greenhouse update

i spent winter break working on the new shelving in the greenhouse. the place had degenerated into a mouse-ridden wreck over the chaos of summer 2011, and needed to be gutted, flooded, de-moused, and rebuilt.

this is what we started with:

Madeline and I emptied it all out, and I sorted out the functional and non-functional milk jugs for the modular thermal mass system. we dumped all the compost out (much of which had begun life as an amaranth harvest, and then been spoiled by mice when we did not get the dried amaranth out of the greenhouse fast enough), sorted all the drip system parts, frost-cloth and shadecloth into their new permanent homes in the Shed of Holding, sorted out all the pots, dumped a ton of trash, dumped all the over-baked soil (which had sat in there all summer, roasting in the amplified desert heat) into the garden where it can grow new microbes, and then flooded the greenhouse until we had forced all the mice to evict their tunnels. the greenhouse floor is pavers with sand between, so water sinks in rapidly. i truly am a cat; i captured 5 mice (in a cup, on at a time, the way you catch a spider) in that first flooding. the next day, i did it again, and caught the one remaining mouse, the large grandmother mouse. a third day of flooding, and no mice emerged. i think we got them all.

having caught the mice and aired the place out, i found some scrap wood recycled from a friend’s carport (thanks, Dave!) and built some shelves.


the shelves are sized to a one-gallon milk jug, for maximum space efficiency in storing water. the purpose of the water in the greenhouse is thermal mass — it soaks up the sun’s heat during the day, and lets it out again, gradually cooling, through the night. in this way it flattens out the extreme temperature highs and lows into a steadier middle ground, better for growing things. it’s not quite there yet — the south and east shelves are not yet stocked with jugs, and the greenhouse is still experiencing temperature extremes, although not as badly as it was before we did this. still — it’s getting below freezing in there. my goal is to reduce instances of freezing temperatures to an absolute minimum — and to reduce summer greenhouse daytime highs, as well; we really don’t need it to be 130 in there, and it really can do that when it’s 105 outside. more water mass is the solution to both extremes. we discovered a couple years ago that water is 30% more effective than adobe as thermal mass, which is why we have gone this route rather than building an adobe trom wall.



Madeline and I spent a week polyurethaning them, and then we filled up the jugs and installed them on the shelves.

note the seed trays on the left, the northern (and sunny) shelf. my picture-taking hasn’t kept up with the sprouting — here’s a turnip sprout from last week:

and now we have radishes & turnips putting out secondary leaves, while beets, kale, chard, chinese cabbage, lettuces, and several herbs sprout in other trays. they’ll be ready for transplant outside in March, at which time we’ll start our tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other warm-season crops in the greenhouse, for outdoor planting in May (after our annual, dependable, severe Beltane freeze).