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greenhouse suck factor

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15607
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think that a greenhouse is an excellent idea for about 18% of the greenhouses that exist.  The weird thing is that so many greenhouses strike me as stupid.

Last year I was asked for my advice on a greenhouse location.  These people had dreams of eating veggies in the winter.  I pointed out that the trees to the south were conifers that were so dense that their greenhouse would be in the shade all winter.  They labeled me a "negative nelly" and built their precious greenhouse.  On a bright sunny day in november at about 10:30 in the morning I pointed out how their greenhouse was not only in the shade, but it would be lucky to get 15% of the available direct sunlight throughout the day.  And it would only be worse for the next two months. 

A similar thing a few years back.  With similar outcome. 

I suspect that half of all greenhouses built are built in the winter shade.    And the days are already so short then - blocking even half of the light is gonna make for a really lame crop.

-----

Another thing about greenhouses is that you have split yourself away from the eco system.  By having a greenhouse at all, you are filling in the position of mother nature.  Everything that mother nature does to keep things in balance, you now have to do.  So when fungus or bugs or anything gets out of hand, it is now your job to deal with it.

----

I guess I felt the need to start this thread because everybody knows the upsides (food in winter) but very few people appear to be aware of the downsides.  Deep understanding of the downsides helps to mitigate them or at least decide to not put a lot of money and effort into something that, in the end, won't be worth it.

Just because I may be a negative nelly doesn't mean that these issues are less true. 

Anybody else have greenhouse issues that they would like to warn future greenhouse builders about?





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Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I've heard from several people without automatic vents, who baked their plants to death.

You'd think a couple plastic sheets held closed with bi-metal strips would be a simple solution...


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
i am one of those idiots that loves my little 6 x 8 greenhouse..no it isn't heated at this time..perse..although it does get some heat from my septic tank..it isn't enough to keep it producing all winter..but i am picking tomatos and peppers out of it now that are totally perfect and have some beautiful tender herbs that grow in it year around that wouldnt' if they were out in the normal Michigan winter.

i have automatic vents and also leave the door open unless it is going to be below freezing outside..then i also light some candles to keep the ambient temp above freezing well into the cooler night weather.

i have a drip system that i turn on once a week for a deep watering of the soil..

i don't have bug infestations other than the stupid bald face hornet nest we had to remove..but we have enough good bugs in there to pollinate..

i'll be picking tomatos until mid November..likely..and peppers about that long as well..and then we'll let it go fallow until about March so about 4 mo..

we have a wood boielr and probably could hook up a heat exchanger or someothing to the greenhouse.when we have time to mess with it..but are busy with other things right now.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I do want to point out that people that put them in stupid places shouldn't be counted as a negative for greenhouses. thats a negative for people. green houses are alot work I am sure. although they are isolated from nature and that can be a negative it can also be a postive. natural fluxuations in weather, disease and insects can be mitigated easier. nothing you can do if it rains too much or some blight or insect decides to take over your garden.I would like one for starting plants and overwintering some tropicals and some vegies. If I lived farther north I would consider it a neccessity. I am too accustomed to a long growing season.


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"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Gwen Lynn


Joined: Sep 04, 2008
Posts: 736
If I lived up north (been there, done that), I don't think an ordinary greenhouse would be enough for me. I would NEED my own, personal, human sized terrarium! Complete with skylights, a waterfall, indoor pool and greenhouse area for overwintering tropical plants, starting seeds, etc.

Even if all that were feasible, I'd still need a LOT of convincing (and perhaps medication :roll to get me to live in a cold climate...again. I would have to live like a tropical gecko in my terrarium! 

Anyhoo, I can see where a greenhouse would be very useful in colder climates. Just because of the climate control ability. It would be very frustrating for me to constantly lose heat loving plants to freak cold weather blasts.

I've worked for a plant nursery with a few greenhouses in Okla. The greenhouses were very useful in the spring and fall. Was very helpful, protecting seedlings from hailstorms,  drenching rains and of course drastic temperature changes. In the summertime, even with shadecloth & giant fans, they were still pretty hot, especially during days of 100+ temps.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15607
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I do want to point out that people that put them in stupid places shouldn't be counted as a negative for greenhouses. thats a negative for people.


I guess my mission is to get a healthy list of greenhouse issues going.  And with a lot of issues we can then work on how to mitigate those issues. 

I think the point about greenhouses overheating is a good one.

And I think the point about attempting to mitigate that based on human discipline is an even better point. 




Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Another important issue is material choice. 

It would be nice if there were something cheap and durable with a low environmental impact, preferrably locally sourced.

All that I've heard of working is plate glass, fiberglass, LDPE sheet, and bubble wrap.  And the last two degrade over a few seasons.  I guess tempered glass might be an option if you had unlimited access to a junkyard...
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I have struggled with the material choice. glass would be so iffy around here with the storms and plastic is less then durable and not exactly a freindly option for other reasons. especially ....... what to you do you do with the plastic when it has outlived its useful green house life but there is still alot there? I have always liked the idea of portable ones that can be put right over your garden spot and removed as needed. maybe have a shade cloth cover so it can do double duty and help me grow some of the things  that get burned up in the heat, like lettuce and carrots.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
mine is double wall polycarbonate with aluminum framing..i am fairly well pleased with it as it has lasted me for well over 20 years now..and it has more than paid for it's original $1,000 price tag in saved plants..

i've moved it a couple of times..and like where i have it now best..it is about 10' from my kitchen door/porch and has an herb garden around it...drip irrigation makes it very easy to water and keep water off of the plants..just on their roots..

my tomatoes are perfect and blemish free in the greenhouse..not so much outside of the greenhouse..no blight..no blossom end rot..etc..my peppers actually bear in the greenhouse..in Michigan peppers are difficult to get to bear in our cold weather..(we were in the 40's overnight most every day this week and our highs for this weekend will be in the 50's with cold rain)
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15607
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Something I have seen several times at the more professional farms in the area is something that looks like a hoop style greenhouse with no ends.  The idea appears to be to eliminate rainwater from hitting the leaves of the plants.  I suspect it does make things a bit warmer too.  By eliminating the moisture and watering only the soil (not the leaves) I would guess that it almost eliminates any issues with blight.  And, at the same time, without any ends on the greenhouse, it is not wholly removed from the eco system.



Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1333
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
I have seen some poorly sited greenhouses. But I guess that is something that you have to think about when you start establishing a permaculture mindset.
In my region you could not grow many things, tomatoes peppers, squash without some type of protection. You can count on a few frosts in the evenings by the first week in August. Freezing in the evening and 90's in the daytime.
I have been dancing like a crazy monkey this year because I have been able to grow and harvest watermelons in my climate. I couldn't have done it without a greenhouse.
Unfortunately do it once and do it right just doesn't seem to work for me and my permaculture pursuits, but I am a fast learner and am having many successes as I play and learn.


"There is enough in the world for everyones needs, but not enough for everyones greed"
(Buckman)
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
lapinerobert wrote:
do it once and do it right


There are people and institutions that work like that, and there are tasks that require such a mindset, but I'm too fond of exploration to take that as my guiding philosophy.  Most of the important things I do, I don't even know what "right" would look like until the second or third time I've done that particular thing, in that particular context.

If you'd like an antidote to that kind of thinking, you might read some of Paul Graham's essays.  He talks a lot about the nature of work, mostly computer programming but partly fine art, and to some extent generalized to innovative work of any sort.

In contrast to your quote above, he says:

find (a) simple solutions (b) to overlooked problems (c) that actually need to be solved, and (d) deliver them as informally as possible, (e) starting with a very crude version 1, then (f) iterating rapidly...if you release a crude version 1 then iterate, your solution can benefit from the imagination of nature, which, as Feynman pointed out, is more powerful than your own.


Which is much more my style.

Source:

http://www.paulgraham.com/newthings.html
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
I agree that the idea situation would be to raise plants in the ground, outdoors, but unfortunately not everyone has a good climate for that.  I want a small greenhouse, not for raising food year-round, but for starting seedlings in the spring, and for protecting tomatoes, etc., from early frosts in the fall (actually, in the high desert, we can get frost in any month of the year, and in fact had our first frost of the summer last night).  If someday I move to the Alaska Peninsula, as I hope to do eventually, I'll want a greenhouse, or I won't be able to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc., at all.  Of course, I could just give them up and grow what does do well there (any cool-season crop), but since the greenhouse would be attached to the house, it would have several other functions, including giving us a place to enjoy the sun out of the wind on cool days.  That's important in a climate where you are pretty much house-bound by the weather a lot of the time.

Kathleen
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
OK here it is the end of August and we are expecting 30's overnight for the entire week and weekend..got that 30's..if i didn't have my tomatoes and peppers in a greenhouse..this would be their last week..but we'll still have tomatos..in our greenhouse..for another couple of months..so i'm glad i have it..there are beautiful dozens and dozens and dozens of tomatoes and peppers nearly ripe on the plants right now..no greenhouse..tomorrow they would be mush
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15607
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I had mountains of tomatoes in missoula.  A 90 day growing season which was dramatically extended by the use of raised beds. 

Granted, greenhouses can extend much further - even indefinitely with heat.  And .... I think a lot of people make the leap into building greenhouses without a full understanding of the issues.  And that explains why you can visit so many farms that have greenhouses that are not being used.

So:  keeping on course with trying to come up with potential issues of greenhouses ....

Another concern I've heard of ... and maybe it was brought up in these forums ....  is the idea that glass or plastic or anything you use to let light through, does not let ALL of the light through.  Apparently, any of these will block (partially or fully) some of the spectrum.  And the plants end up being lessor for it. 

Another interesting perspective on greenhouses comes from mike oehler's book on greenhouses.  The general idea is to reduce the air:glass ratio ... and to rely more on thermal mass to smooth out the bumps in the road.    Through his techniques, he has been able to grow tomatoes into december in north idaho with no heat!

Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
paul wheaton wrote:
I had mountains of tomatoes in missoula. A 90 day growing season which was dramatically extended by the use of raised beds.


An interesting article on extend the growing season of the pre-Columbian Andes:

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~cerickso/articles/Exped.pdf

I guess raised beds near water are a good way to grow potatoes in the mountains...now where have I heard that before? 
jacque greenleaf
volunteer

Joined: Jan 21, 2009
Posts: 464
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
Like Paul, I've seen a lot of people build greenhouses that don't make sense. Most often, those greenhouses wind up being tool sheds, and you can see tons of them in back yards in the city and in the country.

I think the biggest issue is to be very clear about what your goals are for the greenhouse. Extending your tomato season is one thing, but if you want to keep tomatoes growing and fully productive in February in, say, Spokane, you're going to have to supply some inputs, and if you want to do it in Seattle, you'll have to supply some different inputs. Once size most definitely doesn't fit all.

One thing that I puzzle over, as my partner and I talk about the greenhouse we intend to build, is how to determine optimum size. Too small, and the temperature swings are too wild - too large, and we're spending more on it than is necessary. I'd like to try growing some of the hardier citrus, and that means a heating system. It gets down into the single digits here. We are interested in the subsoil heating systems, but I don't have any actual experience with them.

I'm not as worried about the issue of being cut off from the environment. To me, that is one of the purposes of a greenhouse. Otherwise, a greenhouse is not necessary. You could build solar pods (http://www.chelseagreen.com/authors/leandre_poisson/) which would be much cheaper, and grow most of the usual garden suspects just as well as in a greenhouse. Eliot Coleman makes a living from his greenhouses, and I think his economic analysis is very instructive, even if your purpose is not to make money. If you are fine with subsidizing your greenhouse grown plants with money/energy from elsewhere, there's not a thing wrong with that, as long as it is a measured decision to do so.

There's the guy in Colorado who is growing bananas at 7000 feet, but he gets a lot more winter sun than we do...The permutations are really endless.
                              


Joined: May 02, 2009
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
the best, most versatile greenhouse I've seen is a greenhouse/sunroom attached to a house.  The greehouse was cobbled together from salvaged windows, and had a dirt floor with gravel. There was a big door between the house and greenhouse that could be left open, and the hosue was heated with a wood stove (about 12 feet from this door), and the main floor had a cement floor that held the woodstove heat very nicely--there were cement bricks stacked around the stove which conducted the heat down to the floor more.

THe greenhouse was attached to the east side of the house)it may be more SE), and the guys grew tomatos and bell peppers in there--which is about all he cares to grow.  I'd say the GH is about 12 x 20'? The GH extends his harvest into December, and he overwinters some plants some years. He may have grow lamps(I visit his house every year on an art tour, I'll have to peek and see--the PNW is notorious for lack of sun)

This is in the Coast Range of Oregon, at about 1000'. So I'd say his set up is a success adn I would like to do something like it someday.  The house is small, and the GH is a nice place to sit as well(sunroom), and I think letting it get open to the house heat from the woodstove helps.

He grows the plants in 5-gallon buckets or half barrels in the GH.

I really like the idea of having a greenhouse/sunroom kind of thing attached to the house.


My Blog, Natural History and Forest Gardening
www.dzonoquaswhistle.blogspot.com
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Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
i agree that attched to a house is the ideal for a greenhouse..but ours is not.

we put in a wood boiler nearly a year ago..and one day we probably will run some of the hot water through our greenhouse so we can keep it heated in the wintertime..but right now we just have been too busy with other things..

all it will cost us is the fastening parts as we already have the pex available to do the access from the wood boiler to the greenhouse and have a deck that the insulated pex can run under to just a few feet from the greenhouse from the boiler..but we just haven't had the time with all our other projects to think about it this year..i'm sure one year in the future we will have a cozy wood boiler heated greenhouse with heat for free..as we already use the boiler for 3 buildings..and running to that little greenhouse will not remove enough heat to make any difference to the rest of our heat bill.

in the meantime..i can keep the greenhouse producing tenders for 8 to 9 months..so i'm quite happy with that..as we have a 90 day growing season in our area of Michigan (au sauble river valley)
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
paul maybe your green house "suck factor" should be "the pros and cons and proper uses/places for a green house. I think your estimation that 1/2 the greenhouses are built in a bad place is waaaaay over the top. most people who install a green house know that the point is winter sun....since that is well....the point. there are undoubtably a few people out there that dont' have a clear understanding that the angle of the sun changes with the seasons.....probably newbie gardeners.


just like everything there are pros and cons to different strategies and methods and each person must decide what fits their situation, goals and desires and limitations.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
something a lot of people don't realize also is there MAY be a necessity to shade your greenhouse in some areas of the country in the summertime..we don't have to here as our summers range from 50's to 70's for most highs..we may get a couple weeks of 80's maybe a few days of 90's and we actually had one day in triple digits this year.

but i'm sure there are areas that do get hot enough to require shade to their greenhouses
Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1333
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
I agree "pros and cons" would be a better title. Just like any endeavor there is a learning curve involved and extending the warmth through the cold months doesn't address the need for shading and cooling in the warm months. I got involved in the outdoor garden and I found that I over looked the greenhouse the first year I had it up. Dismal results during that first summer, but an exceptional fall crop of hydroponic greens.
  A work in progress. I have installed photovoltaic powered fans, since I am absent during the hottest part of the day.  I have learned when it is time to put up the shade cloths and when to take them down.
Just as I learn what plants are viable in even different areas of my property  there are diferent micro climates within the greenhouse. I am learning what works and doesn't in my greenhouses. I would love to live in an area that  a greenhouse isn't required but it is a necessity in my neck of the woods. Now let's talk about deer and elk suck factor, the decimated my swiss chard last night but didn't get to the any plants within the greenhouse. I love my greenhouse.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
yeah coon ate all my corn way before they were ripe..way before i would have even enjoyed them..wahh..all gone..

so i guess maybe i really DO need to cage my corn next time..or just forget about growing it
                          


Joined: Apr 12, 2009
Posts: 66
I lucked out on trying new things with moving so much, the bad luck is the next place is so different the knowledge is less helpful!  Perhaps you all can learn from my experiences.

I moved on to a TX zone 8a heat zone 9b farmette which had a SW facing GH attached to a shed.  The only thing that GH ever did for me was keep safe some poultry on occasion and once a rescued wild Inca dove.  Even in winter and even after I got a mechanical vent the GH was at times way too hot for plants.  In summer it was of course a dry sauna.  The prior folks used it to dry their herbs, unsure if they ever used it successfully for plants.  All in all GH fail, and now I am in AL 8a/9a I will consider lights (ie cold frames) in winter, use the pool to buffer the cool for some plants, and my only 'GH' is my E facing sunroom in the house for a few potted citrus and tropicals through the winter (out all summer).  And I use my seldom driven van, parked in the sun for this purpose, as my food dryer.

I don't know what would make a GH work in the South other than thermostatically controlled huge fans and heaters for precise commercial work.

We sojourned in cold zone 8 heat zone 3/4 southern England and there I put a GH lean to over our stone patio with sldiing double doors into it from the house, a single door to the outside, S facing.  This worked very well to let me crop cukes toms peppers, which would not have cropped most summers there, for several months.  I did not except on the few coldest nights when cropping heat it with house air- too expensive- but on a few sunny winter days I heated the house with the GH.  There for the cost of the GH I had some of the American crops I so missed and could jhave done more with the GH had I wished.  Had the GH been big enough for maize my gardening there would have been perfect.

Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I have considered that If I were to aquire a greenhouse I might want to put it in the shade of a deciduous tree so that it could be shaded in the summer and get sun in the winter. being able to start my own seedlings with real sunlight and protect them from bunnies would be nice even if it was only in the spring.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
as you mentioned the glassed in south facing porch..we have an 8 x 10 porch on the south of our house..the roof is solid shingled with an overhang..and it was an open porch..a few years ago we put plexiglass between the 4x4 posts..4x8 sheets..framed in..and then last year we put a 15 window door on the opening..it is still not airtight..but it does really bring in a lot of heat on sunny winter days..however..in michigan if it isn't sunny it is cold in the winter..that beautiful enclosure can reach down to the 20's easily on a cold night..so it isn't warm enough to grow anything in overwinter here..and i'm not going to heat it..at least not right now.

it is great for a air space that prewarms the air between the inside and outside so that we don't loose our warm house air to the outside in the wintertime..so that is wonderful..and it does make a cozy place to sit on a sunny winter day..which i totally love..it can get to 80 out there when it is 30 outside if the sun is hot enough.

generally however, it runs about 10 to 20 degrees warmer in the porch than the outside air.

we have a glassed in rear , north facing porch as well..basically it is to kieep a dry space with an air stop in the winter and a shady spot in the summer, it tends to be about 10 degrees cooler in the summer than outside air..it gets very little sun..and it is about 250 square feet under roof and glassed in.

i would also like to hgave a simliar thing out our east deck..but haven't ventured into that territory yet.

the greenhouse we have is only 6 x8 but it works perfectly for our tomato and our pepper plants and a few herbs
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15607
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think a greenhouse should be placed to grow stuff in winter.  Thus, placement for winter sun is critical. 

I suppose one could build a greenhouse strictly for starts in the spring, but that seems like a lot of work for very little gain. 

I think it might also be worth considering not building a greenhouse at all.  I think if one took the time, one could come up with an exceptionally sound argument as to why a greenhouse is not good use of the time and money it takes to build it and keep it operational. 

Further, I think that if one chooses to build a greenhouse, Oehler's designs should seriously be considered.  I suspect that an oehler greenhouse would be faster to build, cheaper and work far better than any other design. 

                          


Joined: Apr 12, 2009
Posts: 66
Paul recall your HT chicken article experience and consider not offering any hard rules about this!  However, if making hard rules, I would say the south gets way too hot most of the time, even in winter, so that must be considered and addressed, and in the north it still can get too cold so that needs to be considered.

I therefore think season extender is the best use for a GH since you get something and are less likely to bet the whole winter food supply on things working properly.  However I am not pricing this out- if a GH is cheap any benefit is worth it, if it's expensive (as mine was in England) I paid a good bit for growing my own/ extending my growing season.
Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1333
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
Paul,
I wish I lived where you do but you could not have a viable garden in my area without a greenhouse. Snow on July fourth is not unheard of. This year first frost was in July. In your area perhaps a greenhouse is uneccessary but we are not all fortunate to live under ideal growing circumstances. You can't paint with such a broad brush. Greenhouses suck in some areas and  are an ideal solution in others. Cloches and groundcover cloths are also a must have for me. One season in my area and your position would perhaps be different.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15607
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
jenn wrote:
Paul recall your HT chicken article experience


Oh yes .... good times ....    I expressed opinions and several people freaked out and attempted to shut me down - then they started the process to ban me from the forums.   

I'm used to infuriating people.  It doesn't bother me any more.  Each flavor of infuriation is usually slightly different but most of them seem to boil down to people demanding that I live my life according to their standards and if I choose to live my life according to my own standards instead, they get really mad.  Wacky.

jenn wrote:
consider not offering any hard rules about this! 


I guess I'm not following what you are suggesting:  what would be my hard rules?  So far I have merely expressed my opinion.  And as for hard rules, will you permit me to have hard rules for how I choose to live my life?

jenn wrote:
However, if making hard rules, I would say the south gets way too hot most of the time, even in winter, so that must be considered and addressed, and in the north it still can get too cold so that needs to be considered.


I agree about the stuff about the south.  And, I have to wonder why folks would have a greenhouse in the south.  Maybe there is something particularly delicate that somebody wants to grow as a hobby or as a niche crop.

As for the north:  I see that as probably the primary target for a greenhouse.  Folks have the fantasy of growing veggies all year. 

jenn wrote:
I therefore think season extender is the best use for a GH since you get something and are less likely to bet the whole winter food supply on things working properly.  However I am not pricing this out- if a GH is cheap any benefit is worth it, if it's expensive (as mine was in England) I paid a good bit for growing my own/ extending my growing season.


I agree with this. 

I kinda wonder about merging greenhouse stuff with graywater stuff.  And while a decent greenhouse probably won't provide a lot of food, a wee bit through the winter can be nice.  And, as you say, if it's cheap and easy it could be worth it. 

Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
wyldthang wrote:
the best, most versatile greenhouse I've seen is a greenhouse/sunroom attached to a house.  The greehouse was cobbled together from salvaged windows, and had a dirt floor with gravel. There was a big door between the house and greenhouse that could be left open, and the hosue was heated with a wood stove (about 12 feet from this door), and the main floor had a cement floor that held the woodstove heat very nicely--there were cement bricks stacked around the stove which conducted the heat down to the floor more.

THe greenhouse was attached to the east side of the house)it may be more SE), and the guys grew tomatos and bell peppers in there--which is about all he cares to grow.  I'd say the GH is about 12 x 20'? The GH extends his harvest into December, and he overwinters some plants some years. He may have grow lamps(I visit his house every year on an art tour, I'll have to peek and see--the PNW is notorious for lack of sun)

This is in the Coast Range of Oregon, at about 1000'. So I'd say his set up is a success adn I would like to do something like it someday.  The house is small, and the GH is a nice place to sit as well(sunroom), and I think letting it get open to the house heat from the woodstove helps.

He grows the plants in 5-gallon buckets or half barrels in the GH.

I really like the idea of having a greenhouse/sunroom kind of thing attached to the house.


This is basically what I would plan to do.  Attached, about 12' X 20', probably a rocket stove to heat the bottom of the plant bed, with space for sitting out there to enjoy the sun.  I wouldn't be trying to grow tomatoes in the winter, but might have salad greens over the winter.  The area I'm looking at moving to has summer highs in the sixties, so it isn't just a question of the length of the growing season, but also the amount of heat, which just isn't sufficient for some crops outdoors.  They aren't essential, but I want a sunroom to sit in anyway (the greenhouse would be by far the largest room in the house), so might as well utilize it for as many purposes as possible.  Kind of like permaculture, LOL!

Kathleen
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
On winter sun placement:

A trick I saw on Ran Prieur's blog strikes me as fun and useful:

To assess winter sun during the summer, look at the full moon.  Its place in the sky will be just about exactly where the sun would be at the opposite time of day and year.  Doesn't work for other phases of the moon, unfortunately.

In his case, roads to his property tend not to be open during winter, so until he has built there, he can't assess winter sun placement directly.  I can see other reasons to use this trick, though.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15607
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
lapinerobert wrote:
Paul,
I wish I lived where you do but you could not have a viable garden in my area without a greenhouse. Snow on July fourth is not unheard of. This year first frost was in July. In your area perhaps a greenhouse is uneccessary but we are not all fortunate to live under ideal growing circumstances. You can't paint with such a broad brush. Greenhouses suck in some areas and  are an ideal solution in others. Cloches and groundcover cloths are also a must have for me. One season in my area and your position would perhaps be different.


Where are you?

I have had snow in july twice. 

Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1333
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
I live between Bend and Klamath Falls. Just to the East of the pacific crest.
The altitude isn't much diffrent from Wyoming where I was able to grow gardens without a greenhouse, but the flux in temperatures here is much more drastic.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
yesterday morning we had 31 degrees, we didn't lose anything to the frost..but did have some brown leaves on the melons and the squash in the lowerlands garden..the greenhouse did save our tomato and pepper plants from any damage..i'm very thankful for that.

we had 33 this morning and they are saying that we will be warming up now for two weeks..above normal temps..so the greenhouse was a great boon, the warmer weather will bring our tomatoes and peppers back up to wanting to flower and bear more..yet..

you know when it does get less sunny, even with a greenhouse some plants will just flounder even though they are warm and cozy..

as for cost..yes it cost us $1000 for our greenhouse originally..so so far if you average it out over the 20 years or so we have had it..that is less than $50 a year..that is still a lot of money to pay for tomato and peppers i guess..but have you eaten storebought tomatos?
Jim Porter


Joined: Jul 02, 2009
Posts: 37
Location: USA, West central Florida
paul wheaton wrote:
And, I have to wonder why folks would have a greenhouse in the south.  Maybe there is something particularly delicate that somebody wants to grow as a hobby or as a niche crop.


Greenhouses are in the south for the same reasons as there are greenhouses anywhere else.

Jim
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I am in the  "south" although not the deep south. It still gets cold enough here that I can't grow tomatoes or peppers or any other warm season crops year round and it would be nice to get a head start on seedlings in the spring. we have a long growing season compared to many but not an endless one. it would probably often make the difference between buying seedlings or starting them myself in many cases. I'm not real keen on filling my home with flourescent lights. we can have such wild weather in the spring I have had entire garden devastated by hail.  it would be nice if I hadn't spent 3$ per plant on each of those seedlings.  it would probably allow me to grow peas, cabbage, carrots and other cool season vegies without any supplemental heat right through jan/feb/mar, our coldest months. that would be nice.
rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
n gosh thats a long forum. it is really nice reading about different peoples reactions to greenhouses i love my green house says brenda groth, i have a picture of a lovely green house in my mind and a sort of idea of bringing on seedlings super well. I read a gardening book that suggested a communal village green house for seedlings, sounded great, may be it would just mean lots of fights with the neigbors my guru would say that fighting with the neighbors is the salt of the earth. I suppose greenhouses  aren't kosher permiculture but permiculturists always seem to be in hot regions. The reasons given against them have made me wonder if the dream would be as dreamy as i imagine. When the summer sun and winter shade factor was talked of i thought of a deciduose tree to shade it in summer and leave it in the sun in winter and then leah sattler said it, great, i like thinking humans are similar and others like to think we are different. Wyld thang's description of a house and green house was really evocative and ambiental too. agri rose macaskie.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
your right rose a green house isn't probably real permie and I suppose that is what paul is getting at looking for the suck factor,  but I know few people that are going to follow the rule book of permaculture to the letter. I think it loses its value if it becomes an exclusive club only for those willing to forgo any deviation. besides sometimes the status quo should be upturned a bit.......humans have been manupulating the enviroment to suit us since we appeared. so does permaculture. I don't really see how a greenhouse is detrimental to the enviroment and so I think it can be a useful addition for some people.
rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134

    I am willing to back up any idea to stem the crazy modern or rather od fashioned  farming tide. The complete disregard of the future of their soils and the complete ignorance about whats good for their crops now of farmers. A crazy ignorance about plants and soils that ignores factors such as humus's ability to keep the soil damp and so  iron out ups and downs in the weather, to tide the crop over dry spells in its growing season or that micorrhyzos really lead to bigger crops.
      Farming technics are not only ruinous as far as farming is concerned,  treatment of the land can change the amount of water that is available for all of us. If you care about people you have to be interested in what sort of planting reduces water loss. if you planted the dry slopes of  south American hills with some hardy grass like esparta that does not take up much water but does isolate the ground and maybe like other plants brings rain would you increase the water availiable to poor south americans? Some plants take up more water than others and no plants at all, land left fallow, must lead to great evaporation because the earth gets so hot in the sun. "Water harvesting" is the pair of words  that leads you to more information on this topic but i don't think it has been properly investigated so there should be a lot of work to do on it.
      I am not really willing to back up "anything" but i am much more worried about the crazy excesses of old fashioned farming than about the excesses in permaculture.

    It is worrying having people thinking that others wont be able to moderate themselves, i think it is it leads to tyrannies. It is the base of totalitarianism. If you look at how the majority of farmers  have accepted old fashioned farming technics, the instructions on the expensive fertilizer sacks, then it seems that it is right to worry, still it is better to let people moderate themselves as long as all the information is out there.

  I am not a very applied reader of gardening books, sort of looking through them has let me know a lot and so on hearing of others don't know about the importance of humus and covercrops and such, i find i know more than farmers and i wonder if farmeres read anything at all. It is a bit worrying to find they are as ignorant as they look if you read this forum a bit. Maybe its hopefull it makes you understand thier disastrous farming methods better and puts remedying them closer at hand. Was it Sue Monroe who talked about how they grow poor thin hay round her. Her testimony backs up the idea that the methods upheld by a great part of the community are no good, it is them that are odd not permaculturists.
  I really hope everyone will go permaculture crazy though i am not sure about wanting them to carve up every hill and change everything, i always get really attached to the known, I hope it people will go permaculture crazy because what we have is so awful. It seems so hard to stem the other farming methods that i am sick with worry about. That does not mean that things like green houses don't need going into.  agri rose macaskie.
 
 
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