I have been watching the weather with an obsession for the past two weeks; that was the day that the seedlings moved from inside the house to the greenhouse. After being carefully protected while inside, watered carefully, turned so they received even sunlight, these tomatoes had grown up enough to move into their own pots. Like a mom whose kids were moving from their crib to their toddler or big kid bed, I was a little sad to see them go outside.
The greenhouse is not heated, it is more like a giant cold frame with some heat retention characteristics built in. There are bricks in the floor by the door, there is a large raised bed with dark boards to help hold any heat collected by the sun throughout the day and there is the compost experiment in the corner. But it was late March/early April in Northern Vermont, the risk of frost remains very real for another month and a half.
For the first night, the transplants were fine. The following day was cool, rainy and snowy. At only 224 sq. ft., it doesn't take much to keep the temperature above freezing, but it does require action on my part. Into the garage to find the small propane tank and the little buddy heater. Little man's father got it all set up while the temperature inside was well in the fifties, no need to waste the propane. I went out later to turn on the valve and light the heater - NO HEAT! Moving over 750 transplants back into the house was not going to be a fun experience, especially with it snowing. I closed the valve, took the heater off the tank and looked inside to fine one ticked off spider. I grabbed a pencil and evicted her then put the assembly back together, turned on the valve, and poof - HEAT!
We have used just over 20 lbs of propane (a standard grill sized tank) over five nights. This coming weekend is forecast to have some upper 20 degree nights. I will watch carefully and decide whether supplemental heat will be needed.
During the day, the temperatures inside the greenhouse have to be watched as well. If I leave the house in the morning with outside temperatures in the upper 30's and overcast skies, I would consider leaving the door closed. If the sun were to come out and shine in earnest for the better part of the day, the poor little transplants could cook before someone else arrives to open the door.
Spring brings renewed life and a longer to-do list to this small farm. It is hard to be off the farm when the sun is shining and temperatures are above 40 degrees. Soon enough this farmer will be able to be on the farm full-time.