Winter Greenhouse

My foray and experimentation with sustainable, urban fresh greens in the depths of WINTER (brrr).

Overwintering Sweet Potato Vines for Next Season

In my earlier post Growing Sweet Potatoes in the North, I described how to grow short-season sweet potatoes in a northern Zone 3-2b garden. I also mentioned overwintering the vines for the next season.

This is a very easy process and you can bring these slips into the house for the winter, and treat them the same as you would any other pretty houseplant while you wait for warmer weather. If you read my previous post, you will notice the process is almost identical to what I do in spring, except on a smaller scale. Continue reading

Aphid Wars – AKA “Attack of the Plant Vampires” & Lessons Learned

I should not have been surprised when aphids showed up in the greenhouse.  But I’d had such a good start in November, with no sign of any issues, that I assumed I had escaped the terrible sucking plant vampires for this year.

Well I was wrong. Very very wrong.

I somehow forgot that greenhouses are totally different than outside. Aphids showed up mid-late December 2014, and man did they teach me a lot.

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Urban “Farming” 365 – The first 3 months (Persephone Period)

Planting seeds, October 30, 2014. It was snowing...

Planting the first seeds, October 30, 2014. It was snowing…

After a long couple years of planning and building, magic happened at the end of October 2014. The first seeds were planted in the raised beds of my experimental all-season urban greenhouse. It’s a bit of an understatement to say I was excited. It was like Christmas morning as a kid amplified about ten times.

For those new to the blog, here’s a bit of history on what I am working to accomplish:

In a nutshell, all-season food production in a northern urban yard, and sharing that information to inspire and encourage great folks like yourself to grow food in this harsh climate.

How I am going about this is by converting my urban yard into a mix of relaxing/entertaining space, some grass, a large number of raised beds, a micro-orchard and an experimental all-season greenhouse that will hopefully work in both winter and summer to keep a continuous supply of fresh greens and produce available. And I hope to accomplish this with a minimal amount of resources (ie, minimal heat and no supplemental lighting, as well as rain barrels through summer and year-round composting).

What I am not trying to accomplish is commercial food production. 1-2 households would be a great outcome in my mind, and if there are extras to share, BONUS!

So how have my first three months gone? I’d say fairly well, with a lot of learning! Plants and nature are excellent teachers. I’ve had a wonderful mix of wins and lessons (I will not call them failures, because they teach me the most!) and I’m excited to share them with you. Continue reading

Greenhouse Building – Part 4 – Raised Beds

Once the main structure was done, I needed space to grow things.  Although many greenhouses grow everything in pots and flats on top of raised tables, my intention is to use raised beds that can directly benefit from the heatsink below, and also give plenty of uninhibited root space to things like broccoli.  I’m hoping it will also give me a much larger planting space, and make the greenhouse tending easier overall.

The design considerations were not huge for the raised beds, but if you are building some in your greenhouse there are a few things to think about.  I’ll discuss what I did and why, and hopefully touch on things that you may want to include in your planning process.

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Greenhouse Building – Part 3 – Installing Triple-wall Polycarbonate (plus tips)

As tempting as it would be to insulate every portion of the winter greenhouse to make sure the plants stay as warm as possible, they also need light to reach them.  And that means choosing a proper glazing material.

Unlike a summer greenhouse that has glazing on all areas, northern winter sun only comes from a limited south-facing zone.  Which means – “glazing goes here, but not everywhere”.  I see this as a WIN.  More insulation for the rest of the walls where glazing would not only be useless, but also a heat-losing thorn.

But I digress – this is a post about how to install the polycarbonate, NOT about insulation.

Continue reading

Greenhouse Building – Part 2 – Foundation and Heatsink

Like all buildings, the first portion of the project once I knew what I was going to be building was to get the foundation going.

Without getting into details, getting the building permit for the greenhouse from the city, and pouring the foundation took…….considerably longer than I imagined.

Demolition of the old garage (yes, THAT poor garage-facsimile) was late April 2013, with snow still on the ground.  I was excited, and optimistic, ready to spend the entire summer slowly putting it all together.  It wasn’t until the end of August by the time I had a permit, and October 16 by the time the slab was poured.  Which meant – “Rush-like-crazy-cross your-fingers-and-hope-the-snow-waits”.  Continue reading

Greenhouse Building – Part 1 – Planning

I’d be lying if I said that planning the greenhouse was a snap.  It took a good bit of sitting, reading, thinking, coffee, chocolate, wine, scribble paper, scribble paper tossed for the cats, patience, and plain logic consideration for how it all needed to go together.

Being in an urban space, I’m limited.  Limited in how large I can make things, the codes I need to follow, and how easily machinery can get into the space to name a few.  The same issue I’m sure many urban dwellers face.  Having limited space also meant I had to plan carefully how to maximize every bit of space I had.  I did not want to have an “ugly” but functional end product.  I wanted to have something functional in summer, winter, spring, fall, and something that made the most of the sun, and the shade, and also gave me a pleasant space to socialize or just relax. Continue reading

Winter Greenhouse – The Inspiration

I have always had an interest in sustainability.  But if I’m honest with myself I suppose the root of my inspiration was very, very simple.

– Lettuce I was buying at the store tasted like water, and it got even worse in winter.
(We’re going to completely ignore the idea of pesticides and chemical residue at this point, it’s not really relevant to the post)

From this simple bit the inspiration grew until I HAD to have better.

Let’s go back a little further: Continue reading