In June when I wrote about our new backyard greenhouse, the fresh white paint inside had barely dried and the young plants, still tidy and restrained, seemed pleased with their custom home. Nothing illustrates our planet's axial tilt (aka seasons) and our relative northern setting quite like the ensuing sequence of furious but fleeting growth.
Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and pollinator flowers, all supercharged by the shelter and heat of the greenhouse, grew exuberantly (almost frighteningly!) into every available space. By mid-summer, tomatoes threatened to jam the ceiling fans, cucumber tendrils latched onto any plant within reach, and hot peppers butted into their polycarbonate ceiling. It was a jungle with nary a place for a human to sit! A productive jungle, though, with plenty to pickle, freeze, eat fresh, and work into Hereabouts guest breakfasts.
With all that gregarious greenery, however, came a couple of problems. First, aphids found our sweet peppers and proved tough to fend off permanently even with thorough dousings of homemade soap spray. I eventually removed those plants prematurely just to keep the green guys from spreading. Second, our habit of limiting ventilation in an effort to maintain warmth, along with all that plant humidity and damp soil, provided the perfect conditions for mildew to creep in. The cucumbers were the first and hardest hit so that by end of summer the only option was to cut them right down. A pity...they had so many Greek salads and B&B salmon platters yet to grace with their freshness!
Nevertheless, aside from those glitches the passive solar design managed to fend off frost until early November. Then that whole profusion of growth came to an abrupt end. And now, though it's only a handful of weeks behind us, the lushness of our growing season seems a distant memory. Some hardy herbs are enduring in the greenhouse, as are small patches of chard and kale brought in from outside, but by and large the months of cold and dormancy have settled upon us.
And that's fine by me. One needs a break from the watering, opening and closing of windows, pruning, harvesting and preserving. Besides, with most of the plants now gone there's plenty of room for a person or two to soak up a little warmth in there on a sunny day, breathe in the scent of rich soil, and exhale deeply. Who knows, these winter exhalations may fuel next year's plants. And with this handy structure at the ready, next year's plants may be just a few months away from getting their start. Something to dream about through the winter months as the world turns inexorably towards spring again and, though bitter cold outside, it's comfortable tea-drinking, sweater weather in the greenhouse!