A Greenhouse is a Way Of Life
A Greenhouse is Therapeutic
A friend recently wrote me and mentioned how much she would love to have a greenhouse. The comment stopped me in my tracks since I can’t even imagine day-to-day life without the regular visits I make to the greenhouses. The time spent there renews me in a way little else does.
In the greenhouse, the vivid petunia blossoms have moon-colored moths fluttering around them. Subtle gradations of light cascade across broccoli leaf surfaces. Petals of the pure white tuberose just start to unfurl. In these moments, we are moved to stillness. I appreciate how Nature nurtures and lavishes us in so many ways that are therapeutic and can greatly relieve anxiety through the sensual pleasures of sight and scent.
Upon opening the front door, the scents of moist earth, pungent marigolds, and tropical jasmine fill your nostrils. Sidling along one overgrown walkway tumbled over with spearmint, tomato tops, garlic chives and basil flowers a new set of smells harmoniously blend themselves. Perfect delight. Deep healing.
Then it’s time for the horticultural nurturing tasks; watering, transplanting, grooming, propagating cuttings and starting seeds, attending to whatever are the particular needs of the day and season. There is always something to do in the greenhouse. Get the tools and basket. Snippets of aromatic, culinary herbs are ready to be added to a recipe (I love having fresh herbs for cooking!). There are blossoms to cut for fragrant, colorful bouquets on desk or next to the bed, special gifts you give yourself.
Small Greenhouse Helps Heat the House
At this time, we have two greenhouses. Both are unheated except by the sun. One, on the south side of our adobe home, acts as a solar heat collector to help warm our home, is made of glass and wood and is for production, seeding and storage for winter. It has a potting table, many shelves, storage underneath the benches for pots, flats and supplies, a potting soil barrel, a red-wiggler worm bed and a water barrel.
This is where, beginning in March, all the seeds get planted in preparation for planting the outdoor gardens. Soon there will be many seedlings of veggies, flowers and herbs. Throughout the cold, early spring the greenhouse is a busy place as seedlings get thinned and transplanted, treated with organic seaweed and fish by-product fertilizers and actively grow to garden-ready size and vigor.
By mid-summer the starter plants that had crowded the benches in the greenhouse are mostly emptied out, planted in garden beds and extras given away to appreciative friends. Only the cactus collection remains, enjoying the heat that gathers in there.
Winter Protection for Outdoor Pots
This time of year certain outdoor plants get moved to where it's warm and comfy for the winter. Then, if they've happily made it through until the spring, they go out again. Annual blooming pots have just been moved in and are continuing to flower. I love the color inside from the geranium collection, fuchsias, begonias and impatiens. They are blooming away with even more enthusiasm than several weeks ago when, being outside, they had the challenges of erratic wind, fluctuating temperatures and dry air.
The Amaryllis collected over the years have summered outside in pots in their shady, protected place under the trees and now brought in, will rest for awhile before putting up their dramatic, huge blooms. And the Thanksgiving & Christmas cactus have hundreds of buds forming in time to add beauty to the holidays. Inside, protected in the sunny greenhouse, they are all brilliant with color and vitality.
Tender Plants Bloom in Winter
Then the Stock (Matthiola) that never quite made it to blooming in the outside beds and now happy at home in two big pots, will be my favorite extra special treat in the deep of winter when they bloom with their amazingly aromatic fragrance, reminiscent of carnations. Snapdragons are always reliable for cheerful winter enjoyment as well as the African Daisies (Osteospermum var) which I love to collect in every color. These I dig up from the outside garden beds as rooted clumps as well as make cuttings for spring sharing.
Some places are fortunate to be able to grow winter pansies outside all winter. New Mexico is not one of those places. So I rely on the greenhouse and get to enjoy winter pansies...
Rooted pieces of Oregano, Marjoram, Basil and Mint are lifted from the garden beds and planted in pots that will live all winter in the greenhouse.
A very, very cold night will freeze the most tender of these in the small greenhouse, the basil, impatiens & begonias. Only once in nearly 20 years did I lose my geraniums during a very early cold snap when the plants had not yet acclimatized.
Big Greenhouse for Food Production
Today is a cold sunny October day in the highlands of northern New Mexico, altitude 7,000 feet, and in the big greenhouse, it’s as warm as a tropical retreat. The humid air feels and smells like plumeria-infused Hawaii, balmy (rare in arid New Mexico) and redolent with cascading Petunias in several colors, Lime blossoms, miniature Roses and tall spikes of Tuberose.
The second greenhouse, also built of glass, is along the front of the studio where I run my little cottage industry. This one has a second glazing of UV resistant greenhouse-grade plastic sheeting mounted on the sides and top for winter insulation. It has large in-ground rock-edged growing beds for mostly greens production in winter and is heat-enhancing for heat-loving plants in summer. Right now the tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers that have produced a heavy crop all summer, are continuing to ripen their fruits. We will let them continue until the cold prevents them from being productive and then will replant with lettuce and other greens.
There are still bunches of Swiss chard, kale and lettuce that we bring up to the kitchen. The one enormous artichoke plant lends a feeling of the primal exotic to the greenhouse environment and produced 3 luscious artichokes this year. Evidently it’s happy since it keeps coming back and is not a plant that ordinarily will grow in New Mexico’s climate.
There are plans in the works to create a third hoophouse that will be specifically for tomato and pepper production. And, I might just try a few more artichokes!
Natural Cycles and the Greenhouse
The relationship between garden and greenhouse
is one of cyclical interconnectedness. Today, in October, as I bring in the
spikes of seeding vegetables and flowers from the gardens, I imagine planting
these seeds in April. Now we will carefully separate the seed from the chaff
and store them until planting time. Every season connects to the next in the
perfectly cyclical way nature expresses itself, in sowing and reaping, then
sowing again. Working and playing in the greenhouse allows me to be part of that cycle of return
by becoming an active participant with nature and finding harmony in the way of