I don't know about the rest of you, but the thought of living off of wheat and powdered milk after the "crisis" is not appealing to me as an individual or a father. Of course I am being facetious as there are many dried food alternatives out there for storage that add nutrition and variety to ones food storage. Certainly, if we could add fresh greens and fruit to the mix, however it would be welcome. I am interested in greenhouse options for those that live in climates with shorter growing seasons. There is plenty out there, but what I would love to know is if any of you have had experiences constructing your own greenhouses. What pitfalls did you encounter? What designs seem better i.e. domed, peaked roof, geodesic, etc? What is the best heating source for cold winters i.e. Propane, electricity, etc?
I do not have the answers, but am sure that there are loyal Turdites out there that could help me and others. Can we impose upon you to share a portion of your expertese?
If you want inexpensive and functional something along these lines might be worth trying out to see if greenhouses are for you:
An inexpensive hoop system, plus planting warm or cool season crops depending on the season, should extend your season by several months (particularly over there in Idaho where you actually have sunshine in winter). You might find that extending your season two or three months with a simple unheated greenhouse is all you really need.
Also, I am a huge advocate of tearing out ornamental landscaping and replacing it with herbs, berries, and fruit trees that work in one's climate.
We have two 12 x 24 greenhouses that we use to extend our season. One is a hoop house kit I purchased from hobbygardens.com that I am very happy with. The other was on the property when we purchased our little farm. It is made of hard, double plastic panels that cost about $120.00 each. It leans up against the south side of the barn.
They are vastly different in their abilities.
We do not heat either as electricity here is far too expensive, and the rate increases as the usage increases. As a consequence, we have seen the different heating power of both. We do protect the plants when it is cooler with cloth row cover inside both greenhouses. The row cover also protects the plants from bugs.
My Hobby Gardens Greenhouse is already dead in the water. The other night it got to 24 degrees and the greenhouse froze inside. We weren't paying attention and lost the peppers and cucumbers (pickles) we had not processed, as well as some flowers. The hard shell greenhouse leaning against the barn is doing just fine and has not frozen yet.
It is my intention to buy another Hobby Gardens Greenhouse this coming Spring. Even though it is inferior to the hard shell greenhouse, it works quite well as a space to grow plants that don't make it very well outside. I have a number of black 17 gallon bins I drilled 3/4 inch holes in the bottom, stuffed the bottom half full of straw, then topped off with potting soil. I will be growing tomatoes and other plants we have not been very successful with outside in these bins.
* Greenhouses need large doors at both ends so that they can properly cross ventilate. Having doors at both ends seems to allow the bees better access. Fans help, but not as well as natural cross ventilation.
* Greenhouses need a shade cloth. The Hobby Gardens Greenhouse shade cloth stays on all year long (yes, even in the winter snow) as it strengthens the greenhouse in high winds which we get a lot of. Without the shade cloth, the hard core greenhouse would have been too hot to use successfully during hot summer days. We have friends who purchased and installed the solar powered roof vents for their greenhouse. Our shade cloth works much better in keeping the greenhouse cool. They are very sorry they went with the vents rather than the shade cloth.
* Greenhouses need a heavy ground cloth on the floor, otherwise the floor becomes a bed of weeds in no time at all. Without a ground cloth you will always be dealing with weeds.
* The open doors of the greenhouse need to be protected in some way to allow bees access - but prevent wayward hens, ducks and goats from getting inside. Our chickens and goats live for the opportunity of sneaking into the greenhouses! It takes less than a minute for serious damage to occur.
We live on range land. We purchased the ranch house and outbuildings of a subdivided cattle ranch. There are no trees to speak of and the wind whips through our farm constantly. We also are in Zone 5, and really need the greenhouses to start our plants. Without the greenhouses, our gardens could not have survived.
I am happy to answer any questions you might have as there is nothing quite so satisfying as being in the greenhouse on a cold spring day! Brings a smile to my face just thinking about it...
Along with the Solar green house theres https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics
The best bet is to spend a bit more, and have something that produces a better result and is more self sufficient.
If you're going to use a structure with greenhouse plastic as the cladding you have to be aware that the plastic has a life expectancy of 2-5 years. Also tears in the plastic will very quickly lead to having to replace the whole lot.
Storms with high winds can cause havoc for greenhouse film. If you get one piece that comes unstuck then the whole thing blows up like a ship sail and will rip.
The best bet is to invest more and clad the structure with polycarbonate sheets. These are robust, have a better life expectancy and most importantly if you get damage you only have to replace the damaged sheet rather than the whole lot in a greenhouse plastic film situation (buy extra sheets so you have them on hand for repairs when needed). In a SHTF scenario you need to consider your ability to get materials and people to do large installs and repairs.
Set up a rainwater tank or dam to catch all rain water off the roof from appropriate gutters. Lay down weed mat in the aisles to minimize weeding and improve hygiene.
Consider spending extra money on a Svensen (or similar) shade screen. These perform far better than regular shade cloth in both cooling in summer and keeping the heat inside the house in winter (this alone could add 2-6 weeks to your growing season). Spend more and get it installed in sections on a winder (better yet automate) so you can have many different shade settings depending on the current weather.
Moral of the story: greenhouses are great for producing out of season (or different zone) crops. Protected cropping gives you a hedge against a failed outdoor crop. But a cheap structure is not always the most economic when you take into account increased efficiency and performances improvements with a well designed greenhouse
Hi there. You mention that your hard-shell greenhouse leans against the south side of your barn and hasn't frozen like the plastic-sheeting hoophouse.
Do you know if the extra warmth is coming from the animals in the barn? I've been planning to use a similar setup because (a) it seems like the smart way to avoid heating-fuel expense, while keeping the barn animals a bit more comfortable in cold weather, and (b) the oxygen-CO2 exchange between animals and plants would benefit both.
My family owned a garden center in a cold locale when I was a kid, we produced our own bedding plants, and we had two big production hoophouses dug out so the floor level was at frost line. Braced the dirt walls with old railroad ties. Kept things more manageable warmth-wise, although I was too young to say now how well the design worked.
I'd love to hear more details about your greenhouse experience (successes and failures) and anyone else's.