What is the best purpose for a greenhouse you may be wondering? I wasn’t sure myself to be honest, so I sat down with Kevin Feinstein, the Director of Design and Installation Support with Food Forest Abundance. Kevin shows us how to better understand greenhouses and what the options are.
Can you grow in a greenhouse all Winter?
That very much depends on your climate zone, the type of greenhouse and whether heating is required. Large professional greenhouses control humidity, have irrigation systems, are often heated and use commercial materials. That is great, but that is not exactly what most people can or want to do in their very own yard.
If you want a simple backyard greenhouse, the use of this greenhouse is usually used to extend your growing season to be able to harvest more food each year. In the Spring, a greenhouse allows you get going sooner, by warming the soil quicker. You can start your Spring crops earlier in the year by planting out seedlings or perennial cuttings in the warmer environment, if you are able to regulate the internal temperature of the greenhouse above freezing temperatures in your area. However, you do not always have to keep it above freezing. There are frost hardy plants like kale and arugula that can be grown as well.
If you do want to heat a greenhouse you can do this in many ways including a geothermal heating system using the ground, solar power and/or a wood stove, if you want to avoid using propane or other sources you may need to keep refilling. Whether heat is required or not, the warmer space inside the greenhouse will allow you to start seeds of warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers in the Spring. When you move these seedlings outside, they will be closer to producing food than if you had waited to plant them directly outside after the frost.
Not only will you be able to start earlier, but you will also be able to produce food later in the year. This can be achieved, by moving plants into the greenhouse, once the frost is back. Again, you will be able to do this as long as you can keep the temperature inside the greenhouse above freezing temperatures.
Another way to accomplish this is to create a tunnel directly over your garden beds, which may be easier to build and move around as needed. It is less of a permanent structure and if you are rotating beds each growing season you can easily move the tunnel to accommodate.