Seven Questions and Answers About Greenhouse Basics
Not the same old story
What I'm going to tell you in these pages will not be the same thing as you might have heard before in garden magazines or sales literature.
You see, I want you to succeed at this, and the only way you'll do it is if you make the right decisions going into the process. If you have the proper expectations of what a greenhouse can and can't do for you.
So let's dive right in with a few questions I regularly get.
Can I grow vegetables all winter long?
Well, it depends. There are three factors that influence your ability to grow vegetables.
Each of these factors will have their own pages (available from the main greenhouse page) explaining in some detail exactly what you need to do in your own hobby greenhouse.
Here's the Real Story They Don't Want You To Know.
When light levels go down in the winter (shorter days) then vegetables such as tomatoes stop growing. And the pollen stops being produced. So you don't have new tomatoes growing.
But how rich are you? Frankly, you can buy the most expensive organic tomato in the fanciest store much cheaper than you can grow it yourself in your own greenhouse.
Vegetables such as kale and Chinese cabbage can be harvested all winter long if the greenhouse doesn't freeze solid (most do because of the design) then you can harvest all season long. But even these tough plants don't "grow" when light levels go down.
The hard reality in greenhouse basics is that after one attempt to heat and keep plants alive in a greenhouse in a cold climate, most home gardeners abandon the attempt and go back to overwintering plants indoors, buying from a store and saving money in the meantime.
Hobby GreenhouseThere are some gardeners who don't mind tossing a lot of money in heating costs at a backyard greeenhouse and consider it a "hobby" cost. Just know this going into the "hobby" and you'll be fine.
There are many gardeners who use a hobby greenhouse as a fine looking cold frame or a tool shed. :-) No heat, no lighting and used for growing perennials or sheltering transplants in the spring.
So there is a way to really use a greenhouse?
Definitely but you have to pick your crops, your designs and your objectives really carefully so they're consistent with your garden activities.
That's what these pages are going to do - focus on greenhouse basics.
What about solar greenhouses?
There are some advantages to solar greenhouses and other energy efficient systems such as grow-tunnels and cold frames that I'm going to show you and explain to you.
But again, what they don't tell you is that with a solar greenhouse, light levels go down even more than with regular greenhouses and growing slows right down as a result. I can say this with authority because my 1500 square foot propagation greenhouse was a full Brace Solar Design - half buried in the ground and quite energy efficient but with less light than the traditional hoop greenhouses.
Are You Saying I Shouldn't Have a Greenhouse?
By no means. I'm saying you should understand exactly what one can and can't do for you and what you want it to do. That's what this greenhouse basics page is going to set you up to understand.
Will You Have a Greenhouse in Your Garden?
I start my seeds indoors on racks in a growing area, well lit by artificial light. It's cheaper to heat and light my basement than it is to heat a greenhouse.
I will be building and demonstrating the kinds of inexpensive crop shelters I'm going to use in growing my plants. Stay tuned.
But no, I won't have a greenhouse I have to heat, it is far less expensive to install proper indoor plant lights than it is to heat a greenhouse. Not as sexy but more efficient.
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