Greenhouse Gardening in Winter

We used an eye dropper to water at first
so the seedlings wouldn’t float away

We’re so lucky to have two large hoop houses at our new house. Right now I’m mainly using them to over-winter some perennials that didn’t make it into the ground, but back in December I thought a little experimentation with  growing vegetables in the winter would be fun.

I was unable to find a lot of information geared towards the home gardener about growing vegetables in unheated hoop houses. In fact, most everything I read said plants would continue to grow if established, but that starting seedlings was near impossible. The previous homeowners left us an abundance of styrofoam coolers and I figured if I nested a few of them together and covered them with bubble wrap, we might be able to get some seeds going, even (fingers-crossed) in the winter.

So far, everything we’ve planted has sprouted! I went with all cool season veggies (carrots, peas, lettuce, radish, chard, beets) and Claire’s been gently watering them every other week. Everything is growing, but slowly. The plants sown on December 19 and the plants sown on Jan 15 are about the same size.

Claire made a great observation that ALL the seedlings look alike at this point in their growth. Of course it was phrased more like, “Mooooommmmy, you mixed the seeds up. They’re all the same .” 

One thumb knuckle. The official unit of measure a la Claire
Next year I hope we can take things a step further and  harvest veggies throughout the winter. I’m hoping an early start in September will get everything established. For those gardeners out there, I’m in hardiness zone 6A. We’ve had a pretty mild winter but nights have been below freezing. I have no idea about the air temperature in the greenhouse (other than we’re comfy with our coats off) and according to the turkey thermometer, the soil temp stays between 50 and 65…I’m not sure how correct that is though seeing as how it’s meant for meat LOL.

This project has been a great winter diversion for outdoorsy kid Claire and her green thumbed mommy! Puttering around with dirt and plants seems to keep us both quite entertained.
Lifecycles of plants are an easy thing to study, relatively quick and with easily observable results. You could even sprout split peas or lentils in an afternoon.

Up next are summer vegetables. We’ve picked up a bunch of tomato seeds that we’ll start indoors now and move to the greenhouse in April. I’m hoping to be taste testing our first few tomatoes in June. Remember how much Claire enjoyed rating tomatoes 2 years ago? Right now she’s sworn off tomatoes, but I think once she picks her own from the backyard garden, she’ll come around.

Carrots, swiss chard and lettuce. They DO all look the same at this point!

One thought on “Greenhouse Gardening in Winter

  1. This looks great! We are in the same zone – and hubby just unearthed the small hoop I found at the end of the spring last year on clearance – but that got buried in the basement during some renovations. No hope of starting at this point – but next winter?? I am making my list for early seed starts inside – oh the possibilities!

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