I am so lucky to always have delicious organic produce growing here on my Bedford, New York farm.
As my outdoor garden team continues with the fall chores, the focus is on planting my greenhouse of greens. I love this greenhouse: its construction, several years ago, was inspired by Eliot Coleman, an agriculture expert in four seasons. It uses minimal artificial heat – in fact, most of its energy comes directly from the sun and successfully grows a variety of cold-resistant crops. Recently, my head gardener, Ryan McCallister, planted the seeds for our next growing season.
Here are some photos, have fun.
This large vegetable greenhouse sits behind my giant equipment barn and next to my circle tropical home. During the colder months, my gardeners keep an eye on this greenhouse for vegetables – temperatures are monitored and beds are regularly maintained for all produce growing inside.
The greenhouse is equipped with heavy-duty aluminum ventilation systems that open and close automatically when needed to allow hot air to escape while allowing fresh air to enter the space. Now that it is colder, both the interior and exterior of these units are covered to insulate the greenhouse.
Most of the energy in the greenhouse comes from the sun through these giant windows, which can be programmed to open for ventilation or cooling when needed.
We have a large thermometer at the entrance to the facility, so the temperature can be easily checked several times a day. The ideal temperature ranges from 64 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
We do a lot of prep work to make the beds. In this greenhouse we use a compost-based soil mix from Vermont Compost Company in Montpellier, Vermont. This potting soil was developed specifically for organic gardening and is called Fort Vee potting mix. In all, we have 16 garden boxes for our indoor crops.
The red hard plastic tubes slide over the selected rake teeth to mark the rows. The grooves do not have to be deep. In general, seeds should be planted at a depth of twice the width, or diameter, of the seed. A seed about 1/16 inch thick should be planted one eighth of an inch deep.
We always have a large variety of seeds to grow. I’m always on the lookout for different seeds when I travel, but seeds are also widely available online and in garden centers. Many of our seeds also come from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Ryan tracks what seeds are good for on the farm, inside and out.
Ryan creates markers to identify which bed contains which vegetables. Also make smaller markers for the end of each line that indicate the variety of the plant.
Here are two garden boxes all ready for planting.
Ryan starts planting in one of the raised beds. Raised bed gardening allows for good drainage, prevents soil compaction, and provides protection for those plants that might otherwise be trampled.
These seeds are five-color Swiss chard. These particular seeds also come from a great source – Seed Saver Exchange, a nonprofit organization based near Decorah, Iowa, that preserves ancient plant varieties through seed regeneration, distribution and exchange. It is one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.
Ryan sprays the seeds in the furrows. These raised beds have been designed to be easily accessible from all sides.
Once all the seeds have fallen into their various beds, Ryan uses the back of a weeding rake, also from Johnny’s Seeds, to fill in all the furrows. This model is also suitable for working in confined spaces.
And then everyone is given a generous sip of water. In several weeks we will have wonderful and nutritious vegetables to eat, share and enjoy.
We also plant in succession, meaning we stagger plantations, so there is always something growing and something to harvest.
All my plants are organically grown and have no chemical flavor. I love fresh lettuce. It is a real treat to have lettuce like this all year round.
Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also present in other types of dishes, such as soups, sandwiches and wraps; you can also grill.
In another bed we also have a crop of ripening peppers. Everything grows so well in this greenhouse.
Pronounced ape-KEE-nyo, this Brazilian pepper’s name means “little beak” and adds great flavor to many dishes.
The one-inch glowing pods taper into an inverted tear. Pepper has the distinctive smoky flavor like other members of this species, but also a rich fruitiness that is enhanced by sugar or sweet and sour marinades. It is also the perfect garnish for barbecues and pickles. My family loves these peppers. We pickle them every year.
Shallots also grow beautifully. Growing shallots is actually easier than growing onions as they have a much shorter growing period.
Many people ask me what I do with all my many vegetables. I always share my products with my daughter and grandchildren, as well as with friends and colleagues. I also use fresh vegetables for my daily green juice. And, when necessary, I take them to the office to use them in our photo shoots. I am so proud of this greenhouse and all the wonderful vegetables that grow inside it year after year.