May 7, 2008

Pop-Up Greenhouses

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Although we moved 15 times during my husband Rich's career in the Navy, he always found a way to make some sort of garden everywhere we lived -- even if it was only a few tomato plants in pots on a concrete patio. During his last tour of duty, we were stationed in the home of the world-famous Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC. Rich was downright inspired, and in his free time, he went through the training to become a certified Master Gardener.

Over the years, Rich's passion for gardening has taken root in the whole family. We all enjoy visiting farmer's markets, planning our crop for the year, and working out in the sunshine. One healthy perk we've discovered is that the kids are more likely to eat the veggies rather than push them around their plates.

Some years, we've bought our vegetable plants as "starts," little two- or three-inch sprouts someone else grew from seeds. That option can get pretty expensive, though, and we miss out on the fun of seeing the seeds germinate. In other years, we've planted seeds in little peat pots and placed them on every windowsill in the entire house. This option is messy at watering time and even messier when our cat suddenly feels entitled to a warm nap on the sunny windowsill.

We've often dreamt of having a big glass greenhouse with plenty of shelving and a little space set aside for a wrought-iron table and chairs, perfect for an afternoon cup of tea. But a large glass greenhouse isn't in our budget -- or allowed by our community regulations. (We live just inside the city limits, where permanent outbuildings are not permitted.) Truthfully, even if a glass greenhouse were in the budget and were allowed in our community, we probably wouldn't want to devote a big chunk of our small yard to something we would only use for a few weeks each spring.

Fortunately, I found a great alternative -- Pop-Up Greenhouses. These portable greenhouses pop up like a tent, and pop right down again as soon as it's warm enough to plant sprouts in the ground. They're affordable, allowed by our community regulations, and they come in a wide variety of sizes to fit any space. We bought two mini ones to cover our raised flowerbeds and one that's 6' x 8' and tall enough to walk into.

We ordered our Pop-Up Greenhouses online at a website called Greenhouse Showcase (www.greenhouseshowcase.com/pop-up.htm). And at the right time of year, local gardening shops sometimes carry them in stock.

Best of all, when the early spring growing season is over, our Pop-Up Greenhouses will fold down and store in their carrying cases on a shelf in the garage. So far, we've planted Jake's green beans, Sabrina's pumpkins, my lettuce, and Rich's peppers. We're not finished yet, but it's already shaping up to be a delicious growing season!

Do you and your family garden? What do you grow, and how do you make it more convenient? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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