The inside job

Our hoophouse went up just a little too late to expect much in the way of fall crops. We finished it a little over a week ago, and we figure we’ll be lucky if it gives us two months of growing time. That seriously limited what we could reasonably plant. Lettuce and radishes was all she wrote.

(Okay, I did put in a few collards, carrots, and kale, because I had the seeds. But I’m expecting a washout on those.)

The seeds went in last Sunday. I planted romaine, radicchio, and mizuna, along with white and red radishes. By way of experimenting, I planted some seeds inside the cold frame (which is inside the hoophouse) and some outside, some in trays and some right in the ground.

Yesterday, we had sproutage!

The first up are, of course, the radishes. And the first radishes were the ones in the cold frame. Because we’ve had chilly, cloudy days, I’ve been keeping the lid closed, and that clearly helped the seeds, but it also helped the mold. There are little white filaments of it in several places. If anybody knows what – if anything – to do about that, I’d be grateful for some advice. We’re growing without a net here.

Along with planting, we did a little interior decorating. We made the hoophouse long enough to have a little potting section and a place to store tools. It’s the last four feet, at the shady end.

We were inspired to include it by the pictures of the greenhouse Eliot Coleman’s attached to his house. It has a lovely brick patio that overlooks the growing area, and we wanted one, too.

Bricklaying wasn’t in the cards. We had neither the budget nor the skill. But we figured there were other ways, so we went to see Kristen at Drywall Masonry Supplies.

Followers of this space may remember Kristen as the driving force behind the wood-fired oven project. Diabolically, she took the time to explain the ins and outs of castable refractory cement, and even introduced us to Tony, a mason who built a world-class wood-fired oven in his back yard. Along the way, we decided to abandon our idea of a homely, cheap, clay oven and move on to a beautiful, expensive, firebrick dome oven. Kristen has that effect on people. Her enthusiasm is catching.

We went to visit her last week, and told her what we were doing. We explained that we needed something to cover a 4’x11’ area, and it didn’t matter what it looked like. Was there an odd lot of something? A weird color? Something she could let go for cheap?

The question wasn’t even out of our mouths before she was nodding. “Drive around the back and ask Ron to show you the boneyard.”

The boneyard! That sounded like just the ticket.

We drove around the back.

There, amid other piles of bricks and stones and pieces of things, was a pile of 16-inch pavers. Just the kind of thing we were looking for, except they’re about four dollars a pop at Home Depot. We needed 24 of them.

We pointed at them. “Could we take those?” we asked Ron.

“Those are junk,” he said. “You’re welcome to them.”

If I never left the property, I’d never know just how low my standards are. If I never saw anyone else’s house, beautifully decorated and spotlessly clean, I’d bask in blissful ignorance, thinking stained carpet and haphazard furniture were the norm. If I never saw anyone else’s garden, lush and weedless, I’d take my insects and dead spots in stride.

Kristen’s junk is our treasure. I couldn’t have been more excited if she’d offered us Venetian marble.

We loaded 24 pavers onto the truck. A few had little cracks, and there were a couple of pockmarks, but they sure looked like they’d make an excellent greenhouse floor.

Then we drove back up to the office to pay. We had no idea what she’d want for 24 pavers off the pile in the boneyard, but we knew we’d be getting a deal.

She wouldn’t take our money. And we pressed. Partly, because it didn’t seem fair that we got exactly what we needed and didn’t pay one red cent, but also because we wanted to be able to raid the boneyard again, when we had another masonry need.

But she stood firm. She wouldn’t take our money. “Make a donation to a worthy cause,” she said.

And that’s what we did. Because Kristen is a horsewoman, we chose the Massachusetts SPCA.

We put a layer of sand over the area, leveled it, and layed the pavers on the sand. We worked the extra sand into the cracks, and wet the whole thing down. It’s probably not a floor that will last for all time, but it’s perfect for what we need it to do.

The hoophouse now has a few plants in it – there was catalogna growing there already, and we transplanted the herbs and lone pepper plant we still had in the other garden. It’s got the cold frame for starting seeds and, hopefully, extending the lettuce and radish season just a little longer. And it’s got a lovely floor, ready for a potting bench and some shelves.

I think it’s beautiful, and I think I’d think that even if my standards weren’t low.

15 people are having a conversation about “The inside job

  1. Can’t imagine where you could possibly have gotten the idea that stained carpets and haphazard furniture were the norm!

  2. I think it’s beautiful too! and it would be beautiful even if it hadn’t been free, but it is even better this way.

  3. It’s looking good! I love the pavers. Looks so spacious in the photos – post one with someone inside for some perspective. The mold is inevitable given the damp, and the restricted airflow. To my knowledge it is easily controlled if attacked early, but will spell ruin for the tiny sprouts if allowed to proliferate. My opinion is you will need a heat source sooner or later, and perhaps a fan to move the air. You might open everything up wide if you get a sunny day . . .

  4. What do you use for blight? In the UK we would use Diathane or copper sulphate. A quick squirt from a plant sprayer of a fairly dilute solution will set the mould back while you get the ventilation sorted.

  5. Wow- a patio in your greenhouse. Now I am jealous. It looks great! I will have to settle for my little gardening stool and that’s as fancy as I can get it.

    I will check back for updates, because I have mold in my citrus, which are in the house. I think the only thing that’s keeping it in check is the wood stove, which dries out the air.

    Nice hoop house, lady! Think about cloches for the tender stuff in the greenhouse, or even row covers, and you should be able to grow cool weather plants no matter how cold it gets out there. Slogging through the snow to get to your greenhouse might be another story though.

  6. Free IS beautiful!

    But aside from that, it really, really does look great. Please take more pictures once the workbench is in there, too. I may have to live on 0.06 acres (yes, you read that correctly) for now, but a gal can dream of going back to the country … and your hoop house can inspire!

  7. The hoop house is the shiznitz. I’m jealous, and I would totally have grabbed those pavers and celebrated. As for mold, this is anecdotal only – I haven’t tested it. But I recently read that well diluted chamomile tea is good to use as a spray for preventing dampening off. Supposed to have some antifungal properties, it seems. Maybe it’s an old wives tale, but I’m betting you have some chamomile tea bags somewhere in your home. I’d also bet that you’d be up for field testing it yourself, and then letting us all know. Still, I’d second the recommendation for better air circulation.

    • The thing about remedies like chamomile tea is that, sure, they might not work, but they certainly won’t hurt. I’ll try it before I go to Daconil.

      Shiznitz. New word for me. Spectacularly self-explanatory.

    • Mike — You’re exactly right! The seed in the picture was one I had dropped outside the row, and wasn’t covered. It was desperately trying to put down roots. While there is mold in the cold frame, that wasn’t a picture of it.

      PS — Sorry about the delay in posting your comment. For some reason, it went to my spam queue.

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