Monday, June 29, 2009

The Greenhouse - Finished at Last

This afternoon we were finally able to remove the leftover construction materials, ladders, and tools from the garden and greenhouse. It's all done now, except for installation of the stained glass window that I made for the door. That will be installed this weekend.

I'm delighted with my little greenhouse, which was designed and built by my husband and youngest son. I think they did a splendid job of it. Size is 8'x12'x12' with a 3' knee-wall and the rest in corrugated fiberglass. It sits in the center of my raised bed vegetable garden and is oriented to receive full sun from sunrise to about 2 hours before sunset. The photo above shows an 18" overhanging eve, which is slatted with 1x2" boards. It serves as a filtered shade structure to protect this southside of the greenhouse from the too hot afternoon sun. Without it, the temps inside quickly rose to 100+ deg. by 3:00 pm on sunny days when the ambient temp was 75. Anything over 85 deg. and the plants begin to cook. Later this summer when the heat is too high, the greenhouse will be relatively empty.

With the shaded eave, fans, and a mist system I can keep the inside temp just 10 deg. over the outside temp. You can see the mist system attached to the rafters above the shelves. It's constructed of 1/4 in. plastic tubing and mist nozzles from the Rainbird drip irrigation system. It's controlled by a battery operated timer attached to the hose (over there by my little butler with the geranium) so I can set it to mist for 1 minute every 4 hours. It works great and allows me to go away for a couple of days without worry.

While the men designed the structure, the inside layout was my purview. I decided on the vinyl coated wire shelving because it's inexpensive and reasonably durable. These shelves/benches are also easy to clean. The upper shelves are for plants. The shelves under the main bench are for tools, supplies, and plants that need dim lighting.

This bench on the north side has space for two plastic tubs to hold my own special concoction of potting soils. One tub holds my seed starting mix - the other has my all-purpose mix for established seedlings, cuttings, and potted plants. Next to these is a small bar sink that I acquired at a local thrift shop for $5. As soon as I find a suitable faucet, the sink will be plumbed using a garden hose adapter. That hose currently runs the misting system for the bench and shelves on the south wall of the greenhouse. With the simple addition of a Y-connection, I'll be able to run both the misting system and the sink. The gray water for the sink will be recycled into the vegetable beds.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of my greenhouse. I don't have much in there right now and it looks like I have tons of space. Come Fall and time to plant up rose seeds, however, I'm sure it'll be full to overflowing. I suspect greenhouses are like boats and RV's. They all suffer from "two-foot-itis" - you know..."If it was just two feet longer, it would be perfect?"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Delinquent Roses - Nurture or Nature?

The roses are absolutely stunning this year, with the notable exception of a few varieties that have always failed to thrive in my garden. These are my delinquents - the ones that bring shame on the rest of the garden and on me, their long-suffering plant mother. It brings up the age-old question, is nurture or nature to blame?

For years, I blamed myself and wondered, "Where did I go wrong?" That's what plant mothers do. It's not really fair, but we've been conditioned to believe that there is no such thing as a bad plant, thus, it must be our fault when it ends up looking like hell...or dies. It was a retired rosarian who debunked that myth for me. Some roses are just bummers. The flaws are in their genes and are just more or less a problem depending upon the climate, the gardener, or both.

In my Pacific Northwest (zone 7b) garden, for example, I have the Warriner rose, Neon Lights, that was advertised to do well in zone 6b and warmer gardens, is very disease resistant, and blooms in flushes throughout the season. I bought it for it's bright neon pink blooms. In my garden this rose languishes. Ditto for Brilliant Pink Iceberg (photo left). On both, new leaves show blackspot and drop quickly. Repeat bloom is iffy, with a decent flush of flowers in June and late August, but only one or two blooms on the bush the rest of the time. The canes are weak and spindly and show sun scald. (heavy sigh) Moving them from full sun to part shade only added mildew to the litany of problems, so I moved them back to full sun. I've composted, fertilized, sprayed, dusted and watered diligently and these are still the ugliest plants in my garden. I couldn't bring myself to shovel prune the wretches because I thought...this year I'll figure out how to make these roses happy.

Well, no more. This year Neon gets the axe - and so does that Brilliant Pink Iceberg. Now that I know that nurture cannot always overcome nature, I can rid my garden of these delinquents without feeling like a black thumb gardener. I have my eye on a bright pink hybrid tea, Manou Meilland, to replace the Neon. The hybrid tea, Tournament of Roses, will look nice in the Iceberg spot.

Today, I think I'll get out the shovel and do a little pruning.