Sunday, March 1, 2015

Green house for a year-round food supply by J Loy

Have you ever heard “3/3/3” can kill you? Three (3) minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. I sure hope that you will make it beyond this point. If so, one of the most important long-term issues is food supply. In a real life SHTF/TEOTWAWKI, the wildlife population will be hunted out in a matter of a few weeks to a few months. Hunting is a great skill to have, but only until the wildlife is decimated.

            Prepping is simply preparing for the future by taking precautions against potential risk. Whether it is on a grand scale or on a small scale, year round food is the ultimate in long term prepping. It is also healthy in our every day lives to have fresh grown foods. I started out this winter on a quest to build a green house. While the construction went easy, and without many hiccups, this write up is to demonstrate some of the do’s and don’ts that I have learned by trial and error.

I planned to kill two birds with one stone by placing a 55-gallon barrel elevated off the ground, use it as a gravity fed drip irrigation system, and help keep the green house warm.

 The irrigation portion of it worked really well but I was also hoping that during the day the water and the barrel would heat up and radiate heat over night warming the greenhouse. During the day, even in Texas cold weather, the greenhouse heats up nicely, however it does not hold the heat well at night. In theory, it was a brilliant plan, and the temperature of the water in the barrel stayed warm, but was not enough to radiate sufficient heat overnight. 

A simple space heater would do the trick; however, it needs to be adjustable. A handy product from offers several small outlets that have a build-in thermostat. The TC-3 will help keep your green house from freezing. You can run power to your greenhouse, and use this inexpensive device to plug your space heater in. The device automatically turns on the heater and turns off at various built in temperatures. Unfortunately, I did not find out about this device until after the greenhouse froze over. I have yet to use it during the summer months where getting too hot is a concern.

Now you might ask, why not use a garden hose and/or a sprinkler. A garden hose is an excellent way to irrigate. It allows you to water when needed and convenience of not having to purchase additional equipment. Some things to consider if thinking about using a water hose is the proximity of the greenhouse location to the hose itself. In addition, if you are planning to use a hose in the winter months, you might want to think of an alternative. In the winter months, the "tap" water can be near freezing temperature (and scalding hot in the summer). Plants do not like cold showers as much as people do not, so the rain barrel is the route that I went. I can fill up the barrel when it is getting low and during the day, the sun will help warm the water so it is not as cold. I have thought about doing my own rain catchments, but right now, the greenhouse is not large enough to warrant it especially in the winter months when watering is less needed then in the heat of summer. A ceiling mounted sprinkler is an option I gave a lot of thought to, but it too would be cold the winter and hot in the summer. It would also get the entire greenhouse wet, not just the plants. 

As I mentioned before, irrigation was simple. I constructed a simple stand that would support a 55gal drum at a downward angle to assist in the flow of water. At my local farm supply store, I found a complete drip irrigation system for about 30$. Assembled and attached to the drum and voila’, simple adjustable irrigation. It took some close monitoring and adjustment to get the flow just right. I ended up setting each drip valve at its near lowest setting and manually turn the valve on in the evening and let it run overnight. Due to the mechanics of a greenhouse, the humidity should stay relatively high, so only water when necessary. Over watering can, be as bad as under watering.

1.       SIDES
a.       2 pieces of 2×4 lumber – 120” 
b.       2 pieces – 113”
c.       10 pieces – 85”
2.       ENDS
a.       2 pieces of 2×4 lumber – 80” long 
b.      1 piece – 96” 
c.       1 piece – 65”
3.       ROOF
a.       1 piece of 2×6 – 120”  1
b.      8 pieces of 2×4 lumber – 40 ¾” 
4.       DOOR
a.       2 pieces of 2×4 – 32”
b.      2 pieces – 73”
c.       1 pieces – 25” 
5.       TOTAL
a.        (5) 10’ 2x4s
b.      (21) 8’ 2x4s

I hate Moles and Gophers. I wish there was an easy way to get rid of them (JR Ray comment: that would be a post worth reading). I believe they can smell plants and are drawn to it like a vulture is to fresh road kill. Multiple products on the market can, and will temporarily rid your greenhouse of these annoying rodents. The electronic deterrent devices, flat out do not work. Do not even waste your money. Traps and poisons are the only sure fire way to get rid of these guys, but traps are dangerous to family pets, and to you when placing them. Poisons are just that, poison. I would not want to trust a poison and the possibility of it getting into my plants, and or ME! However, there is a better solution. Moles will typically dig down to about 40 inches deep. If I could do it all over again, (and I probably will), I would purchase or find a few pieces of corrugated tin or plastic or plywood. Rip it into lengths of about four feet wide and as long as each side of the greenhouse. Then dig them down and place vertically in the ground so the top of it just barely sticks up out of the soil and butts up to the greenhouse. The other alternative to this would be to build raised beds within the greenhouse itself. If you are like me, you like to use what you have on hand. Some of you may have the wood to build raised beds, or the material to quarantine off four feet deep around your greenhouse. Either way, this is sure to almost eliminate your problem. (JR Ray comment:  Using a narrow ditch witch to dig a trench around the green house as deep as possible and pouring it full of concrete should help).
Crop rotation and planning is important to a consistent harvest. Like me, you may choose to can some of your goods. Planning is going to be an integral part of your crops. For instance, lettuce is not something that keeps for extended periods. Therefore, I started ten seedpods, ten to fourteen days later I started another ten pods. As I harvest lettuce, I replace them. Other plants can carry the same concept, zucchini, squash, eggplant etc. (JR Ray comment:  Look for ever-bearing plants that continue to produce like Okra rather than a climax variety that puts out then dies)

While your experience may differ from mine, I hope that this has given you a few things to consider with your greenhouse. 

            J Loy

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