Fifty-six heirloom seed packets, five rock wall garden beds, thirty-three experimental plants, four seasons and one greenhouse. The end of April 2023 marks a significant milestone here in the land of 1750 House. It’s the celebration of our first full year of living in this beautiful state, in this lovely old house. It also marks the first birthday of our greenhouse and the first full year of gardening in New England.
Are we experts now? Far from it! But at least we have a much better understanding of the potential and possibilities that await year two and year three and year four. I’m sure we’ll have plans for year nineteen too.
Like the house renovations, our big gardening projects are laid out in phases over the course of a few years. Our home inspector recommended that course of action a year ago. 1) To keep our sanity and 2) to get used to the space before making major decisions. It was really good advice. Even though taking that route doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of immediate satisfaction upfront as far as getting things done, we found that when you get a chance to take some time to truly experience how you live, move and interact in a space the more refined and appropriate your decisions become. That was the case here at 1750 House both when it came to the inside and the outside.
At the start of this historic house adventure, we knew very little about greenhouse gardening and even less about New England gardening but heading into year two we are starting to get the hang of things. Last April, as far as the garden goes, it was all about establishing beds, building rock walls, and learning by experimentation when it came to growing flowers and vegetables. Not knowing what each season was going to look like, we worked in small steps. We decided not to make any major changes until we went through a full year’s growing cycle to see what we were working with. In that vein, we did a lot of maintenance work and watching work. Especially in the front of the house. We dethatched, reseeded and conditioned the grass in the front yard, fertilized, manicured and shaped the bushes, built the rock wall garden beds to the left of the front door and to the left of the driveway. We built the potting shed addition onto the back left corner of the garage, added the greenhouse to the left of the potting shed and trimmed many of the trees.
Now that we are past the getting-to-know-you phase, we have some big plans for the front this year. They include a low wall or fence near the street, fencing at different angles added midway to both the left and right side of the house. Climbing roses added to the right side of the garage. A fig tree added to the side yard. Bushes added in front of the potting shed and a new more layered landscape design incorporating a collection of native plants directly in front of the house.
Next year, we make the big BIG decision on what color to paint the house. We can keep it red and white, which is very 18th-century traditional or we could choose another color palette altogether. We waffle back and forth every day on this subject. Two-tone yellow. Bright white. Dark Slate. So many choices. At the end of the day we want to honor the historic nature of both the house and the gardens, so history will ultimately be our decision-maker.
When we last left off on Greenhouse Diary #6, it was early March, there was snow on the ground and the greenhouse was sporting her plastic winter coat. There were seeds just about to be started (cucumbers, marigolds, squash, tomatoes, okra, sunflowers, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, peas, broccoli, and zinnia). There were collard greens that were practically bursting out of their containers and a troupe of traveling spider mites determined to put on a show for each and every plant.
Now that we are rounding the corner to May, the greenhouse has flung off her winterwear, those seeds that were waiting to be planted are now big sprouts and the spider mites have (hopefully) just completed their tour.
The geraniums were the first to jump ship from indoors to out at the end of March. Even though they were taking over the greenhouse in a vast and magnificent way, it was pretty amazing to see how big they had actually gotten once they started the hardening-off process outside. If you’ve been following along since the first diary entry, you’ll recall that these three pots of geraniums were all severely frostbitten last Fall. It’s so encouraging to see that they’ve fully recovered in just four months time.
The collard greens made their way out of the greenhouse next. They headed out to their new garden bed in early April, where they took to their new warm weather residence with aplomb. Their companion plants – dill and brussels sprouts – moved in right next door just this past week…
Next came the lettuces… rouge d’hiver, farmers market, and salad bowl blend along with two different varieties of broccoli – Di Cicco and Rapini. They joined the snapdragons and garlic as companion plantings. Dotted with falling apple blossoms, these beds all look like they’ve been sprinkled with confetti. Mother Nature is ready to party!
It’s so fun to see that last year’s garlic bulbs are now this year’s stalks…
While it’s still been hovering in the low-to mid-40s at night, we’ve had to be patient about planting. Not everything that’s been grown in the greenhouse can tolerate this early spring chill. The start of the herb garden was our last little dalliance with transplanting from the greenhouse stash for at least the next 10 days. Once we hit a steady 50-55 degrees at night everything can head out safely to their designated outdoor spots.
Meanwhile, inside the greenhouse, every plant seems ready to leave. As hard as it is to resist the urge to transplant them, especially when the daytime temps reach 60 or higher, it’s still too chilly at night yet for all of these tender heat-lovers to successfully make the transition. While the winter plastic has been removed from the exterior of the greenhouse, we’ve still been keeping the heater on at night to maintain a 60-70 degree range indoors. While everybody waits in the warmth for the big move, the flowers keep on blooming and the climbers keep on climbing…
The spider mite situation was quite a contender in the nuisance department this past month. As sap-sucking insects that reproduce quickly, they can easily take over a plant’s health in a matter of days and devastate a collection of seedlings before they’ve even had a chance to really get growing. I suspect our spider mite infestation began with the pepper plants (they seemed to have a lot of affinity for ours, anyway) and then spread practically everywhere – sunflowers, basil, peas, black-eyed-susan vines, mint. It took an entire month of daily diligent attention to eradicate them, but I think we are at the end of the outbreak now. On the next Greenhouse Diay update, I’ll feature the product I used to get rid of the mites along with some other gardening tools and devices that helped us navigate this first year as greenhouse gardeners.
Also, I wanted to say a big thank you and bear with us to everyone who is checking in on the kitchen renovation updates. We’ll be featuring more on that interior story once it is finished. As I’m learning, it takes a long time to not only renovate but also authentically decorate a house to the point where you can confidently say… here it is! In the meantime, the garden is a more humble muse. Cheers to year one!