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A glimmer of green: Gardeners keep growing despite snow

by CASEY MCCARTHY
Staff Writer | February 20, 2021 1:00 AM

It’s hard to imagine anything growing with the ground buried in snow, but the persistence of gardeners is tough to match.

Local green thumbs have kept plants alive through the chilly, snowy days in their greenhouses, in their homes, and even in milk jugs in the yard.

Holly Trinnaman, of Moses Lake, is experimenting in her first winter with a greenhouse, but has had some success so far. She said most of the plants and vegetables she has are holding steady, growing their roots.

Trinnaman said she started some tomato plants inside this winter and waited until they were about three inches tall to transfer them out to the greenhouse. She said they are continuing to grow slowly in the greenhouse, but not nearly as much as in the middle of summer.

She even had some cooler season crops like peas popping up in her building.

“Now is a good time to plant cool season crops,” Trinnaman said. “That would be like peas, your lettuces, your kales, stuff like that.”

The snow actually acted as an insulator for the greenhouse, keeping the warm temperatures in, she said. Trinnaman said it was almost eerie walking inside the greenhouse the day after the snow came, listening to the crackling of the ice and snow on top of the roof while she was warm inside and surrounded with the smells of plants and flowers.

She said she is always growing extras of most things and will have people stop by to pick up a plant. Every time someone stops by, she said she’ll offer to let them look around the greenhouse and see if there’s anything else they want.

Trinnaman said people are always excited at the offer.

“They just walk in and love the smell and say they’d be out there all the time,” Trinnaman said. “That right there is worth all the money to just be able to go out there and escape.”

In addition to growing things inside her greenhouse, Trinnaman recently got some shelves in her house to get some plant starters. Boxes of soil and small milk cartons to house plants line the shelves, while just a few tomatoes have been started so far.

“Right now you can start tomatoes indoors; peas, now’s a good time to get those early spring veggies going,” Trinnaman said. “It still might be too early for summer fruit, like watermelon and cantaloupe, but I do a lot of flowers, so most of these [shelves] are for flower seeds.”

Why be limited to just indoors?

Trinnaman is trying out something new this year outdoors: sowing plants in milk jugs. She said she got two big trash bags full of milk jugs from a local coffee shop for the project.

“I just rinsed them out and then cut them in half, put drainage holes in the bottom with a utility knife, then you fill it halfway full of seed starting mix,” Trinnaman said. “It’s a great way to start perennial seeds. Perennial seeds are a little more tricky than annual seeds to start.”

Once the jug is ready, the lid is taped up at the seams and placed in a shady spot of the yard without direct sunlight. The milk jug creates a mini greenhouse effect, creating the ideal conditions to germinate while not drying out the seeds.

Trinnaman said she started 50 jugs and most of them are covered up by snow right now. She said the main appeal of this method is you can kind of “set it and forget it” and not worry about water or other factors from growing indoors.

“I was kind of skeptical, but then I looked up pictures of things that were sprouting in jugs and I just thought, ‘Wow,’” Trinnaman said. “There were some perennials I wanted to grow for a while and it’s so much cheaper to buy the seeds than actually buying the plant.”

She said she has her fingers crossed things will work out for the best.

Heather Gessele, of Moses Lake, stays busy as a gardener and the co-owner of Wild+Roots flower business. She said she and co-owner Ekko Nash haven’t made it to their typical flower shop on the west side this year because of COVID-19 and the recent snowy weather, but are hoping to stock up their business in March.

She also has beehives, but those are dormant at the moment.

Gessele has a greenhouse of her own and said she has some trees rooting there. This involves cutting the branch of an existing tree, placing it in root hormones before sticking the freshly cut end in watered soil to grow a completely new tree.

“Right now I’m rooting blueberries, elderberries and willow trees is what I have going,” Gessele said. “I do have some fruit trees that I had trimmed and was planning on root starting and then they got covered in snow. Thankfully, they’re so easy to maintain that once the snow melts and I can find them again, I’ll cut the roots off fresh and we can get those going again.”

Gessele said she also has some of her dahlia tubers starting in the greenhouse to help their “eyes come out.” She said this helps her divide them before planting because one tuber will multiply in spring.

She said she shares a lot of her tubers and tree cuttings with friends and people in the community. Most of the cuttings she gives away are elderberries or willow trees.

In fact, the willow trees lining the property at her house came from cuttings from trees.

“All my willow trees that I cut from my mom’s house that were just branches and they’re now 20 feet tall and I’ve only been here five years,” Gessele said. “And my mom started cuttings from my grandma’s house.”

Gessele said she had some peonies popping up before the snow hit and was worried they might freeze. She said she and her kids covered them with leaves before the snowfall, creating a similar effect as a greenhouse.

She said hopefully plants will continue to grow under the leaf cover and won’t get frosted.

Around March is typically when Gessele said she will begin her starts for spring plants and she has tried starting early the last few years in her greenhouse. But, she said she doesn’t typically bother starting things like squash or pumpkins early because she prefers to plant those right in the ground when the weather is warmer.

“It actually stunts it a little bit so I actually prefer to start everything closer to March so I’m sure I’m not leaving it in a little pot so long,” Gessele said. “It seems like the stuff I start after the season does better than the stuff I start earlier.”

Casey McCarthy can be reached via email at cmccarthy@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Courtesy Photo/Heather Gessele

Blueberry root starts sit in a pot inside Heather Gessele's greenhouse in Moses Lake soaking up sun on Wednesday afternoon.

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Courtesy Photo/Heather Gessele

Garlic shoots Heather Gessele planted in the fall for spring harvest peak out of the snow in her yard in Moses Lake on Wednesday afternoon.

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Courtesy Photo/Heather Gessele

Heather Gessele's greenhouse in Moses Lake sits in her backyard surrounded by snow on Wednesday afternoon.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Milk jugs filled with dirt sit on Holly Trinnaman's back porch on Wednesday ready to be added to her already large collection of winter sowing jugs nestled beside her greenhouse.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Tomato plant starts glow green in the light on Holly Trinnaman's plant starter shelves inside her home in Moses Lake on Wednesday.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Holly Trinnaman's shelves, still mostly empty, inside her home in Moses Lake on Wednesday are ready to be filled with plant starts when the time is right.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Pea plants beginning to come up are nestled together on one of the lower shelves inside Holly Trinnaman's greenhouse in Moses Lake on Wednesday afternoon.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Holly Trinnaman shows off some roots getting started on one of her plants in her greenhouse in Moses Lake on Wednesday afternoon.