Sunday, October 13, 2013

Covered Greenhouse Update: End of Summer

Earlier this season I designed and built this covered greenhouse to help my plants out during the foggy summer. Some of you have been asking how my garden has fared. See for yourself!

Not too shabby, especially because summer in our area is apparently all fog all the time (booooo). If you'll recall, here's what I planted:

And what it looked like mid-August.

Now for a play-by-play. The tomato yield was pretty impressive. I ended up giving a lot of them away because we couldn't go through them fast enough (and got really tired of pasta sauce and tomato soup). I mean seriously...look at them.

The Lemon Boy varietal was really tasty, but the plant was all freakishly deformed.

I had quite a bit of this moldy brown-leaf business throughout the season. I'm thinking it was from lack of sun/heat as well. It didn't affect the tomatoes much though.

I set up a little tomato tasting at one point to see how each varietal did in all the foggy weather. Overall these were not nearly as flavorful as I was expecting from a home-grown tomato, and some of them were quite mealy too. I think the colder weather and lack of sun might have been a factor. Even my favorite Celebrity tomato didn't hold a candle to those from my Oakland garden last year. Celebrity and Lemon Boy were the tastiest this year, with Jetsetter coming in second. All the others tasted like the ones you buy at a grocery store, and the Mama Mia was WORSE than a grocery store tomato. Yikes. Celebrity and Lemon Boy only next year!

The squash plant thrived for most of the season with little squashes averaging 3-4 inches long. Toward September, the leaves started growing a lot of powdery mildew, and the production slowed down. I highly recommend growing a plant like this one in a tomato cage to keep it from sprawling all over your other veggies. Unfortunately I think it might have also stunted my cantaloupe plant's growth since the poor thing is still the size of a starter.

Onions closest to the water source grew to about 2.5 inches diameter. Most of them are about 1.5 inches and some still barely have bulbs.

Most of my jalepeƱos grew to about this size, which was really bizarre. I'm still getting a lot of them and the plant has gone a little crazy!

The Swiss chard did amazingly all summer and is still going strong. Despite my greedy spacing, the plants had HUGE 12" leaves and bright colors! It's funny because when you cook them, they shrink down to almost nothing, so growing large quantities is a must.

The carrots were kind of hilarious when I pulled them out of the ground. I guess I would make a joke here about them compensating for length with plenty of girth...

The basil did GREAT except for the part where I way over-pruned it (blame the pasta sauce) and had to let it recover. I don't think the leeks ever came up, or if they did, they look a lot like weeds. Did I mention my garden has all sorts of weeds? It seems like common knowledge, but I really don't recommend using soil from your backyard for this reason.


PROS of a covered greenhouse in a cold and foggy summer:
-Plus 10-15 degree temperature increase
-Critters (birds, squirrels, etc) are a non issue
-Bugs are kept at bay (I got some slugs later in the season but some Sluggo took care of them)
-Protection from heavy winds
-Plants seem to thrive overall
-Yield is potentially greater than a non-covered version (just a guess)
-Ability to grow certain heat-loving plants that you normally wouldn't in this climate, even at the expense of taste

-Not enough sunlight (thought this might be less about the cover and more about the fog)
-Beneficial bugs are kept out. Manual pollination might be necessary.
-Less flavorful crops
-Leaves are more mold/mildew prone
-Fruit/veggies tend to rot fast after ripening
-Height restriction for certain plants (tomatoes had 4' growing space max)
-Stunted growths? This is just a theory, but I'm looking at those carrots and jalepeƱos. Of course it could be a number of factors such as soil, bed depth, etc. 

Overall I've been incredibly pleased with the results, especially considering the small amount of effort it took to get them. Setting up a protected environment with automatic watering meant that I would go out to harvest and prune once a week for an hour at most, and leave it alone the rest of the time. I regret that we don't live in a sunnier climate, but that just means I'll have to keep looking for the best varietals for my climate. 

So what's next, you ask? I'm planning to build another covered greenhouse next to this one to start my winter crop in. I'll see how long I can extend the growing season for greenhouse #1, after which I'll rip all the dead stuff out and start a spring/summer crop.

Oh, and thanks to all my visitors that came to check out the original Covered Greenhouse! My blog view count has gone THROUGH. THE. ROOF. Relatively speaking of course. We can't all be Young House Love. 


  1. Great garden! carrots apparently do better in nutrient-poor soils, maybe that was a factor too? they are hilarious looking though, so maybe jut keep doing what you're doing for the laugh

    1. Haha, is that so? I had no idea! I think volumetrically-speaking, they are about the same as grocery store carrots, so I guess I can live with that :)

  2. wow fantastic job very inspiring :) I like you idea of more garden beds maybe add some more compost or blood and bone [ In Australia it comes in a bag from the hardware store or plant nursery] did you use any sort of fertilizer? maybe even make the bed itself deeper/higher, leaving more depth for root growth :) but over all very well done loved reading about and seeing your pics of your garden experiment :)

  3. I love your post! I am actually going to start one very similar! Just curious...Did you leave your garden covered all day every day?

    1. HI Samantha,
      Yes, I leave my garden covered all the time. Our summers are cool enough that I can do this. Good luck with your garden this year!

  4. I laughed way too hard at the carrots. I mean.. way. to. hard! Thanks for all the pictures and follow up of how things did!