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Please join me in welcoming Dan Chiras, author of The Chinese Greenhouse!





Read the review of The Chinese Greenhouse here!

 


Dan Chiras will be hanging out in the forums until this Friday answering questions and sharing his experiences with you all.

At the end of this week, we'll make a drawing for 4 lucky winners to win a copy of The Chinese Greenhouse. From now until Friday, all new posts in the Greenhouses forum are eligible to win.
 
To win, you must use a name that follows our naming policy and you must have your email set up to receive the Daily-ish email. Higher quality posts are weighed more highly than posts that just say, "Wow, that's really cool! I want to win!"

When the four winners are selected, they will be announced in this thread and their email address will be sent to the publisher, and the publisher will sort out the delivery details with the winners.

Please remember that we favour perennial discussion.  The threads you start will last beyond the event.  You don't need to use Dan Chiras' name to get his attention. We like these threads to be accessible to everyone, and some people may not post their experiences if the thread is directed to the author alone.
 

Posts in this thread won't count as an entry to win the tool, but please say "Hi!" to Dan Chiras and make him feel welcome!
COMMENTS:
 
pollinator
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WELCOME!

My wife and I have greatly enjoyed listening to your talks at mother earth news fair in years past.  

 
gardener
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Welcome - glad you could come and join us!
 
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R Scott wrote:WELCOME!

My wife and I have greatly enjoyed listening to your talks at mother earth news fair in years past.  



Thanks so much! I really miss the Fairs and all the wonderful people who share so many common interests
 
Dan Chiras
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Jay Angler wrote:Welcome - glad you could come and join us!



Thanks. It’s a true pleasure to be with you guys
 
author & gardener
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Dan, welcome! Your book looks so interesting. It will be a real treat to have you here on Permies for the week.
 
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Excited to learn more about the Chinese greenhouse.  I understand they roll out blankets over top for insulation at night. I don't know why I never considered this. Makes perfect sense. Especially where I am in zone 3b. We need every trick in the book to stretch the growing season.  May the good word grow about the possibilities.  Thanks for what you do!
 
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I am spending the winter in Ohio with my daughter. I look forward to learning how to build a greenhouse to grow some winter veggies?
 
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Thanks so much for introducing your book here.  My family and I just moved to Nova Scotia from Florida, and we're looking at building a greenhouse to extend our growing season.  I'm very interested in learning more about your ideas for building a passive one.  Thanks!
 
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It's nice to have you on board this week. Welcome!
I'm a novice but grew up in the Appalachians with an Aunt who was a superb gardener. Wish I'd learned more.
I'm considering a partly underground greenhouse and am willing to learn what I can from others like you.
Thanks.
 
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We got a nice little old house a while back. It misses only one thing, sun. It hits the house, but neighbors trees shade the yard. How much sun does a greenhouse need? Can LEDs supplement light?
 
pollinator
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Welcome! I'm a big fan of Li Ziqi who doesn't have a greenhouse it seems, but I'm curious about a Chinese greenhouse!
Or maybe she does?!
 
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HI  Dr Chiras!
 
pollinator
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Looking forward to learning more about this technique. In the big sandy Wisconsin plains, there is no way to dig on the side of a mountain, so the idea of blanketing the more exposed sides while letting the sunshine in is intriguing. Even if our cold zone 4 with little sunshine in the winter won't produce crops, I could use it as a root cellar or perhaps a cold room for my beehives. In the spring, a room to start crops? It certainly has possibilities.
 
pollinator
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Welcome to the best forums on the net !!
 
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Have been YouTubing not only passive solar greenhouses, but also using subsurface heat banks as a means of passively maintain greenhouse temperatures during the Winter months.  One of the videos alluded to some of this.  Hadn't considered banking a greenhouse, but with the proper surface gradients it makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for the info!  Its a big help.  More answers provide for more questions which in turn provide more answers...

Dave
 
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I've grown very interested in building a greenhouse. I'd like to extend my season for veggies and be able to also start my own plants in the Spring. I've been doing some research about greenhouses and would really enjoy your book to expand my knowledge. I live in zone 7 so our Winters are snowy and cold but its rare to go below zero. A very cold day here is about 5 or 10 degrees and some Winters we never drop down to that.
 
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Leigh Tate wrote:Dan, welcome! Your book looks so interesting. It will be a real treat to have you here on Permies for the week.



I’m delighted to be here and thankful for the opportunity to share what I’ve learned about Chinese greenhouses.

Some of you may be wondering what exactly is a Chinese greenhouse?

Basically it’s a greenhouse that’s designed to allow us to grow warm weather vegetables in cold climates throughout the winter using only solar energy.
 
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Patricia Lemme wrote:I've grown very interested in building a greenhouse. I'd like to extend my season for veggies and be able to also start my own plants in the Spring. I've been doing some research about greenhouses and would really enjoy your book to expand my knowledge. I live in zone 7 so our Winters are snowy and cold but its rare to go below zero. A very cold day here is about 5 or 10 degrees and some Winters we never drop down to that.



Hi Patricia,

I’ve been experimenting with ways to extend the growing season for many years in Colorado and now at may Homestead in Missouri.

Conventional greenhouses will allow you to start veggies earlier so they can be transplanted to an outdoor garden.

Elliot Coleman’s Four-Season greenhouse ill allow you to grow cold-weather vegetables like spinach and kale and lettuce all year round, even in very cold climates.

Chinese greenhouses allow us to grow warm weather vegetables throughout the late fall, winter, and early spring using only solar energy.

 
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Dennis Barrow wrote:Welcome to the best forums on the net !!



Thanks and I agree with your assessment of the forum!
 
Dan Chiras
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David A. Smith wrote:Have been YouTubing not only passive solar greenhouses, but also using subsurface heat banks as a means of passively maintain greenhouse temperatures during the Winter months.  One of the videos alluded to some of this.  Hadn't considered banking a greenhouse, but with the proper surface gradients it makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for the info!  Its a big help.  More answers provide for more questions which in turn provide more answers...

Dave



Hi David,

Chinese greenhouses are an excellent option for those who want to grow warm-weather vegetables in cold climates. In my book, I explain how they’re designed and built.

Another thing I’ve done in this book is to explain ways we can bank heat, that is store heat both in the short term and long term. These ideas can be applied to any greenhouse, not just Chinese green houses...so many readers may find this information very useful.

If you’re building a conventional greenhouse or trying to make a conventional greenhouse work better, these heat banking ideas are incredibly valuable.
 
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:Looking forward to learning more about this technique. In the big sandy Wisconsin plains, there is no way to dig on the side of a mountain, so the idea of blanketing the more exposed sides while letting the sunshine in is intriguing. Even if our cold zone 4 with little sunshine in the winter won't produce crops, I could use it as a root cellar or perhaps a cold room for my beehives. In the spring, a room to start crops? It certainly has possibilities.



Hi Cecile,

Just to let you and other readers who live in country not conducive to conventional earth sheltering, you don’t need hilly landscape to build an earth sheltered greenhouse.

You can easily dig down into the earth and berm the north, east and west sides of the greenhouse to provide adequate sheltering.

That’s what I did at my site. I explain how in my newest book.

BTW, earthsheltering helps keep a greenhouse cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It’s one of the key elements of the Chinese Screenhouse design.
 
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Joel Mackey wrote:HI  Dr Chiras!



Hi Joel, How are you doing?
 
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Flora Eerschay wrote:Welcome! I'm a big fan of Li Ziqi who doesn't have a greenhouse it seems, but I'm curious about a Chinese greenhouse!
Or maybe she does?!



Hi Flora,

Hope thru this forum we can uncover what a Chinese greenhouse is and how useful they are to those of us who want to be self-sufficient in food
 
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Cady Sharp wrote:We got a nice little old house a while back. It misses only one thing, sun. It hits the house, but neighbors trees shade the yard. How much sun does a greenhouse need? Can LEDs supplement light?



Hi Candy,

Bummer.

To grow successfully in a geeenhouse you’ll need quite a lot of sun.

Where I now live in cloudy Missouri, I’ve installed LED grow lights from Happyleaf.com which are balanced to promote maximum growth with minimum energy use. They keep my plants growing well.

I turn the lights on late in the afternoon and run them for two or three hours each day during the winter to provide a little extra supplemental lighting.
 
pollinator
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Dan Chiras wrote:... what exactly is a Chinese greenhouse?

Basically it’s a greenhouse that’s designed to allow us to grow warm weather vegetables in cold climates throughout the winter using only solar energy.


Welcome Dan and thanks for talking about the design purposes andaccomplishments.

In south-central Washington State, we’ve been experimenting with a two designs, both with passive elements, and are building a third.

One is a 6x12 (stick built) unit sitting on a 1,200 gallon septic tank as a warm water bottle with a heavily insulated north side. It has a little exhaust fan set to turn on at about 90 degrees F an it has kicked on in February with two feet of snow on the ground.  It is great for spring propagation and winter grain sprouting for the chickens.

The second is a hoop house that we keep the rabbits and some birds in to help the kale grow through the winter. We do trade out the plastic for shade cloth in the spring.

The third is under construction, a 20x60 footprint and maybe a rocket mass heater.

Enough about my community greenhouses, I’m excites to learn more about your design.  
 
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Frank Gregg wrote:It's nice to have you on board this week. Welcome!
I'm a novice but grew up in the Appalachians with an Aunt who was a superb gardener. Wish I'd learned more.
I'm considering a partly underground greenhouse and am willing to learn what I can from others like you.
Thanks.



Hi Frank,

Thanks for the welcome.

I should let everybody know that I created a half hour seminar on Chinese greenhouses through Mother Earth News. It’s part of their mothers news online fairs.
 
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We are not far from the Montana border in Alberta. I was very interested in the  China green house a long time ago, only a few thousand acres then, and was shocked by the growth of the concept in that country. I want to visit with you folks when it is possible again.
Sincerely
Dwight Perry
 
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David Royal wrote:Thanks so much for introducing your book here.  My family and I just moved to Nova Scotia from Florida, and we're looking at building a greenhouse to extend our growing season.  I'm very interested in learning more about your ideas for building a passive one.  Thanks!



Hi David,

That’s quite a relocation!

One of the keys to successfully growing throughout the winter is to design a greenhouse much like a passive solar home.

A passive solar home heats and cools itself naturally.

I wrote a book on passive solar homes about 20 years ago. And I’ve designed and built several of them which is why the Chinese greenhouse interest s me so much.

Here are the passive solar design principles that also apply to the Chinese Greenhouse

Concentrate glazing on the south side of the building

Insulate to retain heat. In a greenhouse, this means pulling a shade cloth or insulated material over the glass at night to prevent heat loss on cold winter days.

Install thermal mass to absorb excess heat during the day and radiate that heat into the space at night

Orient so the long axis of the structure runs east and west

And if you can, earth shelter the north, south, and he’s sides of the structure.

I like conventional green houses, Chinese green houses are also built to be fairly air tight.

 
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Mr. Chiras,

I have read thru much of the literature I could find on the Chinese Greenhouse design. Have two questions:

1) Many of the designs that I saw the back and two side walls were constructed of two stands of brick with either an air gap between or an insular material between. That leads me to believe the design places less emphasis on solar banking to maintain temperatures.

Am I in error in that assumption?

2) Straw mats seems to be the favored method in China for insular covering. I presume for its ready availability.  Any suggestions for a ready substitute here in the Americas?

Thank you.

John McGinnis
 
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Delila Jahn-Thue wrote:Excited to learn more about the Chinese greenhouse.  I understand they roll out blankets over top for insulation at night. I don't know why I never considered this. Makes perfect sense. Especially where I am in zone 3b. We need every trick in the book to stretch the growing season.  May the good word grow about the possibilities.  Thanks for what you do!



Hi Delila,

If you study Chinese greenhouses, you realize that many of them include insulation blankets that are pulled over the greenhouse at night to hold heat it.

The earliest Chinese greenhouses used straw blankets that were rolled down onto the greenhouse. I have some pictures of them in my newest book.

What I recommend is internal insulation to retain heat. That way you don’t run into any trouble with snow which could prevent you from raising or lowering the blanket.

In the book I recommend using shade cloth or shade screen to protect the greenhouse from overheating in the summer and reduce heat loss at night during the winter. I am very fond of IllumiNET and two products, Aluminet and TICS. I installed the former.
 
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I don't mean to cast a pall over the week with Dan Chiras, but I have a beef with him. I ordered the Chinese Greenhouse in October of 2019, my cc has been charged, and I have yet to receive it. His web footprint is an out-of-date dead-end and I've been unable to effectively contact him. I really WANT that book!!!  
 
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john mcginnis wrote:Mr. Chiras,

I have read thru much of the literature I could find on the Chinese Greenhouse design. Have two questions:

1) Many of the designs that I saw the back and two side walls were constructed of two stands of brick with either an air gap between or an insular material between. That leads me to believe the design places less emphasis on solar banking to maintain temperatures.

Am I in error in that assumption?

2) Straw mats seems to be the favored method in China for insular covering. I presume for its ready availability.  Any suggestions for a ready substitute here in the Americas?

Thank you.

John McGinnis



Hi John,

One of the secrets of successful Chinese greenhouse design is the use of thermal mass to store and release heat on a daily basis.

Daily heat banking it’s called. It’s a form of passive heat banking. That is, it doesn’t require fans or pumps or any other mechanical devices.

There are a lot of different materials you can use to build the walls of the greenhouse including cement blocks, poured concrete, rammed earth tires, bricks and bin blocks. I discuss each one of these and other options in my newest book which Permies.com is so graciously featuring right now.

I used rammed earth tires for my greenhouse but were I to build another one I build it using bin blocks.

In my new book, I also describe ways we can actively store heat under the floor of the greenhouse both in the short term and long term. We call this short term and long term heat banking.

There are a lot of very cool ways to do this. I highly recommend people add these features to conventional greenhouses and Chinese greenhouses to boost performance.

Ask for insulation blankets, the Chinese initially started using external straw blankets that were rolled down over the greenhouse at night and rolled up during the day.

They have now switched to synthetic materials with electric motors that raise and lower the greenhouse blankets.

I recommend internal thermal blankets. I used shade cloth made out of polyester plastic suspended underneath the plastic face of my greenhouse to provide a hade in the summer and reduce heat loss in the winter.

Recently I’ve switched to a new material called Aluminet.  It’s a UV  protected polyethylene material that’s aluminized. It makes an excellent shade cloth in the summer and it radiates infrared radiation back into the greenhouse at night and cold winter days helping to maintain a constant temperature.
 
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I have Dan Chiras' "High-Performance, Off-Grid Chinese Greenhouses" (2016, spiral-bound) book. How does this differ from this new book?
 
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Welcome Dan! I look forward to reading the discussion about your beautiful book.
 
pollinator
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Welcome!  I put off my plans to build a greenhouse this fall, due to finances and uncertainty about our winter income.  So, I'm still researching and looking for new ideas to incorporate when I finally do build it.

I was able to have fresh tomatoes and green beans on November 1st this year by covering against frost!  That exceeded my expectations and I can only imagine how much I could stretch the growing season with a greenhouse.
 
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Welcome, Dan! Your book looks amazing!
 
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Welcome, I am soon to build a greenhouse like this attached to my shop. I want to learn the best way to heat in mild zone 7 winters to support the current aquaponics system I will be building around. I am thinking of the buried pipe and black water filled barrels.

Thanks for putting out info to help us, Danny
 
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Welcome.
Is it better to go east-west or north-south with a greenhouse?
 
pollinator
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Welcome Dan. Your book sounds like a delightful read.
Thank yoy
 
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