Indoors, For Now…

After a late start, it looked like winter was actually going to make an effort this year.  We had some cold spells, some snow, lots of ice, and the usual January thaw, but now it’s just losing steam.  A February thaw is in the works, and the freeze out there this morning is the one exception in a ten day forecast that doesn’t even dip much below freezing.  To be honest I’d be thrilled to see this in March or April… not so much February.

hardy cyclamen

I was expecting to spend most of February in the garage, hiding from the cold, and admiring the winter garden which has now officially replaced the workshop.

This weather will quickly bring on the snowdrops and winter aconite, and once that happens I’ll waste every minute of daylight wandering and poking around the garden imagining just how nice everything is going to be this year.  In the meantime though, I’ve come to a decision on a real winter greenhouse, one which involves glass and benches and expensive heating.  Before you get excited for me (doesn’t everyone get excited for people who get new greenhouses?) I want to make it clear it’s not going to happen.  Our local climate is relatively extreme and although that in itself is an excellent reason to get a greenhouse, I just can’t commit myself to worrying about extreme low temperatures, brutal hailstorms and blizzards, heating system failures… and most importantly the extra heating bill.

hardy cyclamen

The hardy cyclamen (C. coum) are at their peak under the winter garden grow lights.  For the second year in a row I’m wondering why I don’t have more in here.

But wait!  Don’t get the wrong impression here.  I’m not having some budget-wise revelation that includes spending less and denying myself things in order to save for our retirement or the children’s education.  I just came to the conclusion that with only a few more grow lights I can change the whole workshop over into a very satisfying pseudo-conservatory.  So I did a little searching and found three more light fixtures on clearance.  $39 a piece, about $120 total… so much better than their $52 normal price.

sowing fern spores

A first time for me.  Fern spores.  You’ll have to trust me on this but there’s a tiny bit of black dust on that silver foil, and hopefully with it and an old baby food tub I can recreate what ferns have been doing for millions of years.

$120 is an amazing bargain compared to buying an actual greenhouse, so in reflecting on how much money I just saved I don’t think I’d be way off in subtracting it from the budget rather than adding, but on second thought a visit to the accountant taught me a new word which might come in handy here.  Depreciation.  From what I gathered (and often what I gather is more what I want to hear rather than real facts) I can take this long-range purchase and pretend it’s really money which has been spent over a couple years.  So for the 2018 budget I’m going to pretend I only spent $30 and we’ll see if I remember the remaining $30s in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

winter sow stratification

Seed starting is well under way.  These will go outside today and spend the rest of the winter on the side of the house under a layer of garden fleece (aka Reemay, or spun row cover) until warmer weather encourages them to sprout. 

The lights are more of a next winter plan, but you never know.  In a fit of boredom a week or so ago (apparently you can’t spend forever sipping beer and staring at cyclamen) someone got it in their head to pot up the coleus cuttings and start a few succulent cuttings.  They’re in the very back of the workshop, in a room with the furnace, and hopefully will stay warm enough there to get shoots growing and roots forming.   We will see.

succulent cuttings

Rootless succulent cuttings newly potted up and coleus cuttings slowly recovering from the last few months on a windowsill in water.

I don’t need more succulents in February, let alone May.  It’s another one of those #becauseIcan moments, but I’m just itching with a compulsion to start more.  Another 25 or 50 more isn’t out of the question and I’m sure something can be done with them in the spring.

In the meantime have a great weekend!

$30 for new growlights

$318 total so far for the 2018 gardening year

41 comments on “Indoors, For Now…

  1. Just thought I’d share this Monty Don quote: “Possessing a greenhouse is one of the things that sorts out the committed gardener from the person with a garden.” That’s from The Complete Gardener, p. 68

    • bittster says:

      Well then it sounds like we’re both safe. I’d hate to be labeled as a ‘committed gardener’, it sounds mildly obsessive and a little over the top. Good to know we are not at all either of those 🙂

  2. GREAT POST. I enjoy seeing and hearing about your progress!

  3. Christina says:

    Ok I agree about the cost of a greenhouse but it doesn’t have to be heated or not much anyway. I keep mine frost free and that works. For the new project I might try to achieve plus 4 C.

    • bittster says:

      In all honesty I’m not going to rule out having an unheated greenhouse. If I can lean it against the house that would probably help avoid the worst of winter. As far as growing anything special in an unheated greenhouse, remember even the UK seems sub tropical to me. We had two days last winter when the thermometer never made it above zero Fahrenheit (-17C) and I’m afraid even to keep it thawed would be a struggle.

  4. Christina says:

    Btw. This was really inspiring!

  5. Chloris says:

    More amazing calculations!
    I’m impressed with the fern spore thing, I’ve never tried that.
    #because I can moments. Oh yes I know the feeling well. The amount of propagation I do just because I can. I don’t need 20 sorbus trees even if they do have pretty pink berries.

    • bittster says:

      I think you’d be amazed by how scarce sorbus are in these provinces. I remember seeing the orange ones years ago and they weren’t uncommon, but they’re short-lived and I guess that’s an unforgivable sin for American trees.
      I did notice a seedling the year before last. There must still be a few around and maybe it’s time I gave up some of my own garden space for one!
      I did have some white-fruited seedlings but of course lost them. Figures that was the last time I would ever be able to find seeds.

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Those BIC moments can get you into a lot of trouble. Or you can do something that you have wanted to do for some time. Are your cyclamen the hardy type or the greenhouse type? I had some of the hardy ones. They lasted about 3 years then we went into a drought period. That did them in. I believe they need more moisture than they were getting, and since you can’t see them all summer I sure didn’t water them. I think you do mighty good without a greenhouse. I bet your wife would think it a mighty fine negotiating tool. 😉 I will be interested in your fern experiment. It would be mighty interesting if you could grow ferns from seeds. It won’t be long and the unfurling will begin in the garden. I have been keeping track of time in the garden. Easy to do this time of year. I have a question about this time recording. Do you put down time that you are just walking around looking at flower beds and thinking about what you want to do there? Or do you have to actually be DOING something noticeable? My garden has only cost me about $24 so far this year. Don’t worry I will catch up.

    • bittster says:

      The cyclamen are all hardy ones. I almost brought home a florist one this winter but thought it would make the others look sadly underbred and plain so chose not to. I find them to be a little fussy in the garden unless they’re in a spot they like. There are three hardier types and this one gives me the most trouble outside with frequent loses of all the leaves and occasional disappearances. The fall and summer flowering ones are much easier, and the fall one can almost be weedy if you want to go that far!
      I will be shocked if the fern spores work out. I looked up a few methods to starting them but they all looked like so much work I just ended up with the small container and some sand. Kind of a thoughts and prayers approach but maybe I’ll get lucky.
      I gave up on keeping track of my time in the garden for pretty much the reasons you mention. I’d have to track ‘work’ time, ‘break’ time and ‘thinking’ time all separately and it would be a mess. If I was paying someone to do the work I do by the hour I would have fired them after their first day of too much sitting around. I easily spend hours each week just looking at plants and actually working only accounts for a few minutes of each day 😉

  7. pbmgarden says:

    Happy to see your cyclamen looking so lovely. You seem to be in your “happy place.”

  8. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Which to admire more, your gardening obsession or your awesome accounting skills? Your winter garden is putting on a great show! Have you considered replacing the roof and a couple of the walls of your winter garden with polycarbonate panels? You can get really thick, multi walled panels that would hold in the heat and since the winter garden is already attached to the house, you probably wouldn’t need supplemental heating. They can be purchased at wholesale prices and this would be part of the household maintenance budget instead of the garden budget because, technically, it would be re-roofing and changing siding. On the other hand, you could simply move to the Pacific Northwest where we have a climate similar to an unheated greenhouse in your area:)

    • bittster says:

      Ouch. Yes, a little move to the PNW would solve all my winter gardening problems wouldn’t it!
      Ok this is going to sound a little snobby, but I would really prefer the look of a glass greenhouse to polycarbonate… but that said I have already priced out polycarb greenhouses and panels, so the thought has crossed my mind 🙂 . Maybe someday I’ll face the truth that a restored victorian greenhouse with glass panes might not ever happen.

  9. rusty duck says:

    I think I will apply Depreciation to the plant budget. After all, they come back every year (well mostly) and get better with time giving me more pleasure with each passing year. If I were then to make deductions from the budget equate to pleasure given I could justifiably suspend the bulk of them to a future point in time. Possibly until we have sold the house and reaped the benefit of a mature and floriferous garden.

    • bittster says:

      That is absolutely brilliant! I’m sure a fully packed, gardening delight of a garden would add thousands to a selling price. Anything can be justified with that kind of thinking!

  10. Indie says:

    What gorgeous cyclamen! I have a greenhouse, but I only heat it with a space heater in moments of unexpectedly low temperatures. It extends the season in fall, and gives me more veggie gardening space safe from the critters. I do still start most of my spring seeds in the house, though, for more predictably warm temperatures, so your plan is probably the better one for the wallet (especially taking into account that depreciation!)

    • bittster says:

      I love hearing about gardeners who have and put to good use their greenhouses. They’re usually the plant-crazy excitable gardeners who I just love talking to and hanging out with. I never thought to use the greenhouse for veggies in the summer, a perfect way to always have a perfectly hot summer growing season.

  11. Eliza Waters says:

    Loving the cyclamen. Must get some for next winter! My sunspace is unheated except what drifts in from the house (the energy assessment guys click their tongues at its heat draw, but I won’t budge), so plants in there must like it cool. That frigid time over Xmas/New Year, there was ice on the inside of the glass. Wicked cold! No tropicals for me, but hardy annuals, tender perennials do fine.
    Can’t wait to see your ferns!

    • bittster says:

      If I could complete my dreams I’d cut a door into the foundation and have an attached, sunken, unheated sunspace for a few less hardy perennials and midwinter bloomers. Probably a little colder than yours but enough protection to enjoy on a sunny winter day and in those waning months of winter.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I am fortunate to have that space, built by the former owners as passive solar. It’d be fine if I shut the door at night, but then there’d be no plants to enjoy.

  12. Cathy says:

    Love the calculations, and the succulents too! I am hoping to get a greenhouse maybe next year, mainly to extend the growing season and for growing things from seed, so it will not be heated in winter as that would just be pure madness! 😉

    • bittster says:

      I never really thought to use a greenhouse as a season extender. It really makes a bunch of sense though. Think of all the costs I could justify if it were going towards feeding the family!

  13. I think you need to set up a “lemonade” stand out by the curb and sell the extra succulents etc. Think how much more you could spend if the garden was earning money. I have only ordered from two online sources so far which is a record low. This weird winter has me concerned about how last year’s purchases made it through their first season, so I am being more cautious than usual in spending. There will be lots of local options to blow a wad of money anyway. We are having a Feb. thaw as well and I am not really happy about it either. Much rather see these warmer temps at the same point in March.

    • bittster says:

      Yes, I’m also worried about an arctic blast in late March. Snowdrops are up now and with another string of mild weather the more tender hellebores will begin to sprout. I’ve lost most of the hellebore flowers the last two years and have almost forgotten how nice they can be.
      I may yet try and pull off a plant sale. A combo plant sale/garage sale might be a good starting point and we can see where it goes from there.
      I did a little poking around and cleaning up last week and I can’t figure out if the winter was bad or mild. An early blast surprised things but then the cold was consistent. Really low temperatures hit but there was snow cover for a blanket. The cold was frigid but the cold as short 🙂

  14. I’m taking notes with the future of our basement (post-retirement) in mind. We will never have a greenhouse – no space. We are having the same February thaw, which I also view with some trepidation.

    • bittster says:

      Our thaw ended yesterday, but it’s barely freezing so on any other given year I’d say this is still a warm spell.
      Lights in the basement sounds like an excellent idea. If I had a whole basement area a goldfish pool with fountain would be a definite.

  15. willisjw says:

    I love the notion of more lights to make a pseudo-greenhouse. Even with the greenhouse, I find starting plants under lights in the basement
    is a very nice winter-time activity. Your cyclamen are way ahead of mine that are in the greenhouse. This has been a very on and off again winter. Yesterday was a day for playing outside and now it’s dark and dreary again.

    • bittster says:

      The dark and dreary has come our way as well now, but it’s still warmer than normal so we’ll see where this all end up.
      I started off thinking the lights were useful but now I’m expanding just because. There are silly things like geraniums and spiderplants but I find that being down there on a frigid night is an ideal getaway. I think I need a fan though, the air movement might sturdy up spindly seedlings and keep down any mold or excess humidity.

  16. ‘Because I can’ is all the justification I need! Love those succulents :o).

    • bittster says:

      Thanks! In my garden you hear a lot of ‘because I can’ as well as ‘I like plants, but it’s really all about me’. It’s so much more fun that way.

  17. Alain says:

    That is most definitely money well spent!

  18. I’m thinking about putting just a small (yes, I know, “just a small” anything plant-related is the equivalent of a gateway drug) light setut up the post-renovated garage next winter. Apparantly the new LED light tubes are more effective and a lot less expensive to run. Does your setup use flourescents, and if so are you planning to replace them with LED versions once those bulbs eventually wimp out?

    • bittster says:

      I have the fluorescent bulbs in my setup and will probably use them for a while since they’re nice and cheap, but the LED ones have come down a bunch in price. Once they come close enough I’ll upgrade, but I suspect I’ll need to replace them one more time before then since they’re still about five times as much for the stronger LED bulbs…. and most importantly I’m nervous I’ll change them over and the new bulbs will be missing something or not work correctly in my fixtures and I’ll be stuck with a mess!

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