greenhouse1.jpg We Meet the Greenhouse and Start a Few Seeds

Around this time last year, I volunteered to start 2011 All America Selections seeds for the Colorado Springs Horticultural Art Society (HAS). HAS maintains a public demonstration garden in Monument Valley Park and has participated in the All America Selections program for years. We lost our gardener of many years and were in the process of hiring another, so someone else needed to step up and take care of the seed starting.

I was excited when I learned I was going to be able to use the historic greenhouse that General Palmer had moved to Monument Valley Park over one hundred years ago. It was adjacent to his office where he oversaw the construction of the park, which he would give to the city in 1907. A half-sunken model, the tables and walkways are below ground with the glass cover starting at ground level. There’s a bougainvillea growing (and blooming!) inside that was established in the greenhouse ground in the 1930’s! The greenhouse is now part of a small complex of greenhouses that belongs to Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department. Because of deep budget cuts, the greenhouse complex had lain fallow for the previous year (possibly longer).

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I was glad to have the space! I did not quite realize what I was getting into when I volunteered to start the seeds. There were ALOT of seeds. And they couldn’t all be started at once (which was a good thing actually). There were some that needed to be started 10 weeks before the last frost date as well as others that really shouldn’t be started more than two weeks before transplanting, with many others falling in between those two extremes. I rounded up a few other volunteers (what a great year to join an enthusiastic seedstarting club!), and we put in a few hours getting the first round of several hundred seeds potted up. We draped plastic over them and the irrigation system to help keep them moist and also warm enough at night.
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I’ve been a gardener for awhile now, and I start seeds at home. Getting a chance to have my “own” greenhouse was kind of thrilling. I imagined hundreds of plants growing on the tables. So I was disappointed to discover that the irrigation misters weren’t working that well, and the cells were drying out. Additionally, some of the cells in the six packs seemed to be getting hit with enough water to scuff up the neatly tamped soil surface! So I adjusted the timing on the irrigation system and moved the trays around a bit, but it was clear I would have to do most of the watering manually.

greenhouse6.jpgFortunately I live pretty close to the greenhouse complex, so I was able to check in on the seeds and do watering as necessary. I remember that it was an osteospermum variety that came up first. They were tiny. I was so excited! And then, they never seemed to get any bigger. Then they seemed to have disappeared. A few other seeds started, but the same thing happened. For a couple of weeks, nothing more happened in the trays. I really started to question my seed starting skills. After all, I’d only ever really worked with small numbers of seeds on the shelves I have set up at home. Maybe I was in over my head.

To be continued….

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