• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming and home schooling. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 17/Grade 12, 15/Grade 10, and 13/Grade 9.

    Contact me at becky.farmschool@gmail.com

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    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
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Greenhouse school

[I am warning you now -- if you aren't in the slightest interested in gardening or greenhouses, click away fast. What follows are proud parent photos, but I'm worse than any proud parent because I never submitted anyone I know other than my husband and both sets of our parents to pictures of our adorable babies. But my plant photos I'm putting on my blog for all to see. I am truly besotted.]

My latest educational endeavor: figuring out the ins and outs of my new greenhouse, which is a grand adventure for all of us.  The boys helped build it, Davy has his tomatoes started from seed growing in it, Laura has two pumpkin plants and three ground cherries growing in there, and Daniel helps me attach various things to the walls. The greenhouse is part zoo (we’ve found everything from flies, bees, dragonflies, butterflies and moths, and one lost hummingbird in there), part vegetable garden, part flower garden, part school (we are all learning lots), and part mental health clinic, for me at least. I smile when I see it, I smile when I’m in it.  And I have a hard time leaving it, especially to make meals for other people.

UPDATED to add some greenhouse book links at the bottom of the post, for Jane at Read, Learn, and be Happy who commented below.

I promised Sheila some pictures quite some time ago, so here they are:

The greenhouse, now situated between the back of the house and our cattle pasture. The floor for the moment is plywood, on skids, just a temporary arrangement until we build the new house and get the greenhouse situated over there. Definitely not until at least next summer, quite possibly/probably the summer after. The permanent floor at the permanent location will be concrete or gravel,

Tom built the benches out of plywood, just something quick. We had planned to get something like the Dura-Bench panels, especially after finding out about the more easily obtainable (at least in this part of the world) poultry flooring, but all of a sudden the greenhouse was finished, pulled behind the house with the tractor, and open for business.  And I needed benches. This is the the view on the left, starting with an Early Girl tomato, bought started at the nursery about 12″ high, but going great guns,

I ran a double piece of twine from the leg behind the tomato up to one of the trusses, since the tomato has surpassed the tomato cage,

Davy’s unidentified heirloom tomatoes, started from seed saved from his favorite plant last summer, on top of the center table (one bell pepper at far left), and various squashes and tomatoes (and one pot of scarlet runner beans, bottom left) on the floor,

The scarlet runner beans never have leaves this large when grown outdoors in the ground,

Behind the tomatoes, Laura’s ground cherries, which I started from seed,

To the right of the door, some herbs on the bench (several different basils, cilantro, lavendar, rosemary), and Laura’s gallivanting pumpkin; the heater, which thankfully hasn’t been needed for several weeks, is at far right,

Laura’s pumpkin down below,

The shade-loving plants — fern, ivies, fuchsia — live under the bench,

Back to the left side of the greenhouse, on the bench. A few strawberry pots (and one teeny tiny avocado seed). There are berries on the plants and one is getting awfully ripe; the main benefit about growing strawberries inside is avoiding the marauding, starving robins and gophers, who love the berries as much as we do,

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) blooming in same pot with not-yet blooming canary bird vine (Tropaeolum perearinum), started from seed, on the same tuteur found at Winners (Canadian version of TJ Maxx). I very briefly considered spray painting the tuteur black, then came to my senses and realized that once the vines start growing, it doesn’t matter what color it is. Both vines are growing so quickly that once in the morning and once in the evening I need to tuck the “escaped” ends in and around,

Laura’s Gerbera daisy, which she picked out at Wal-Mart. I have no shame. This one is great fun to watch, the flowers start as small green buttons, then slowly the stem lengthens and unfurls and bloom turns upwards, pinkens, and opens to several times the size of the original button. And very easy to water, because it lets you know by getting slightly, but obviously, limp, rather like a tired Southern belle.  Just add water,

Dragonwing begonia, which Laura, who came to the nursery with me, did not like. I’m glad I have veto power,

Variegated purple ornamental pepper plant, just picked up at the nursery on sale because it was on sale and also needed adopting,

Canna lily, rescued from Home Depot last week (I know, I know, it’s a sickness). Just began to bloom yesterday,

This is my lophospermum “Wine Red” vine; not much to look right now at but I’m terribly pleased with it since I, with my mother-in-law’s help for four months, managed to overwinter it. And as of March I didn’t think it would make it or, if it did, amount to very much, since the leaves on the middle section of the vine — only about a foot long in total — were drying up and turning yellow.  Even now, the middle section is a little dry and spare, but there are lovely new leaves at each end. This is the very first bloom since last summer,

Firecracker vine (Manettia luteorubra) and another (also not-yet blooming) canary bird vine, on another, larger tuteur from Winners,

Castor bean plant. I’ve wanted one of these for a while but didn’t know how it would hold up to our climate. The green strip on the plastic wall is masking tape so I can mark the plant’s growth, which has been rapid.  I wasn’t expecting the funky inflorescence quite so soon,

Some of the geraniums I overwintered, and at far right a hanging basket I rescued from the great outdoors after three days of rain and wind,

A mandevilla I found last week, on sale for $5 (with some lobelia I planted in front). The nursery kept cutting back the mandevilla to keep it under control, so it has three or four stems, all of which have blooms now. I found some bits of lattice left over from our deck, and nailed them to the studs. Mandevillas are the kind of plants I’ve never been able to grow before, without the greenhouse, since the summers, especially the evenings, just don’t get warm enough,

Another, um, mandevilla, rescued two days after the first from Home Depot. And marked down considerably ($8) and considerably longer than the other mandevilla. I had to do surgery on the cheap plastic trellis it came with, and around which it was wound with a vengeance,

Blooms coming,

Cosmos with sweet potato vine in the “infirmary”; the sweet potato vines were badly damaged by frost at the of last month, even in the greenhouse (Tom and I found it was -2 C in there at 5 am when we arrived to turn on the heater) but are making a good comeback,

Right side of the greenhouse, looking toward the door,

While I was taking pictures, a moth landed nearby (can you see it, in the middle of the picture?),

Heading out. That’s a water tank you can see on the back of the tractor. And the step stool is one of the things we brought back from my parents’ apartment.  For years it sat in the kitchen, under the telephone, and it’s where we sat while talking. It’s in remarkably good shape considering its age (close to 50 years, like me), and the fact that it made the trip home in the back of our pickup truck in January, since there was no room left in the cargo trailer. That chair and another, an old rush one, were piled up high in the back a la Beverly Hillbillies, and I suspect it’s the main reason we didn’t have to worry about theft from the truck and trailer overnight in parking lots. I’m sure people thought we were hauling our nearly worthless possessions about, judging from the junky-lookingpile in the back of the pickup.

I found small solar-powered fairy lights with round wicker covers on sale at Home Hardware, and finally put the three Ikea solar-powered white lanterns I’ve been saving for a few years to good use.  When it’s finally dark, around 10:30 pm now, it looks lovely in the greenhouse,

If you’re still here, thanks for indulging me!

BOOK LINKS, from my previous post:

Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion by Shane Smith, illustrated by Marjorie Leggitt; as soon as I saw Ms. Leggitt’s lovely cover, I knew this was the book for me, since I am planning on putting a comfortable chair near the door for surveying my new domain. Underneath the pretty pictures, full over very practical and useful advice.

The Greenhouse Gardener by Anne Swithinbank, which also goes by the title The Conservatory Gardener, and which I had to buy from Book Depository because it’s no longer in print in Canada though apparently so in the US.

Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden by Ruth Kassinger. Not only an account of the building of her conservatory garden in Maryland, but also a history of green- and glasshouses.

Eliot Coleman’s The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses; I’ve long been a fan of EC. Definitely more useful for those in more temperate climes.

As I wrote last month, am once again reminded by Cicero’s quote over on the left, “Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing.”

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12 Responses

  1. This is awesome, Becky. Thanks for sharing. I have questions about how you will protect your greenhouse in the winter and whether you will heat it to keep things growing or “put it to bed” somehow. I’d love to do this on a small scale. Thanks for the info and best wishes.

  2. Jane, when you say protecting the greenhouse in winter, do you mean from snow, or from frost? I’m in zone 2 (and 2a at that, sigh) where the winters get down to -40 C and beyond, so heating it isn’t an option, at least in this greenhouse, especially since when it was -5C last month it was -2 in the greenhouse. But it will help me extend the season into the fall, especially for vegetables, and to start earlier in the spring.

    The one thing I would suggest, with respect to your comment about doing something similar on a “small scale”, is to get something bigger than you were planning, as large as you can afford, because you will have NO trouble filling it and coming up with ideas of things to put inside.

    Depending on where you live, I can recommend two books. Especially for those with more moderate winters than mine: “The Winter Harvest Handbook” by Eliot Coleman. And for anyone with, or contemplating a greenhouse, “Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion: Growing Food & Flowers in Your Greenhouse or Sunspace” by Shane Smith (get the revised and expanded edition). I’ll add links up above!

    • Thanks for the info, Becky. By “protecting” I meant both snow & frost. I guess my real question is–what is the roof made of? Will it hold snow? The solar lights lend a party atmosphere, and your idea (in your comment to Sheila) of putting in a dining table sounds festive! Grow herbs, pluck them and put them directly onto the food on your plate. :) Happy gardening!

  3. I am LOVING The Winter Harvest Handbook! It’s a wonderful read. I might even buy it I love it so much, although there is another one I’m playing recall tag with at the library and I might get it instead. Forget the title though, but it has a lot of interesting organic fertilizer/ trellising ideas in it.

    As for Hartley Botanic – who needs THEM when you have a massive structure like that! That is one fabulous sized greenhouse. I’d say I was green with envy but even I’m not that cheesy…oh okay, perhaps I am. Love the shelves. Love the LENGTH of the shelves; you are going to be able to have bunk beds in there. Love the canary bird vine. Love the castor bean. Love the tape. Love the terracotta pots. Love that stool! We had one of those too, but my mum won’t part with it right now. Ours was recovered a while back with some perfectly fetching orange floral horror of a fabric. Love the water tank. There isn’t an evening shot, though! I need to see those solar lights in action!

    Gorgeous. Aren’t they addictive? Mine is about 1/100th of the size of yours and I could spend hours in it, well, if it weren’t falling apart around my shoulders as I type, that is. My only consolation is that it doesn’t hold so much danger for the bees anymore, because they can get out as fast as they can get in. Sob. I think you need to put some plans out there for us city folks (read: balking husbands who’d rather we just buy something overpriced from Costco because, and I quote “it’ll end up costing the same”)

  4. Cheesy is okay! And yes, definitely addictive. We were very close to buying a kit, but we had all sort of extra lumber and then were given the plastic by one of the nursery owners in town (it was leftover/extra) and I was a bit hesitant about all those kit pieces that are supposed to come together, ha. It is surprising how, no matter what size you plan it, it could always be bigger. My mother in law was over the other evening and was saying how warm and cozy it is in the evenings, and no mosquitoes, and I was sorry I didn’t have room for a table for dinner!

    If I could figure out how to recover that stool, I would. In some sort of green patterned oilcloth. And as soon as I can wrest the good camera from a child, I will take nighttime pics!

  5. Oh, Becky! Beautiful! Looking forward to lots more photos…

  6. Jane, before you replied, I hopped over to your blog and saw that you’re in South Dakota, so I see you know winter! The roof is poly and should withstand the snow.

    At this point, I will have to keep a machete handy to hack back the greenery if I’m going to get a table in there for people. The scarlet runner beans are on their way up to the ceiling, and Laura’s second pumpkin (a white “Spirit” variety) is going to have to be moved into a corner so it can start following another piece of heavy twine from leg to leg.

    My 12-year-old made salsa tonight and was delighted to be able to run to the greenhouse for fresh cilantro!

  7. Thanks, Lynne! But I hope you don’t live to regret that request, especially since I just happened to buy a banana plant today…

  8. I am absolutely enthralled by all of this, even though I currently live way down in zone 5 and could grow many of these things on the back porch (assuming the deer wouldn’t eat them). I hope you post more and more about your plants — I love the banana plant in the next post.

  9. Gail, I am so heartened to hear you’re enthralled rather than clapping your hands over your eyes! Thanks for the encouragement — in fact, I just might have some nighttime shots…

  10. great post! loved all the photos, and the details…have greenhouse envy……………

  11. I. Am. So. Jealous. Even though we’re in the tropics (where, incidentally, we have plenty of bananas ;)), there are just some things that won’t grow outside of a greenhouse. Like tomatoes and squash. (I’m not kidding.) This is just beautiful.

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