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Questions About Gardening North Facing Property

 
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So, I’ve posted my project on the forum here: https://permies.com/t/131778/permaculture-projects/Property-Project

But, I had some specific questions about gardening to start off with.

1. My property faces north, northwest. It gets 4-6 hours of sun daily in the summer and no direct sunlight to 1-2 hours of sun in the winter. The property is situated in a bowl with ridges on three sides (South, East, West). Lakefront on the north side. I plan to have a garden on shore in the summer and use a floating greenhouse (8x16) in the winter. My question is: what kind of production should I expect during the winter months for salad greens, carrots, onions, and other cool crops? Temps range around 25-55f in winter. 65-75f in summer. It is a coastal climate (about 3 miles from Pacific ocean). Vegetation on my side of the ridge is very abundant, dense and prolific. With little to no sun, will vegetables go dormant and stop growing altogether or will they just grow at a slower rate? I do occasionally get frost on my property in the dead of winter and it takes awhile for temps to get high enough for the frost to go away. I'm wondering if a cold frame will help with this at all?  

2. Temps typically do not get high enough in the summer to grow peppers or tomatoes and when it does the heat is quickly stolen in the afternoon by strong winds that blow in from the north. I can heat up a gallon milk jug of water so its warm enough to shower with, but I’m wondering if a green house will make much difference? My plan is to put a permanent cold frame over one of my docks (8x16) with a 3ft bed on either side. It would be completely enclosed using pvc hoops and clear plastic with framed walls at each end, one end with a door. It would not be tall enough to walk in, maybe only 5 ft at the center, just enough to get in and sit down in a chair to work the beds.

Will this warm up in the summer enough to have a chance at growing peppers, cherry tomatoes, maybe even strawberries?  

My plan is to grow hot vegetables in the green house during the summer and then salad greens during the winter.

Will the green house even be functional without direct sunlight through most of the winter? Does it need direct sunlight to heat up?

I’ve had a few tents down on the dock in the last few years and they do heat up some in the winter, and run you right out in the summer, typically too hot to sit in from about 10am to 4pm.

Thanks in advance for any possible ideas or insights.

Isaac
 
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Isaac Hunter wrote:....

2. Temps typically do not get high enough in the summer to grow peppers or tomatoes and when it does the heat is quickly stolen in the afternoon by strong winds that blow in from the north. I can heat up a gallon milk jug of water so its warm enough to shower with, but I’m wondering if a green house will make much difference? My plan is to put a permanent cold frame over one of my docks (8x16) with a 3ft bed on either side. It would be completely enclosed using pvc hoops and clear plastic with framed walls at each end, one end with a door. It would not be tall enough to walk in, maybe only 5 ft at the center, just enough to get in and sit down in a chair to work the beds.

Will this warm up in the summer enough to have a chance at growing peppers, cherry tomatoes, maybe even strawberries?  

My plan is to grow hot vegetables in the green house during the summer and then salad greens during the winter.

Will the green house even be functional without direct sunlight through most of the winter? Does it need direct sunlight to heat up?

I’ve had a few tents down on the dock in the last few years and they do heat up some in the winter, and run you right out in the summer, typically too hot to sit in from about 10am to 4pm.
......



These are the things against you:
-north facing propery (best solution sell/swap it and get south facing property);
-you're attempting this over the water: moisture on anything in any type of weather results in a quicker heat transfer  (by just not sealing a wall with paint, you will lose 5 degrees F due to moisture);
-you're losing heat to the water below you which is a huge heat reservoir with a temperature well below your desired growing temperature AND it is wet ( best solution: solid vapor barrier between the grow beds and dock bottoms and three feet of peat moss under the beds for insulation);
-the north winds are still going to drop your temperatures like a rock even in the summer time  after dark....this will be exaggerated over a huge thermal reservoir of cold which is also wet.

these things are for you:
-your determination to do it anyway;
-your determination will lead you to find the species which love the cold and the wet;
-there are many edible plants that love the cold and the wet;
-your determination will lead you to find the best ways to make these edible plants enjoyable to the majority of humans;
-there are root crops which are grown in the cold North East of the US under the snow, under straw, when I saw pictures of people doing this, I freaked
you can find a version of that here: winter crop
and if you google long enough, you will find the crazy pics I found some time ago but can't find right now with people actually digging through two feet of snow to harvest their winter crop.

there are many gardeners on this site that might know of the winter crops I'm talking about or know other gardeners with the hutzpa to do extreme winter crops....I only ran across the pics when trying to find hardy plants.

in my opinion bears and coons will also love your food store once you find the right species to grow.....bears are clever but not as clever as a determined coon: take your determination and pretend you're a coon and you are really hungry -maybe you can divert them then.

if you really don't want to swap property that is more conducive to growing peppers and tomatoes in the winter, then you might consider property sharing in which the south facing property owner can provide you with space to grow and make wind breaks on land while they can ice fish on your property. Otherwise you've got alot of experimenting to do for the next 3 to 5 years before you find what you can really do, not what you thought you might.

Good luck on your experiment!








 
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I have found the books of Eliot Coleman to be incredibly useful, inspiring, and practical for greenhouse gardening. The Four Season Harvest is his earlier book, and I think it is more suited to the home gardener. The Winter Harvest Handbook was written much later so might have some updated information, but I find it more suited to the commercial vegetable grower. He talks about how he was inspired by seeing fresh vegetables being used in France in winter, which is very far north, farther than his home state of Maine, so it has even less sun, but its climate is less cold in winter. So he realised that greenhouses or other similar structures that preserve the temperature of autumn can keep many cold-tolerant vegetables going all winter.

Some advice that I learned from his books that I think would be suitable to your situation is that with so little sun in winter, even the cold-tolerant vegetables won't put on growth in the dark months though they can stay alive and fresh if the temperature is right. They can only grow when they can photosynthesise. So you start them in August or September and let them put on some good growth before the dark sets in. Then you can harvest from the living plants in winter, and as soon as the sun returns, they start putting on fresh growth again so you can harvest much earlier in spring than starting from seed.

I think floating greenhouses add a lot of unnecessary complications so you might find a greenhouse on the land more successful. One complication would be structural, and another would be, as mentioned above, that the water will stay a very constant very chilly temperature and you'll have trouble heating a floating greenhouse to any more than that.

If you really only get 4-6 hours of sun in the summer too, that could be a major problem though. Most vegetables want more sun than that. It might be that the reason you don't get ripe tomatoes and peppers in summer is lack of sunlight hours, not just lack of heat. But I could be wrong -- it's worth it for you to test those with some protection like a greenhouse in summer. You could test many different vegetables and see which ones work for you. I suspect that leafy vegetables will be fine, and some of the root vegetables, but fruit vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash, may really require more sun than you can give them.

Friends of mine recently settled on land in Maine that has very little sun exposure even in summer, but luckily they became friends with neighbors who have a much sunnier south-facing exposure. The neighbors are getting elderly and can not keep up with all the work of their gardens, so my friends have been helping them in their garden in the summer, in exchange for some of the produce. It seems a sweet and friendly informal arrangement. Personally I love dragging my ass out of bed in the morning, making coffee and straggling out to my garden to admire the latest seedling or bloom or fruit until the caffeine kicks in, so I might not love having my main garden be away from my house, but for many people it works.
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