The new year finds us here at Elkstone already thinking ahead to the warm and productive months of spring. We have been watching our cool season annuals grow bigger, planting them up into 4″ pots, hopefully to be planted into the raised beds of the greenhouse in a few weeks. Meanwhile, we’re picking the seeds for our next crop. Most of these we will start indoors, to be transplanted to the raised beds, as well as to some new gardens outside, hopefully. We also will likely be direct- sowing outdoors.

Timing in the greenhouse is emerging as an issue which we are all unfamiliar with. We are learning how long different crops produce in here and what can take the cool temps we’ve seen; but when to remove them to make room for the next is a question that needs to be examined.

Also, some of the perennials are showing signs of damage from the cold. I don’t believe it’s a cause for great alarm, but it is an issue that I’ll keep in mind the next time -20 weather rolls in. We’ve discussed measures to help combat the chill, including covering with cloth, and even heat lamps. I will definitely be ordering some large sheets of crop cover to use in here when the next sub-zero blast blows down.

Our deciduous trees (pomegranate, figs, papayas, jujube, mango, guava, lychee) have gone into dormancy, which is good, though it was a bit alarming when leaves started to drop. One of our four bananas I had to cut back; this should be OK as bananas grow from a rhizome, which is presumably surviving well in our warm soil. I hope to see a new shoot emerging in a few weeks.

I am seeing evidence of a fungal wilt, which I have been addressing by minimizing watering; warmer temperatures should help eliminate this as well. I believe that this is a common greenhouse problem that we will see again, but I’m a worrier, and so have been drying the soil, amending it as I can, removing unhealthy plants and throwing the greenery in the trash rather than compost, and adding gypsum. The gypsum will also help improve drainage, lower the pH and equalize some of the nutrients and minerals which we have in abundance (phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, iron, copper, and boron). I think we’re lucky to have such rich soil, but in some cases, it may be too rich for some plants or seedlings.

After the last release of beneficial insects, I have not seen many pest insects.

We are in the process of choosing and ordering seeds for the spring/summer crop. I’m curious to see how this next chapter in farm life unfolds!

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