if you have a garden and a library: year round greenhouse gardening in the Rocky Mountains, a midwinter effort

gardening, green living, lifestyle January 2, 2014

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Cicero

I addressed the library in a previous post, and now we are taking care of the garden. Today we put in the order for our 22′ growing done greenhouse, and I am beyond excited. I have been a casual gardener for a while and my husband is a landscaper. We are going to attempt to support ourselves with a garden to the greatest extent that our skill and resources will allow. I am trying not to be overly ambitious and get my expectations up too high. I plan on writing about it, partly to keep myself organized, and partly because I hope to add whatever insights we may or may not come up with to the efforts of the greater gardening world. I am by no means a skilled gardener, so most of this will be based on intuition and educated guessing (we have a plethora of gardening books, and of course access to google.) So here we go. Year round Rocky Mountain greenhouse garden, step one.

We live in a very harsh environment, high desert at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It gets very cold, and the summers can be hot and very dry. However, many fruits and vegetables can flourish with proper attention and a little protection from the elements. Unfortunately the growing season is rather short up here so I began researching greenhouses to extend it. During my research, I came upon the growing dome which allows for year round gardening using a sun heated tank to provide warmth. After a lot of thought and discussion about the financial investment, we finally pulled the trigger. My husband is busy working on plans for the foundation and building beds, and I am getting right to work planning a January/February planting of a ‘catch crop’. A catch crop, I just learned, is a cold season crop that can be quickly harvested to make way for summer plantings.

Here are the crops I am considering:
snow peas,
lettuces,
bok choi,
broccoli rabe,
cilantro,
parsley,
arugula,
and spinach.

There are of course other options, but this is what my family eats. I am thinking I’ll start these indoors as we get the greenhouse built and ready to plant. That way I’ll have seedlings ready to go. I’ve had spring fever since November, so I am absolutely ready to get this party started.

Here is a picture of the beautiful spot where the greenhouse will sit, along with a couple of the garden’s future caretakers.

20140102-134302.jpg

We will be building beds around the perimeter of the greenhouse to provide further insulation as well as more planting space for the summers. Eventually, there will be a path from the house with shrubs and trees providing more edibles along the way.

In addition to the greenhouse, we are planning on re-planting the ‘field’ in which it sits. It used to be covered in sage, but was completely denuded after longer term tenancy by some sweet horses. It is now a full acre of some scraggly sage brush, mostly dirt/mud, and a great many tumbleweeds. We plan on using the dry land blend from Plants of the Southwest, mixed with their high plains mix. I am picturing a wild beautiful grassy meadow with wild flowers and encircled by piñon. This will be bee friendly of course, and with native species to flourish in the rough landscape.

These are my ambitions for the year/years to come, in place of resolutions. I believe that an improved diet, more exercise, and quality time with my family should be some bi-products of these efforts!

Happy new year to all!

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