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

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.

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

Using water drums for solar heating?

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If you are using metal water drums (like 55 or 30 gal. drums) for solar greenhouse heating, you should think about the addition of drum covers. Drums have a lip on top which can hold water and thus, the standing water in metal drums can promote premature rusting. A plastic lid prevents this rusting and lengthens the life of your water storage. To read more about energy conservation in the greenhouse click here.

Greenhouse in the snow

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winterGHlightsby Liberty Hyde Bailey

It is in the dead of winter that the greenhouse is at its best, for then is the contrast of life and death the greatest. Just beyond the living, tender leaf-separated only by the slender film of the pane- is the whiteness and silence of the midwinter. You stand under the arching roof and look away into the bare blue depths where only stars hand their fold, faint lights. The bald outlines of an overhanging tree are projected against the sky with the sharpness of the figures of cut glass. Branc

hes creak and snap as they move stiffly in the wind. White drifts show against the panes. Icicles glisten from the gutters. Bits of ice are hurled from trees and cornice, and they crinkle and tinkle over the frozen snow. In the short sharp days the fences protrude from a waste of drift and riffle, and the dead fretwork of weed-stems suggest a long-lost summer. There, finger’s breath away, the temperature is far below zero; here, is the warmth and snugness of a nook of summer

Liberty Hyde Baily

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This is the transcendent merit of a greenhouse, – the sense of mastery over the forces of nature. It is an oasis in one’s life as well as in the winter. You have dominion.

But this dominion does not stop with the mere satisfaction of a consciousness of power. These tender things, with all their living processes in root and stem and leaf, are dependent wholly on you for their very existence. One minute of carelessness or neglect and all their loveliness collapses in the blackness of death. How often have we seen the farmer pay a visit to the stable at bedtime to see that the animal are snug and warm for the night, stroking each confiding face as it raised at his approach! And how often have we seen the same affectionate care of the gardener who stroked his plants and tenderly turned and shifted the pots, when the night wind hurled the frost against the panes! It is worth the while to have a place for the affection of things that are not human.

Did my reader ever care for a greenhouse in a northern winter? Has he smelled the warm, moist earth when the windows are covered with frost? Has he watched the tiny sprout grow and unfold into leaf and flower? Has he thrust a fragment of the luxuriance of August into the very teeth of winter? Then he knows the joy of conquest that makes a man stronger and tenderer. – L.H. Bailey (From, Country Life in America, Volume 1, Number 5, March 1902)