Heirloom tomatoes for many years now. This year we are growing Cherokee Purple, Moskvich, Striped German and Amish paste tomatoes and Boynton Bell and Sweet Banana peppers. We are also growing a hybrid cherry tomato called Chiquita, it’s a pink cherry tomato. We grow cherry tomatoes in deck planters so we can put them in the greenhouse if frost threatens. We like them because they ripen before the others and we can grab a hand full while working in the garden.

After the tomatoes and peppers start coming up, it usually takes 3-4 days for tomatoes, a little longer for peppers. I turn on the lights so they don’t get to leggy. When the majority of tomatoes or peppers are up they are moved off the germination stand to a shelf on the front porch, which has a southern exposure, until it is safe to put them in the greenhouse. Turn the plants every evening, so they grow straight, and pet them. Just run your hand gently over the seedlings at least twice a day. I also have a small fan on a timer. That emulates garden breezes and also keeps the stems strong. You will find that stragglers will keep coming up as the seeds can germinate at different times.

The greenhouse is not heated, however, we do have a space heater we use in the spring and fall when it gets too cold. Because the greenhouse was built over the cellar door, the temperature is a little warmer in spring, winter and fall, than it would be if it was a stand alone type. The stone steps absorb heat during the day if the sun is out and radiate it out during the night and there is some heat that migrates from the wood furnace and oil burner furnace. Living in zone 3-4, we can have temperatures into the 20’s in spring and fall. It can be really tricky, trying to figure out just when to move things to the greenhouse because every spring is different.

Last year we planted our tomatoes and peppers outside because we had to replace the roof on the greenhouse. Our peppers produced practically nothing, the tomatoes did better. The tomatoes had blossom end rot and cracking problems that they don’t usually have in the greenhouse, because we can control water and heat. In the fall we didn’t cover the peppers, why bother, and learned that peppers are frost hardy to a mild frost. That must be why, one year when the temperature went to 19 degrees outside, temperature difference is about 10 degrees warmer in our unheated greenhouse, after we put our tomatoes out in the greenhouse, the peppers survived better that the tomatoes. We lost half our tomato plants that spring.

When the tomato and pepper plants get to be between two and three inches high transplant them into pots to give them more space to grow until they can be planted outside or in the greenhouse.

Tomatoes in the greenhouse

Pepper plants in the greenhouse