Biggest Gardening Challenges
How a greenhouse can save your garden too
In late September I ask Facebook followers to share their biggest gardening challenges this summer.
Vivian: “Very late summer and tons of rain. We didn’t get much summer at all!”
Dot: “The weather and lack of [growing] consistency.”
Darlene: “Always way tooooo short a season.”
Marlene: “Yellow Bellied Marmots.”
I know from the record number of replies to my post about “challenges” that this summer season was a disaster for many of you. I heard about pests. There were slugs in Calgary and yellow marmots on the shores of Kalamalka Lake. But the truth is most challenges danced around weather and the problem gardeners have when they can’t control climate.
One follower named Linda said it was so rainy she still has perennial plants she couldn’t get into the ground. She is looking to find a way to overwinter the potted plants so she can try planting them next spring.
Happily, most of the climate problems faced by gardeners everywhere can be solved with one simple addition to your garden: a greenhouse. I know there are many barriers to owning a greenhouse. You need a space, you need money and you need time. But once you justify a greenhouse, it becomes your dream house.
And I speak on the record when I say I had no weather, rain or slug problems inside my greenhouse this summer.
With a home greenhouse, the summer is longer and more reliable. A greenhouse won’t convert a Zone 2 Yukon climate into a sunny California climate but it can smooth out the wrinkles and put the controls in your hands. Expect a month or two longer growing season and faster yields when growing inside.
I use automatic irrigation and also hand water as needed so I can be really precise about the amount of water each plant receives in summer. I also install shade cloth to reduce the harsh summer heat.
We pulled the shade cloth off today because the days in October are getting shorter. Meanwhile the air outside is cooling off so I need the sun to warm the greenhouse and speed progress of the fall and winter crops.
Gardeners everywhere were initially ecstatic by the news of global warming a dozen or more years ago. But Vivien, Dot and Doreen are not getting the promised warming. Instead they are experiencing “climate change.”
Change includes more tornadoes in Texas and hurricanes in the Bahamas. Northern areas are getting more rain, and dry areas are getting more drought. While checking in with Angela at BC Greenhouse Builder’s headquarters, I am reminded our greenhouses are guaranteed forever. And after one of the greenhouses filled completely with water after a hurricane, the water simply drained away. After a cleaning, the greenhouse was as good as new.
Fall and winter give gardeners time to dream about solutions to this year’s garden challenges. And if weather was one of your challenges, dreaming about a greenhouse might be the perfect solution.
If your challenge was slugs I suggest a grocery store solution. I spray a mixture of seven parts water to one part Ammonia directly on the offending pests at night. Last year, in my greenhouse, I sprayed this solution and the results were amazing. Eighteen months later I rarely see a slug or the damage done so I am keeping the Ammonia (a grocery-store cleaning product and source of nitrogen for plants) under my sink for random household cleaning and future slug duty as required.
But if your problem is yellow bellied marmots, there isn’t much a grocery store can provide. Luckily a greenhouse with a sturdy foundation will keep the rodents outside. Meanwhile, at least until May, marmots are dormant and waiting for Marlene to plant their next feast.
Little Jobs in my greenhouse:
- In late September I dug up a piece of Gentian acaulis and divided it into individual pieces for rooting and growing on. I divided one shovel full into 60 plants and they are rooting in my greenhouse. I will share them with friends next spring.
- Today I cut back my Meyer lemon tree before I tuck it away for winter, covered in Christmas lights and Agribon row cover. I saved the individual pruning cuts and trimmed the pieces into 8 inch long cuttings, dipped them into rooting hormone and put them into pots over a heating pad. I covered them with a Dry Cleaning bag to keep the humidity inside and I expect they will root in 3-4 weeks.
I am picking the last tomatoes now as the days quickly get shorter. Last night I made an amazing pizza with my roasted Juliet tomatoes, grown in my greenhouse this summer. Yummy!
For more great tips from Donna, visit www.donnabalzer.com.
You can also read Donna’s gardening books: No Guff Vegetable Gardening with Steven Biggs and her just released Gardener’s Gratitude Journal: Part Diary, Part Personal Growing Guide.