in which i try, flail and ultimately fail at math, algebra, and visualizing space in 2 and 3 dimensions…

IMG_0212.JPGwitness  my incredibly pathetic attempts to calculate how much wood i would need to build a compost bin within the greenhouse.

but oh, it gets better, because then i switched to trying to count concrete blocks (8x8x16), because they were cheaper and modular, and then i had to figure out length, width, and height…and still came up short on how many bricks i needed.



oh, no, i had an idea and now i am obsessed. (as one does.)

ok, i blame google.

i was looking up ways that i might be able to heat the greenhouse, ideally using solar or some other passive technology, because part of me is just not confident that hooking up a small heater to an extension cord won’t be an excuse for a massive fire.  short answer:  it’s hard.

less short answer:  compost, an ever-wonderous thing.

i came across a blog post from the (sadly now-defunct) hudson valley garden association were one of the members was heating her greenhouse using compost – even in the winter, even when compost materials collection would be hard.  she was using a combination of coffee grounds from her local starbucks and leaf litter collected in the fall and spring.  the result?  a few degrees’ warmth and, more importantly, an indoor “hot bed”, which more googling revealed to be an old victorian gardening technique which involved using the decomposition of materials to generate enough heat to start seeds or force bulbs even in the winter for a longer season.


oh, man, how much did my mind go into overdrive?  TOO MUCH.  it was impossible to concentrate on my “nikita” reruns for the rest of the day, and i think i tore apart my gardeners supply company catalogue thinking about raised beds and other sundries (so much for narrowing my shopping list).

my goal here would be simple, really:  generate enough bottom heat so that i can start all my bedding plants, including hundreds of cosmos, zinnias, etc, and save that precious few weeks in the spring for other stuff.  maybe force my dahlia tubers (because yes, obviously i ordered more of them).  that’s it.  relatively modest.

the greenhouse is 6×8 and currently has two tables in it.  i think i can build a bed under one of the tables, and i will move the other table outside for use as a potting bench during the summer.


in the end i’d like to have something like this:


though right now all i have is this, which is much less cool/effective/useful:


(the surface area/volume is so small that i probably won’t get any heat, so it’s back to the drawing board while i continue to hoard materials.)

also, this is the path to my greenhouse right now:


the current materials ratio:  approximately 2 parts UCG and 3 parts shredded hay (which means this batch, if it composts, will not be useable in the garden due to unkilled weed seeds from the hay), plus 1 cup, give or take, of high-nitrogen blood meal in an attempt to activate it like a straw bale garden.

maybe i should put a straw bale on the floor and treat the straw bale like a mini hotbed?

in which i must do all the things. NOW.

oh, good, it’s that restless, joyless, “are-we-there-yet”, must-do-all-the-things time of winter.

the days are just starting to be long enough to notice, and we haven’t had any snow, and the ground isn’t even FROZEN, only there is a blizzard forecast for tuesday, so there is that.

i’m trying to focus my energy by making a smart and short shopping list about what i am allowing myself to buy this year.  i did splurge on some azalea and a new magnolia and a new crabapple for my birthday, and i stocked up on some specific ground covers from my favorite mail-order nursery sale.  also, it’s time to start thinking about seed starting.  i want to try again this year to start my own bedding plants (cosmos, zinnias, nasturtiums, calendula) and i will probably do a few vegetables in the hopes my (new!!) vegetable garden.

i just need to figure out a strategy for the greenhouse, which is unheated and currently unheat-able.

(assuming we are not buried under a mountain of snow for another month, which is totally looking like a possibility)

also, do i want to try more dahlia tubers this year?  i think yes!

in which i have difficulty committing to a beginning

a few weeks ago, i had a dream about the garden.

my mom was there.

in a way it was kind of funny because she would, unequivocally, hate my garden.  it is very high-maintenance and full of flowers and bees (she was allergic) and things that deer like to eat, so it is basically a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet that never stops needing things from me – these are all things my mom, an experienced gardener herself, hated.  but i do know that she would be quite impressed at the things i have learned and the things that i have been doing (or trying to do), and we even sat a few times, back in the day, and made sketches together of things i might do.  (though i never did tell her about the orchard)

anyway, the dream.  it was a wake-up call, really, a siren song from the new season when all i wanted to do was STAY UNDER THE BLANKETS, PLEASE.  just five more minutes, mom!

even pulling out my design notebook, buried under so much crap in a closet that it took me a week to find it, felt hard and tiring.  i find myself consumed with thoughts of all the things that might have died off this winter (even though it has been, on average, 20* warmer than usual) and how stupid and wasteful it will feel when i can finally take an inventory in another 6 weeks.  i look at the pots of things i tried to overwinter outside and feel like a failure.

on the other hand, i look at my winter-sown pots, all lined up and labeled and covered with reemay, and my fractional shopping list, and i feel like that is progress, that i am doing something right.

i think this year needs to be about cleanup and maintenance and structure.  it is time to spend money on things that the garden needs:  fences and walls and pathways.  mulch, mulch, mulch.  build beds and edge the ones that already exist.  clean up the pond and the stream bed so they are assets and not eyesores!

(now i am tired again.)