The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Why I don't want a greenhouse

Lettuce in a greenhouseI used to dream of owning a greenhouse.  In my imagination, I would be raising tropical fruits like pineapples, mangos, and avocados and eating fresh vegetables all winter.  I also remember the pure joy I got from walking into the biology greenhouse when I was in college and inhaling the warm greenness while snow coated the walk outside.  At first, I figured I'd build a greenhouse as soon as I could afford it, but now I'm not so sure, because...

Read more about sunrooms in this 99 cent ebook!Which is not to say that I might not succumb to the greenhouse bug someday, but I hope I can stand firm!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Never though about the cons of a green house just the pros, guess I have a lot more studying to do.

Once the weather has warmed up and I no longer need the plastic covered hoops I turn them into a shade/nursery area for hardening off plants. With a stretch of fabric down the middle I can protect the plants from the hottest part of the day and control how much sun they get in the morning and evening. I love my little hoop houses.

Comment by frakier Tue Jun 7 11:04:30 2011

I used to just think about the pros of greenhouses too, until I met more and more people with beautiful greenhouses who couldn't really use them anymore.

I've finally taken the fabric off our last quick hoop (which was providing extra heat for the melons.) When I did, the watermelons wilted for a day or so --- clearly, they were getting shade from the fabric and weren't used to the hot sun. If I wanted to try to keep spring crops growing through the heat, I'd probably leave quick hoops up but vent the sides, although by the time summer crops are starting to come in, I feel no need for broccoli, peas, and lettuce.

Comment by anna Tue Jun 7 15:01:37 2011

As a professional greenhouse worker, I can say that your observations are pretty much on. As far as winter heat goes, there are other options than electric heat and stoking a wood stove through the night. Oil & natural gas forced air are the most common means of heating greenhouses. If you want to limit your use of fossil fuels, then there are also pellet stoves that burn pretty continuously as long as you keep them filled with saw dust pellets. Another idea is the style of greenhouse that abuts the house and feeds off the heat of the house. I realize that this probably wouldn't work that well with your home, however.

While my current employer does quite a bit of pesticide spraying, my previous employer in NJ only ever applied herbicide under the tables, never any insecticide. Mosquitoes got to be a problem in the late spring, but otherwise there was never any serious pest infestation. In my own garden, I try to use companion planting to minimize pests.

I can see your point about containers, but professionally and personally, I've grown a lot more in containers than in the ground, and have usually had better success with them.

At the end of the day, the major difference between us is that I just can't live without fresh tomatoes. A greenhouse will be worth it for me just for that.

Comment by Edward Antrobus Tue Jun 7 21:10:19 2011
I think it's all a question of whether the juice is worth the squeeze with greenhouses and potted plants. I've discovered that eating in season is actually tastier than trying to eke out the year to get tomatoes and other warm season crops year round. I've yet to taste a winter tomato that matches the flavor of our winter kale... :-)
Comment by anna Wed Jun 8 11:24:53 2011

That's an interesting take on greenhouses.

Greenhouses are mostly unnecessary where I live (some people do use them to start plants or grow tropicals, but I don't see the need). I always just assumed that everyone in UK/US/Canada aspired to have a huge hoop house! Watching shows like River Cottage even made me want one, when I just don't need one!

There is something to be said for following the seasons, and I think the annual cycles of dominant food sources generally provide us with the different nutrient requirements we need for different seasons (e.g. citrus, carbs, fats and oils in winter, greens and fruits in summer).

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Thu Jun 30 00:50:15 2011
Interesting point about the dominant foods for each season providing the nutrients we need. I know that the first spring lettuces taste like ambrosia, but by this time of year I'm ready to move on to beans and corn. It would be a shame to miss that ambrosial lettuce by having summer crops all year!
Comment by anna Thu Jun 30 07:30:50 2011
I have always marveled about how hard it is to grow things properly indoors when God just seems to make everything grow better outside and I hardly have to do anything! I tried putting row covers to help some plants last through the winter but the wind blew them around. What do you suggest as a good method that will stay put? I would love to shade my lettuces now as the sun is getting stronger. Thanks ahead of time!
Comment by Linda Fri Jul 1 01:38:43 2011
I recommend you click on the link in the post to learn more about quick hoops. Depending on what kind of fabric you use, they can double as shade cloths, and they are relatively cheap, quick and easy to put up.
Comment by anna Fri Jul 1 09:53:31 2011

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