Tag Archives: greenhouse

An Interview with Anna: Her Inexpensive Geodome Greenhouse

Some time ago I was introduced to Anna from northernhomegarden.com - a fellow gardening enthusiast from central Alberta. She writes a very interesting blog – and has a most interesting geodome greenhouse. If you’ve never seen a geodome greenhouse before – you’ve got to check this out!

GeoDome GreenhousePretty cool, huh? I recently interviewed Anna (via email) about her garden & her greenhouse, so I thought I’d share our conversation with all of you. It went kinda like this:

Dave: First of all, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Anna: We are Jakob and Anna, passionate suburban home gardeners in Alberta, Canada. We grow lots and lots of food in our square foot garden, in the greenhouse, and at our friend’s farm. Truth is we do not even own a single square foot of land, but we do what we can and call it Northern Home Garden.

Dave: What’s the most unique feature of your garden?

Anna: It sure is our Geodome Greenhouse.

Dave: Why did you choose the geodome style for your greenhouse?

When we started to plan to build a greenhouse, our expectations were very high. In an northern garden we are dealing with frost, nasty winds and hail and also loads of snow in the winter. Our days in spring and fall are short of direct sunlight, so we need to catch every sunbeam we can. Plus, we live in town and the greenhouse in our small back yard needed to be somehow catchy. ;) In our research we came across the GeoDome greenhouse:

  • Very unique, lightweight structure
  • Stable in wind and under snow
  • Optimal light absorption
  • Has the most growing ground space
  • A unique hang-out place
  • An eye catcher

The GeoDome greenhouse is just what we were looking for.

Dave: How difficult/expensive was it to build?

The most difficult part was to figure out how to build a Geodome, what kind of joints to use, what frequency is right for the size. We looked at dozens of How-To instructions and even bought an E-Book (with very little value). But all together it helped to build the GeoDome we have and love.

Building a Geodome Greenhouse

For the structure we used untreated spruce lumber, and stained it before assembling. For covering we used greenhouse plastic that was given to us from an commercial greenhouse. So the expenses were not very high, about $200, and it took us about a month to build it. All in all a very good experience, something we would recommend. We do share our experiences ‘How to build a GeoDome greenhouse’ here: http://www.northernhomegarden.com/2013/03/how-to-build-geodome-greenhouse.html

Dave: Do you have any future projects in mind?

Anna: We would really love to own some land to build up a real homestead, with trees, and berries and some animals (dreaming aloud).

Tomatoes in a Geodome Greenhouse

Got a unique or unusual greenhouse or garden? I’d love to hear about it. Go to my contact page and tell me all about it!

 

A New Inexpensive Greenhouse within a Greenhouse Solution

Hoop-frame greenhouses are amazing! If you’ve been following my blog for long, you know I love my greenhouse. But as good as it is, I wanted to make it even better. I wanted to extended my growing season without adding a the cost of a heater. In 2009 I tried using milk jugs full of water to hold the heat and slowly release it through the cool of night. That worked pretty good. But what else might I try?

Well, here is what I did this spring: Now this probably isn’t a brand new idea. I’m sure someone has done it before, but its new for me. (And maybe for you too.) I decided to make a mini-greenhouse WITHIN my greenhouse.

It was fantastically easy (it took all of ten minutes to build it) – and completely inexpensive – I simply used materials that were leftover from other projects. Here, let me show you…

I just took six planks (1x6s – about 30 inches long that were leftover from my fence project last fall), and tucked the bottoms inside my planting bed frame. Then I screwed the tops together and attached a long 1×2 (8 ft long) that served as the peak of my greenhouse. It was absolutely simple. Then I just took and threw over some plastic like this…

Then I ran some tests to see just how much of a difference it would make at night. Remember this is with NO additional heat.

On the night of May 2, the overnight temperature got down to 3.1° celsius outside in my garden. The greenhouse was a little warmer, going down only to 4.8° celsius. But inside my mini-greenhouse within my greenhouse, the temperature stayed up at 7.4° celsius. That’s 4.3° warmer than outside with NO extra heat. That might not seem like a large number, but that makes a significant difference in your growing season. That little, inexpensive “greenhouse within a greenhouse” project, according to the weather almanac, could have just added 9 days to my growing season – for FREE!

And of course, if I had wanted to heat that little greenhouse, it would be much cheaper to heat that little space than to heat the whole greenhouse. So maybe I’m over-reacting, but I think this is way cool and will doing this project again next year – nine days earlier!

Greenhouses: More Than Just Functional

Some of the most popular articles that I’ve written on this website have been about my inexpensive greenhouses. From my Giant 24′x48′ A-Frame to my hail-proof PVC hoop-style greenhouse, I’ve explored all kinds of options for how to keep my garden safe from the harsh Alberta climate. And while most of my ideas are functional solutions – I can’t say they are always beautiful solutions. Rough cut lumber covered by a plastic sheet does keep the tomatoes from freezing, but it may not enhance the overall look of your yard. And in many cases, that’s ok. A hoop-frame greenhouse out behind the barn on the farm fits in nicely, but it might look out of place in your beautifully landscaped city yard.

So if you’re looking for a more attractive way to extend your growing season, you may want to consider a Victorian greenhouse. These beautiful glass structures are not only functional, but they also add character to your garden and value to your home. When I was making the landscaping plan for my backyard, this is type of greenhouse that I designed for.

Search through several Grow Lights and other necessities for your greenhouse all at an affordable price!

Ideally, I’d like a fully heated, cedar-frame glass greenhouse – about 12′ x 30′. (My current hoop-frame is 12′ x 20′.) It would be great to start my own annuals out there (instead of in my basement like I currently do). And it would be nice to have my greenhouse as a key feature of my garden, rather than something to be hidden in the back corner.    Of course, I’ve been doing my landscaping in phases, (doing small projects as the budget allows) and so that type of greenhouse is still a few years away – but that’s the goal.

Until then I’ll be happy to keep on growing in my inexpensive hoop-style greenhouse and be just slightly envious of those of you who enjoy your beautiful glass greenhouses.

Are you one of the lucky people to have a Victorian greenhouse? I’d love to see your pictures! Feel free to attach them to your comments below!

 

Community Gardens

As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, I recently returned from vacationing in the Kootenays of BC. And one of the very cool things that I saw was a non-profit community garden. The Lakehead & Beyond Produce Society has got a great little garden and greenhouse that not only provides fresh garden vegetables for their community, but it also generates employment opportunities and improves the overall economic well-being of the area. I think it’s a great idea that would work well in many small communities.

Here’s just a couple pics to give you an idea of what they’ve got going out there.

How does it all work? The basic idea is that individuals or families can ‘subscribe’ to a weekly delivery of fresh garden produce. So every week, you receive a box full of whatever produce is available that week. So early in the season you might get spinach, radishes, chard, rhubarb, and various herbs – then later on onions, tomatoes, peas, beans, corn, carrots – and still later you’d get garlic, beets, cabbage, etc… Kinda cool, huh?

So I was just wondering, is anyone else doing this sort of thing? Or, perhaps you are interested in starting one of these in your community? Drop me a line!

A Texas-Style Hoop Frame PVC Pipe GreenHouse

It’s almost Spring! Yes, there may be a foot of snow on the ground still. Yes, it may still be -10ºC. Yes, the ground may still be frozen solid. But Spring is on the way. Well, it may be a little while yet – at least, here in Alberta. But down in Texas Spring is just around the corner.

In fact, Big Jim just sent me a few pictures of the hoop-style greenhouse that He just built. Since many of you may be thinking about building your own greenhouse this spring, I thought I’d share Big Jim’s pictures and tell you about some of the modifications he made to my Inexpensive Hoop-Frame PVC Pipe Greenhouse. So first the pictures…

The first thing you might notice is that Big Jim has added some braces to his end walls. This is a great idea, since the ends tend to be pulled in by the weight of snow in the winter.

He also added some height to his walls. He’s a tall guy, so he’s used PVC pipes that were 22′ long instead of just 20′. Because of the extra length, He also used 1″ pipe instead of 1/2″ pipe to give it some more strength. Another change He made was to use electrical conduit clamps to attach the pipes to the base, as opposed to the strapping.

So this is what it looks like all said and done. He plans to grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, some flowers and hanging basket plants, and he even wants to try some hydroponics. Perhaps I’ll get a few more pics down the road and give you an update to how things are growing.

Anyway, hopefully that’ll inspire you  in your own greenhouse building endeavors. I think I may even integrate a few of his changes in my own greenhouse. But all in good time – I think I’ll let the ground thaw first.

My Hoop-Frame Greenhouse In the Snow

Well, not that long ago I showed you that a hoop-frame greenhouse could survive a Canadian winter. I should probably add “so far” to the end of that statement. We had a whole pile of snow (by central Alberta standards) over the past two days and I was away and thus unable to brush off the snow that was piling up on my greenhouse. So I was a little worried when I looked out this morning and saw my greenhouse looking like this.

Buried Greenhouse

The snow had accumulated on the top enough to start bending the pvc pipes and the roof began sinking. This is what it looked like inside.

Saggy Greenhouse

On one hand, I was sad to see it getting squashed by the snow like that. But on the other hand, I was over joyed to see that although it had bent, nothing had broken! Everything was intact – just a little bent out of shape. So here’s another positive for using PVC pipe. It can bend quite a bit, still not break, and then resume it’s shape again when the pressure is off.

So I took out my shovel and scraped the snow back from the sides and brushed the snow off of the roof best I could. Some chunks were frozen to the plastic at the top, and I didn’t want to risk wrecking the plastic, so I left some up there. But the warm weather that will come eventually, hopefully, should melt that away.

While there certainly are some risks to this type of greenhouse structure (after all, I do live in Canada), and we’re not out of the woods yet (still six more months of winter… well, three at least), I still stand behind my PVC pipe greenhouse.

Can A PVC Pipe Greenhouse Survive A Canadian Winter?

It’s December 12 in Central Alberta. Last week brought a lovely little blizzard with high winds and a whole pile of snow and this weekend we are looking forward to -35°C. Yup, must be winter. So, I figured it would be a great time to check on my little greenhouse. You know the one – the hoopframe greenhouse I made out of PVC pipes and covered with woven poly. Some people weren’t sure it would stand up the the wind and the snow and the cold temperatures, but I was confident. Mostly. So I ventured out in the -29.9°C weather this morning to see how well things were standing up. Here’s what it looked like:

Greenhouse in December Not bad so far. How about the inside? One of the biggest concerns is that the pvc pipes would snap or would bend under the weight of the snow. One nice thing is that Alberta snow tends to be pretty dry, so it’s not usually as heavy as the snow in other parts of the country. Regardless, it can still be pretty heavy when piled up. Well, here’s the inside.

Greenhouse in December Things are holding up well. Nothing has snapped, there is no major bending going on – all is bright and well. And, for an added bonus (for what it’s worth), it was -18.7°C inside while -29.9°C outside. Still really cold – but certainly a wide spread (and this only at 10am – by 2pm it should be significantly warmer from the sun).

So I must say I am pleased. I think this greenhouse is my best to date and I am excited to get some plants started out there earlier than I ever have before! I’ll keep you updated!

Update at 1:00pm later that day:

Ok, now it’s just -27°C outside, but a scorching -10°C inside! That’s 17 degrees people! Does that not impress you? I does me. I’ll have tomatoes in February!… Well, that might be a little wishful thinking…

Can Milk Jugs Help Grow Tomatoes?

Well, I’m trying something new in my greenhouse this year – milk jugs. Yup, milk jugs. Here’s the theory… All along my row of tomato plants are old milk jugs full of water. All day long the sun warms up the water in those jugs. According to science, water holds heat better than air. So when it gets cool at night, the air in my greenhouse will cool off much quicker than the water in the milk jugs. Thus, the heat in the milk jugs will slowly release through the night – heating the air around them. That means my tomatoes stay warmer longer. It’s kinda like a heat battery for greenhouses. The more milk jugs of water, the more heat is saved up all day and released all night.

So does it work? Well, I can’t really say yet. When I did my first thermometer test, the temperature on the ground six inches from the a milk jug was 0.6 degrees warmer than the temperature at knee height three feet away. So if warm air rises, the knee height should have been warmer. Tonight I’m going to take a another temperature test – one near and one away from the jugs – this time both at knee height. I’ll try to keep you posted.

I still need to seal up my greenhouse a little better so the warm air has a harder time sneaking out at night, so it’s hard to say if the milk jugs are really doing much good. But I’m pretty sure they aren’t hurting anything – at least my tomatoes aren’t complaining…. Take  a look!

Tomato Clusters

Nice, huh? Here’s another shot…

Heat Batteries

Has anyone else tried something like this? How has it worked?

Update September 28: Last night the temperature dropped to -4.7° C. Inside the greenhouse on the far side away from the jugs the temperature dropped to 0.2° C. But near the milk jugs the temperature got no lower than 2.3° C. So, I’m impressed.

Eggplant Anyone?

While taking a landscaping course recently, I had to identify the colors used in a particular color scheme. One of the colors was ‘Eggplant’ and it got me to thinking about growing eggplants in my greenhouse. I don’t really even know what an eggplant is. Sure, I’ve seen some in the grocery store, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an eggplant plant. Is it like a pumpkin? Like a pear? Like a pepper? I have no idea. But it sure looks cool! I’ve never tasted it and have no idea even how to cook it, but I’d sure like to try to grow it and find out the answer to all these questions.

So I decided to do a little research. The first thing I discovered is that eggplant is technically a berry! Go figure that one! It seems pretty squash-like to me. Another surprise was that it’s a relative of the tomato. We’ll I’m certainly a fan of berries and tomatoes, so I think I’ll give it a try.

So, where to start? Well, I found this article at DIY Guides that walked me through all the basics of growing eggplants. It seems eggplants should fit right in with my tomatoes and peppers. They need an early indoor start, they like it hot, and should do just fine in my greenhouse. So I think I’ll give it a try.

If you’ve grown eggplants in your garden, let me know! I’d love to hear how it worked!

An Inexpensive, Hail Proof, PVC Pipe Greenhouse

I’ve finally built my greenhouse for my new garden. It’s a twenty by twelve foot hoop-style greenhouse with wooden ends and is covered with 11 mil woven poly. This greenhouse has some pretty cool features that I really appreciate, and I think you will too.

My third hoop style greenhouse

First of all, the poly I used to cover it is fantastic. It is a super tough woven poly that I got from Northern Greenhouse out of Manitoba. How tough is it? Well, my brother (who operates the Saskaberry Ranch near Sundre) just got pounded by hail last Sunday. The hail broke windows, shredded siding, and striped everything off of his saskatoon and raspberry bushes – but his greenhouse covered with this same woven poly was completely undamaged! Amazing! (I’ll try to post a picture if I can get one.)

Secondly, to eliminate wear and tear on the plastic, I covered edges of the wooden ends with copper pipe insulation. This foam protects the poly from the sharp edges of the wood.

Insultation on greenhouse

Thirdly, it was very inexpensive and easy to build. The lumber was under $100, the poly was just over $200, and the pvc pipes were under $100. By the time I got all the misc. stuff, I was still under $500 total. Not bad, eh?

My third hoop style greenhouse

Being so late I only got a single row of tomatoes down one side, but next year I’ll be bursting at the seams once again! If you want to build a greenhouse like this one, check out my previous post that gives step by step instructions for building this same greenhouse. Since I’ve improved the design since then, I would recommend the following changes:

  • Use wooden ends instead of plastic – and cover the ends with pipe insulation.
  • Use 11 mil woven poly instead of the 6 mil.
  • Put the PVC pipes on the inside of the frame rather than on the outside

Other than that, you should be able to follow all the other steps. If you do follow this design, be sure to leave me a comment – I’d love to hear (and see) what you’ve been doing!

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