Thursday, March 19, 2015

TAKE THAT You Darn Varmints!

Two springs ago, after I planted an entire packet of peas in containers in the greenhouse, some mice helped themselves to the plump pea-ness of my efforts and ate every single one of them!

How do I know?  Because they apparently didn't like the slightly firm outer shell and they removed every one of them and left them all over the shelf.

Irate doesn't even begin to describe my reaction.  But, the realization that they might have found a happy place and start eating every seed I plant hit me and I started taking drastic measures to protect my little seeds.

I found old screens and laid them over the tops.  But those little critters just crawled up and pushed under the screens and found gaps to crawl into.  So I weighted the screens with bricks.

And put lots of other just planted seeds in the clamshells that spinach and lettuce come in.

The greenhouse was starting to have a million little greenhouses, all in the name of keeping out the mice.

Fed up with the precariously balancing of weights on the screens, and wanting freedom to plant like I did the first year, without mice worries, I asked k-ster if he'd help me build something.

We never do anything small, so here's what we came up with.

I wanted it to be deep enough that I could put my big containers (usually for peas) and also smaller ones as we get further into spring.

I originally thought I wanted a bunch of smaller versions of this, about the size of a flat of plants from a greenhouse store, but then I wouldn't be able to cover my big pots, which was the whole point.  I take those pots of peas right out to the garden when it's warm enough and let them grow there, without transplanting them.

After many debates with myself and then with k-ster over the size and how to close it, we decided to make two pieces of the same size that will sit on top of each other.  Then, if I am using small pots, I could actually use them as two separate covers and have even more covered space.

A hinged cover didn't really make sense to me.  So, the top just sits on the bottom.  But getting it off was quite a production since it's 60 inches wide and I'm only 62.5 inches tall!  Adding that little handle makes such a difference.  Getting it off is still entertaining for anyone nearby because I have to make sure I don't hit any parts of the greenhouse as I move it on or off!

Because it's not latched in any way, I quickly discovered that when the top is on, it left just enough of a gap to allow any rodents in that wanted to squeeze by.  A thin later of metal around the inside did the trick and it keeps the top from slipping off or sitting crookedly.

I planted peas, radishes and beets last weekend, hoping that the 20 degree weather at night wouldn't impeded the germination process.  They are pretty hardy once they 've started, but getting them going in cold weather can be tricky.

Thanks to the 48 inch wide heat mat, with an actual thermostat, that I bought last year, nothing is freezing overnight and things are looking good in less than a week!  The heat mat isn't something that you touch and feel heat, but you can tell it's warmer than the air around it and that's really all I want.

 Radishes are happily poking up.  These are a rainbow mix so I'm curious what I'll get.

My first pea is poking up!  The year I started peas nice and early inside, I actually could go out in the late spring and pick enough peas to actually eat for dinner.  In the past, I'd plant peas but I'd get a handful of pods and just eat them in the garden.  If I can get them started soon enough, I can plant a lot and really have some great results!

The beets haven't shown their heads yet but I'm not worried.  Plus, they are an old packet, so if they don't start at all, I won't be surprised.  Peas are the thing to worry about because once it's too hot, they bolt and it's over.  I get radishes and beets to grow all spring, summer and fall.

The super cold winter, many days below 20 degrees, killed everything in the greenhouse except this one Brussels sprout.

I don't heat the greenhouse because I'm not growing enough to sell, and heating a plastic hut is just such a waste of fuel, as far as I'm concerned.  If the winter isn't too cold for too long, broccoli, beets and chard usually keep going, but this winter it was not meant to be!

As I look outside and still see snow, pretty high in some places, I'm excited to think about spring and starting my seeds.  Having this rodent proof contraption makes me so much happier about this process!

Now, if I could just make one about 8 feet tall to keep the squirrels and coons off my corn......

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  1. I started my veggies off at the weekend. It's not too cold here (East Anglia in the UK) and we don't have crazy rodents eating everything in sight, but my garden is some kind of slug holiday camp with free food :(. They ate everything last year so maybe I need a similar kind of contraption, perhaps with smaller holes!

    1. Anna,I swear no holes are small enough to keep out the slugs. After the rodent issue, then I fight with slugs out in my garden all spring. They never seem to be much of an issue in the greenhouse. Some years, they've been as big as my fingers and other years, more plentiful than I can even explain. If I remember correctly, there were suspiciously few last year. I finally put in drip irrigation in the garden and that might have been enough to deter them because things were hanging wet from overhead watering. It's so frustrating to go out and see them just sucking down plants after so much time and hope watching them get started! I've also had really good luck with plants boucning back pretty well and producing well in spite of the slug-a-palooza.


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