Keeping the greenhouse warm even on cold nights

20170317-215457-78897553.jpgSpring in Kansas can create a challenge for getting an early start on plants. Once the weather begins to warm up, the urge to start planting just can’t be denied. But unfortunately, just because there is a couple of weeks of warm weather, does not mean winter is over. The temperatures always drop below freezing at least one or two more times. Even in the green house, that is too cold for tender seedlings to survive.

So I set out on a mission to learn how to heat the greenhouse. I didn’t want to keep it hot, just above freezing. My goal was to keep it at at least 40 degrees over night, even when the lows dropped into the 20s.20170317-215458-78898396.jpg

I researched a number of heaters and finally settled on a heater that ran off of propane that seemed like it would heat the area. While it provided quite a bit of heat, it ran off of small propane tanks or grill-sized tanks. Those only lasted about two nights, so that was very economical or feasible.

After a visit to a friend’s greenhouse, I learned he used a blue flame heater, which was hooked up to a larger propane tank. With that, I knew I had to think bigger than just a portable heater. I decided to have a propane tank installed and a line run to the greenhouse. I have a small, wall-mounted blue flame heater that works well to keep the greenhouse warm when the temperatures are in the 30s. It usually stayed about 10 degrees warmer than it was outside.

When it recently dropped into the 20s, I did supplement it with a couple of electric space heaters, which kept it in the 40s. Another thing that helps is to put a fan in front of the heater to help circulate the warm air. Now my seedlings have a warm place to continue growing until they can go out into the garden.

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Almost time to start planting potatoes

img_1796-2It’s almost time for that first planting of the season. I know I’m excited to get out and dig in my garden.

Potatoes are traditionally planted on St. Patrick’s Day, a date that I try to keep close to and seems to work.

I’ve tried red potatoes and yukon gold over the years. I’ve always had much better luck with red, getting as much as three times more red potatoes as yellow. I still like the Yukon Gold, so I plant a few, but I use most of my space for a couple of varieties of red potato, although I can’t really tell the difference in taste or quantity of the different ones.

Another thing I’ve found beneficial is to plant the potatoes in a raised bed. That makes it easier to mound the dirt up around them as they grow and also provides looser soil for growing. I have gotten a bigger harvest since I moved my potatoes to one of my raised beds.

If you’re like me, you can’t get too many potatoes. While you can freeze and dehydrate some, they store pretty well in a cool, dark place. I keep mine in a wooden box that has slats on the side so they get some air circulation. I had some from last year still in a box this winter. They had started sprouting, but it wasn’t a waste. I planted them in my greenhouse and they are now growing. Hopefully they produce a lot of potatoes.

With an unlimited supply of potatoes, at least for a while, there are a large number of things you can do with them.

I enjoy making homemade potato chips. I found a microwave dish once for cooking them and it works great. The benefit is you can season them however you want, such as simply with salt, or with some dried herbs or seasonings. You can get creative.

Another option is baked French fries; to do this just toss with olive oil and seasoning then bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turning half way through.

Of course, you can mash them or bake them as well.

I also love to make  homemade potato soup.

There are so many ways to enjoy potatoes. What’s your favorite one?

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Homemade Potato Soup
6 large potatoes
5 cups chicken broth
3 T. butter
Parsley
1 cup milk
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion
1 tsp. garlic powder

Chop potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Chop onion and cook in olive oil until soft. Add broth, garlic powder, salt and peper. Add buttler then potatoes and parsley. Bring to boil, then simmer 20 minutes. Stir in milk and serve
Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.