New year greenhouse resolutions

  1. Don’t let pest populations sneak up on you. Regularly check the undersides of the leaves and take appropriate pest control measures.  Grafted tomato plant
  2. Order my summer seeds in time- start checking out the new catalogs.
  3. Consider getting a bottom heat mat for starting seedlings and other propagation.
  4. Set up a system to harvest rain water into a barrel in your greenhouse.
  5. Seal up the greenhouse. There is still a lot of winter coming your way.
  6. Try growing more cut flowers to give to friends like sweet peas, stock, freesias and snapdragons.
  7. Try grafting your greenhouse tomatoes. stockRead more about it here.
  8. Create a space where you can simply sit and hang out in your greenhouse.

For more information on these tips and more check out the book “Greenhouse Gardener’s Companioncover991

Canadian livable quonset greenhouse

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Just received this nice note and pics from a Canadian home greenhouse gardener:

“I just wanted to tell you, i built a greenhouse in southern Alberta Canada and picked up your book. It has helped us build a great greenhouse. You make things very simple to follow for beginners and i have had very good success. Just wanted to say thank you for writing the book and keeping it simple as i am a mechanic not a gardener but looking in my greenhouse now you would not know it. The information is to the point and excellent. I have recommended the book to countless people and use it every day. Thanks for a great book.”
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Greenhouse tomatoes for short seasons grow sky high

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Rafter tomatoes in short seasons

Six to ten foot tall tomatoes grown up twine to the rafters

I live in a locale that has short seasons and lots of hail. The solution? Grow tomatoes in a greenhouse. To be successful you must grow indeterminate varieties that grow in a more vine-like manner rather than in a bush. That way I can take advantage of my airspace for higher yields.

Because tomatoes don’t have tendrils to climb a trellis, I train them to grow up some ViningTomatoes in short seasonstwine suspended from my rafters. I simply twist the tomato vines up the twine as they grow. This year I am growing mostly tomatoes that I have grafted for greater vigor and am having great success.

Each morning, I venture into the greenhouse to gently shake each plant which helps to promote pollination. We use our ripe tomatoes in making caprese salad and we also dehydrate a lot of tomatoes for winter pizza’s and other Italian dishes. I find that dried tomatoes (when you use homegrown ripe tomatoes) are a whole different and tasty animal and are preferred over winter grocery tomatoes.

Benefits of Greenhouses and Gardening Clubs

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Guest article by Mackenzie Kupfer

Growing up on a farm is a rough life for a kid. I had to get up very early and help my mom Greenhouse2014gather eggs and help my dad milk the cows, all so we could make breakfast. I used to say to myself that I never wanted to be farmer when I grew up. At the time I didn’t realize the valuable skills I was being taught, but now, I constantly thank my parents for all the gardening skills they taught me as a kid. After college, I moved to the city and got a job and a place to live. Eventually, though, gas and food prices started rising and rose faster than my income. It wasn’t very long after that I both started riding my bike to work every day and decided to start a garden in my backyard with hopes of growing some of my own vegetables.

Joining Clubs and Organizations

Local farmers gather on the street sides and set up their stands to sell organic fruits and farmers market2vegetables. One of my personal favorite items to buy is organic honey. Most of the time I can get it straight off the comb! Farmers markets are not only a local resource for fresh fruits and vegetables, but also a fun place to meet others who are also interested in eating organic, healthy foods, and finding out information on local gardening clubs and organizations. Vegetable gardening provides those of us who enjoy the outdoors a social component, as well. Members can gather at weekly meetings with and present a guest speaker. Clubs, such as this one, plan several events that are open not just to members, but open to the community as well. Throughout the world, several groups of gardeners have formed social clubs where members can show off their garden grown goods and receive awards. Some of them even offer college scholarships.

One of the biggest reasons I personally prefer home grown fruits and vegetables is because of the taste. I’m sure everyone will agree with me that taste is everything in food. Any chef will tell you, the fresher the ingredients, the better tasting your meal will be. There are many ways to bring out the flavor in your ingredients. One way is referred to as companion planting, and as you can see here, by planting certain plants next to each other in your garden, you can not only enhance the flavor of the plant, but you can also help repel unwanted worms and bugs from eating or destroying your crops.

Going Green with the Sun
Greenhouses are also extremely eco-friendly outdoor buildings to grow gardens in. By trapping the sun’s heat and light inside the structure, they promote photosynthesis in plants, creating oxygen for the planet. Greenhouses are very versatile buildings. They come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, as well as material, and can be customized to fit your exact specifications. They are used by corporations who grow crops for food or even experimental purposes. Materials used to build greenhouses could be simple wood and plastic structures, or a larger metal frame with panes of glass.

Greenhouses are used all over the world, not just in the United States. Japan and Great Britain are just two countries leading the way in providing us with new greenhouse technologies. In the Netherlands, a company is researching how greenhouses can be “a supplier of sustainable heat and electricity.”
Rooftop greenhouses are popular among the urban communities. Since temperature and humidity can be more easily managed, gardeners can grow their fruits and vegetables year round. A company called Sky vegetables, which specializes in rooftop hydroponic farms, lists various community and environmental benefits of greenhouses, such as:
• Increased access to fresh produce
• Improved nutrition for local citizens
• Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
• Food is grown without herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers

Healthy eating is a growing trend to many people in the US. It helps reduce stress, helps control weight, can improve mood, and can also boost energy. If we combine those benefits with the benefits of what greenhouses can bring us, the alternative is not really a choice at all. The benefits of greenhouses exceed what I can put here. Readers, what has been some of your experiences with greenhouses and organic gardening?

Mackenzie Kupfer is from Boise, ID. She gardens to her heart’s content and is a student of horticultural history. With her passion for learning she plans to be a lifelong student of the Earth. Vegetable gardening, writing and experiencing the beauty of nature are just a few of Mackenzie’s favorite things.

Better than polycarbonate?

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Years ago I gardened in a greenhouse that was covered with a space age film called “Tedlar.” It never really took off, but it did have some impressive characteristics. Now there is a next generation of greenhouse film that may dethrone the ubiquitous polycarbonate. It is called ETFE film. One common brand name of this film is “F-Clean®.” Special thanks to Shawn Speidel (with Soil Fertility Service, LLC www.SoilFertilityService.com), who brought me up to date on this material.

ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), fluorine based plastic. While it is new to us in the US, it has long been used in Japan, Europe and China in commercial houses. It is also what was used on the Eden Project in Great Britain and the .

Eden Project uses ETFE film

 Advantages of ETFE glazings or “F-CLEAN®”

  • More light- ETFE films are 94 % light transparent. This beats out clear glass and most polycarbonate glazings. In shady areas of the world 1% more light may result in 1% more ‘gain’ in terms of yield.
  • Dirt Resistance- The low surface tension of the film means that all it takes to clean the greenhouse is a shower of rain or snow. Snow slides off easier helps maintain optimum light.
  • Fire resistance- Like polycarbonate, ETFE films are self extinguishing material. ETFE, the base material from which F-CLEAN is made, is rated UL 94-0 by the Underwriters Laboratories Inc.
  • Improved crop quality- Unlike glass or polycarbonate glazings, F-CLEAN® allows the penetration of ultraviolet light, which has a positive effect on the quality of fruit and plants. Fruits ripen more quickly and develop a better color. Flowers gain more intense color. UV light also makes plants less susceptible to disease. If you want, you can add a UV-block option to the process of making ETFE glazings.
  • Anti Drip Characteristics- ETFE does not allow condensation to form which could drip onto the plants, fruit and flowers. Drops of condensation also reflect the sunlight, reducing incoming light.
  • Diffused light- F-CLEAN® is available in both clear and diffused versions. Diffused light tends to grow plants better by eliminating shadows.
  • Heat retention- if you use the optional double layered F-CLEAN® It will save more energy over single layer options. However, like any glazing, when you double or triple the layers, the amount of light entering the greenhouse is also reduced.
  • Durability-ETFE has an approx. life of 15 years but F-Clean® is guaranteed for 10 years like polycarbonate (also 10 years). However, there are many greenhouses that have been covered with ETFE films that are over 27 years old and still show no sign of deterioration. It just depends what the manufacture wants to guarantee. Some expect it to last as long as 50-60 years.
  • Strong enough to bear 400 times its own weight
  • 25 to 50 times lighter than the other alternatives materials
  • It can be stretched to three times its length without loss of elasticity
  • a working temperature range of -300 °F to 300 °F
  • It Is recyclable

Downside to ETFE

  • Not readily available for home greenhouse growers (yet).
  • It is prone to punctures by sharp edges or a sharp impact (knife), but can be patched
  • Must be tensioned in order to function properly which requires specific types of mounting hardware.
  • Transmits more sound than glass.
  • It is usually applied in several layers that must be inflated and require steady air pressure thus working with ETFE is difficult for small building projects.

    Beijing National Aquatics Center uses ETFE film

Links:

Night greenhouse insulation

We lose heat from the greenhouse through your glazing (glass or plastic) at night. When you have two or more layers of glazing you gain insulation from having dead air space between the layers. Some glazing has as many as five layers thick as in the case of this polycarbonate pictured to the right. th_043Sometimes you can forgo night insulation because you have a glazing with multiple layers. By the way, the more layers of glazing you have, the cooler your summer daytime temperatures will be. But, there is a trade off in light transmission. I wouldn’t go with more than a three layer polycarbonate if you live in an area that doesn’t have many sunny days. I live in a sunny location and do fine with a five layer polycarbonate.

A cheap way to add another layer of glazing is to add a bubblewrap material to your glazing.

bubblewrap & weatherstrip
You can also add insulation by using a insulation barrier. Commercial growers have long used aluminized curtains for both holding in the heat and to provide some shading when needed. Styrofoam beads have been blown in between glazing layers to provide night insulation but have suffered from static electricity problems, making the beads adhere to the glazing. This was first experimented with at Kansas State University by Architecture professor Gary Coats back in the 1980s.

More recently a number of people have been experimenting with the use of soap bubbles to insulate between greenhouse glazings (see video below).

Bubble insulated greenhouse

Bubble insulated greenhouse

New Greenhouse style… not sure about this…

-from GizMag.com:

“The Invisible Garden House was installed in the home of a Danish family who wished to extend their time spent outdoors into the fall.”

Invisible greenhouse

“Essentially a large greenhouse comprising three interconnected domes, the structure is heated by the sun and ventilated naturally with adjustable holes.

The largest middle dome functions as a garden house with wooden floor, while the two smaller connecting domes are used to grow vegetables and flowers.” ~ excerpt from article in GizMag.com

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