Readying the Greenhouse for Fall

So about a week ago we looked around and realized that it was fast becoming fall. Time to clear out the tomatoes and peppers and ready the greenhouse for fall. On a cooler night when the patio was not open I snuck out back to work on this project. In about 5 hrs or so we had cleared out about 15 tomato plants and many of the peppers. We left the Tom Thumbs and a few other tomato plants that were still producing fruit and replanted a number of the herbs. We also started some chard and winter greens and planted some mums. We are also planting some brussels sprouts outside the greenhouse in the planter that to now held basil.
Next week we will be installing a small ceramic heater and grow lights in the greenhouse to extend the season. We will see how long we can stretch things out, but are pretty sure we should be able to extend the growing season at least until December. We are also scheduling a big planning session in January to develop a grow list and design some new growing vessels for the patio. We hope to grow some flowers for a cutting garden as well as vastly increasing our grow space for herbs. We are also collaborating with a guest/local gardener who will be growing some vegetables and herbs for us in her organic garden. Her produce which we sampled this year is beautiful! We are also considering a rooftop garden or a plot at the Berwyn Community Gardens but have to see if we can take that on as well.
Overall we feel we have learned a lot from this first summer season and have had loads of fun with our first season in the greenhouse. One of the main learning lessons from this year is that it is important to tame the desire to grow everything possible in the greenhouse. Overloading it can cramp the plants and limit their production. We have also learned to deal with basic pests (the dreaded tomato worm and a few other little pests) . The easiest way to deal with them is to “squish” them either between your fingers or underfoot. You can also introduce beneficial bugs such as ladybugs but it is easiest and most efficient to do things the old fashioned way.
One of our other successes from the early season (after stutter stepping several times) is the green wall on the side of the building. We tried ivy at first but it burned. We then tried transplants of clematis from a friends garden but it failed to root. Finally we gave in and had a professional landscaper install clematis on little starter trellises and those finally took off. The key to clematis is to protect the roots with mulch and keep them moist…….the soaker hose is your friend. You also want to know what type of clematis (1, 2 or 3) you are planting as each has different pruning requirement. Some are less labor intensive than others. We plant to cover the planter boxes for the winter to protect the soil from salt and the elements and then apply some organic plant food in the spring. We have heard that if they take the first year they grow like crazy in subsequent years, time will tell but we hope that is the case.
The next blog post will include some of the cocktail recipes inspired by the greenhouse this summer. Stay tuned!