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Season Extending With
the Garden Starter Greenhouse

Garden Starter Greenhouse
Even though David Grist lives in zone 4, he uses his Garden Starter Greenhouse to grow plants from zone 6 and higher.

David Grist has an interesting take on the challenge of gardening in Zone 4.

"There are plenty of plants that grow well here, but it's more interesting when you push the boundaries a bit. I figure that if you don't have stuff dying, you're not trying hard enough."

David has been working at Gardener's Supply for many years. Besides managing the company's online gardening information, he's a go-to guy for difficult horticultural questions. David works for a landscaper, so he spends lots of time in gardens throughout Vermont's Champlain Valley.

David attributes his passion for gardening to his grandparents, who had a greenhouse when he was growing up. "I think it's in the genetic structure," he said. "I've been interested in gardening since I was little."

His Burlington, Vermont, backyard is less than an acre, but every inch is packed with interesting plants. David Grist grows a multitude of flowers and practices his philosophy of pushing zone boundaries, with a little help from his Garden Starter Greenhouse.

MORE: Full details on the Garden Starter Greenhouse.

"Here in Vermont, summer is short and spring and fall are unpredictable," he said. "With a Garden Starter, you can eliminate some of the unknowns because you have a relatively stable environment for plants." Unlike more expensive greenhouses, the Garden Starter is not meant to be heated all winter; it's designed for three-season use. During spring and fall, it's practical to heat it with an electric heater, which extends the growing season on both ends. And even when the heat is turned off for the season (usually in December or January), the greenhouse provides a warm "microclimate" that can be used to overwinter plants or start spring crops, such as sweet peas or lettuce.

"When people visit my garden, I really love to hear them say: 'You're not supposed to be able to grow these things,' but I'm doing it."

And grow he does.

Last fall David planted sweet peas in the beds inside his greenhouse. "Not much growth took place during the winter, but we had bouquets of sweet peas before Easter," he said.

Ranunculus
Started in the greenhouse, pots of ranunculus can be placed in garden bare spots or showcased on the porch.
He has a potted lemon tree that winters indoors under lights. But it moves to the greenhouse in early spring when it's just finished blossoming, and then goes out into the yard by the start of summer. By June, it is moved to a sunny spot in the yard. And yes, it bears fruit. This year he also grew some tea roses in containers. "In Vermont we're just on the edge of where they're reliably hardy," he said. The pots were stored for the winter in his basement, where temperatures remain about 30 to 40 degrees F. In February he moved them to the greenhouse, and by early spring he had his first crop of roses.

David is also growing three varieties of bananas; tender bulbs, such as ranunculus, nerine, and Peruvian daffodils; and lacecap hydrangeas. When the potted plants come into bloom, he tucks them among the garden plants or near his front door entrance. "It's fun to have fresh material through the summer," he said. "The hydrangeas are especially nice to gussy up the front porch."

Mrs. Eileen dahlia
Large-flowered dahlias can be started early in the greenhouse.
"The caladiums also did really well this year," he said. "They need heat to get going and you can really give them that in the greenhouse."

David sticks to flowers and doesn't grow any vegetables in his yard. "When I grow vegetables, I feel guilty if I don't eat them. With flowers, it's so easy. You just enjoy them by looking at them."

A typical Vermont winter is snowy, cold, and lasts almost six months. Over the past two years, the Garden Starter Greenhouse has become one of David's favorite gardening tools.

"My greenhouse gives me the opportunity to experiment and lots more time in the soil," he said. "I can go outside when there's snow on the ground, tromp over to the greenhouse, and walk in to the smell of soil that's moist and feel the sun. It's a great place to be at that time of year."

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