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what is wrong with greenhouses?  RSS feed

 
Matt Ferrall
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"Greenhouse cultures use too many resources and create dependencies on water and energy"sepp holzer.With so many of the big names coming out against greenhouses,I thought it might be nice to have a thread open for critique of these resource intensive crutches.
 
Robert Ray
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Great I like talking about my greenhouse and why in some instances they are an effective and prudent tool. Would cold frames be included in this discussion?
Some parameters on the type and style that you have an objection to might help getting the discussion started. What other big names are against greenhouses and the context in which the opposition was voiced might clarify how and what type/use they oppose would help.
Coleman has some great ideas on four season harvesting that I have referred to for myself often.
Specifics for constructive discourse so we can learn I'm prepared to defend myself and permieness in my use of a greenhouse in Zone 3.
I use no external power to my greenhouse solar panels and SolarHart water panels for heat all free/scavenged or purchased second hand.
For a frame of reference have you ever lived and gardened in zone 3 for any length of time?
 
Brian Knight
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Perhaps they mean commercial use in climates that wouldnt normally support the intended crop. Hard to make a case against cold frames and home green houses. I think more people growing there own food is a good thing when done appropriately.
 
Matt Ferrall
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people didnt grow thier own food before greenhouses?People need technical assistance to grow bioregionally unadapted plants for sure!
 
Robert Ray
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Matt,
A critque of Sepp's greenhouse? Sepp does have a greenhouse it seems where he doesn't use it for plants but earthworms/insects is that ok?
 
Rick Roman
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I have a tiny house. I finished off the attic 20'Lx16'Wx6'H (floor, insulation, walls). I installed 4 large high quality, ( full UV ) skylights that open. I use it as a hot house / greenhouse. I start seed, grow plants, over winter herbs and baby trees, dehydrate foods, etc. It's also passive solar, using a small fan, it cools the house all summer and heats it in the fall and early spring. It is awesome, can't live without it. Here's a photo, included a book for scale.
DSC00427.jpg
[Thumbnail for DSC00427.jpg]
 
Robert Ray
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Very nice use of a greenhouse.
 
Jeff McLeod
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Matt Ferrall wrote:"Greenhouse cultures use too many resources and create dependencies on water and energy"Sepp Holzer.With so many of the big names coming out against greenhouses,I thought it might be nice to have a thread open for critique of these resource intensive crutches.


People like Eliot Coleman disagree with that premise. Not sure who these 'big names' are? Let's put it this way. Once we've found out little piece of paradise we fully intend to have at least 4 moveable greenhouse plots as described in Eliots' book.
 
Rion Mather
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The negative attitude towards greenhouses, container gardening, small space gardening, and those that live in a harsh winter climate are some of the reasons that I've started to distance myself from the Permaculture crowd.

Rick, that is wicked and I am freakin' jealous as all get out.
 
Rick Roman
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Thanks Robert and Rion!
I've been using the attic hothouse for over 15 years with great success. Rion, we have talked about my passive soda pop solar panels project. I recently removed it to get ready for spring seed germination so I have no photos. Still, looking at the photo I posted, imagine the panels fixed into the skylight recess, daisy chained duct work, thermostat and induct fan, sucking air from the cool attic space thru the panel system and blowing 90 degree heat down into the living space below. It worked really well. Later in the year I will reinstall the system and post a video.
 
Robert Ray
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Last year was my first year in my hybrid greenhouse (pic on pg 9 of greenhouse suck factor). That squash vine was planted in a tomato cage and encouraged to grow up onto a horizontal trellis. Underneath I was left with the entire understory bed available for planting, a greenhouse food forest bed if you like. So an initial planting was made and harvested, by then the vine was starting to cover the trellis so a second planting of plants that liked shade was made. They were harvested in the late fall at the time the squash skins hardened and the third planting of winter greens were planted. Row cover over the trellis for winter and I'm still eating fresh greens, baby carrots, parsnips, kohlarabi is going slow but looks healthy.
Rion I think small space gardening and container gardening is great if there is dirt there is the potential of growing. If you haven't lived in a place where you have to think about shoveling the roof after the driveway it's hard to assess the value of a greenhouse.
 
Rick Roman
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Robert, I follow and love the "Suck Factor" and have read all your excellent posts (Nice House!). I've learned a lot from both pro and con and have respect for both.
.
I acquired one of those temporary vinyl car garages, similar to a greenhouse but semi opaque. This year I want to use it as a mushroom hothouse. Its dark, warm, humid, it offers weather/ critter protection, perfect for shrooms. But the real experiment would be to see if I could extend, encourage or have more control of the fruiting.
Incorporated into the opaque shroom hothouse would be a system (thermostat, fan and duct) to deliver that warm, moist air into my home for heat. A semi-passive solar mushroom hothouse!
 
Matt Ferrall
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I wasnt able to link to the greenhouse suck factor thread so I created this one but found it still exists.Sorry.Pretty sure Fukuoka didnt use one.Sepp might just be against other people using one??Anyway,Im always interested in how people are learning to produce food by developing a relationship with their land rather than create an artificial enviroment.Really was hoping to have likeminded folks posting but I guess it just gets under some folks skin too much to have threads that threaten their truths.To those out there developing a Fukuoka style relationship with their land:keep it up!You can do it without the gizmos!Observe and build on what works and over time you will accomplish it without taking the industrial shortcuts.I grow hundreds of nut and fruit trees from seed every year without tech or outside inputs but it took years to figure out.
 
Robert Ray
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I will disengage Matt. Truths, absolutisms aren't owned and I have never said that anyone else's path was wrong or that my path was the right path.
 
Rick Roman
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I hear you Matt. I'm constantly looking to learn new skills as well as cold tolerant perennials and annuals to extend my growing season without the use of any artificial items , like row cover or black plastic to heat soil. Its all about learning ancestral skills, doing less work, not wasting money and eliminating that type of junk from the garden. It reminds me of the old Star Wars vs Star Trek thing.... I accept both, ancestral skills and the benefits of modern knowledge and technology (when ethically used).
 
Matt Ferrall
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Limitations give us definition.I like to limit my industrial inputs.This forces me to adapt and be creative in my approach."Neccesity can be the mother of invention"even when self imposed.The natural limitations of my environment give me cultural definition.By attempting to circumvent these limitations through technological means(greenhouse),I miss an opertunity to explore other unique possibilites of food production and storage.Part of our celebration of place is an acceptence of the environmental conditions around us and our creative adaption to those conditions.The idea that we should be eating in a certain way regardless of our surroundings is largly responsible for much of the unsustainable practices in agriculture.
 
Rick Roman
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Matt, Excellent post. Thanks.
 
Cris Bessette
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Matt Ferrall wrote:"Greenhouse cultures use too many resources and create dependencies on water and energy"Sepp Holzer.With so many of the big names coming out against greenhouses,I thought it might be nice to have a thread open for critique of these resource intensive crutches.



I tried to google the quote above and found nothing, is that from one of his books or a podcast,etc? It would really help to know the CONTEXT of that quote.

We need more detail to know what is being talked about here. Commercial greenhouses? Passive greenhouses? Cold frames? Glassed in porches? In ground greenhouses?
the Earth itself is a big greenhouse. (I like it here)

The sun is the ultimate renewable resource, and plants need energy and water to grow, inside or outside a greenhouse. (ALL plants are dependent on water and energy)
People have been using greenhouses since the 13th century, if it works, it works.

There may be specific problems that SOME greenhouses MAY have like pointed out in The Greenhouse Suck Factor but no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.







 
Cris Bessette
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Rion Mather wrote:The negative attitude towards greenhouses, container gardening, small space gardening, and those that live in a harsh winter climate are some of the reasons that I've started to distance myself from the Permaculture crowd.



I've never gotten the impression that the Permaculture crowd were unanimous on ANYTHING

I do ALL the things you mentioned above, and they still let me in the clubhouse.



 
Matt Ferrall
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Page 118 in Desert or Paradise and yes,he is refering to industrial scale.I would argue that industrial products actually work better on an industrial scale because you have the economy of scale.Decentralized industrial production is less efficient.A one acre greenhouse production model run by specialized experts who know how and have spare parts available should be more efficient than a bunch of backyard models run by laymen who have to special order parts.Water must be brought in either once to the larger op. or many times to the many small ones.The greenhouse must have sides either one for the large scale or many for the many backyard models.Someone must monitor stuff either one person for a large scale or many people for many small ones.This isnt meant as a defense of large scale but more a critique of small scale industrial solutions.Small scale food production gives the producer the advantage of having a more intimate relationship with their enviroment but that advantage is lost if they opt for technological solutions.
 
Robert Ray
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What the heck, we banged each other about in the greenhouse sucks let's get back to it.
So Sepp has an issue with industrial greenhouses per his quote and context, I pretty much agree with that.
However Sepp does have a greenhouse that he grows worms in and beneficial insects, so Sepp does use a greenhouse.
Sepp does use heavy equipment in some cases where I do not nor do many small greenhouse users. Is the use of heavy equipment industrial? Acceptable? How would that use compare to greenhouse use?
I'm not against large earthworks/swales/ponds but there is an industrial cost to some of them.
When does one advance from laymen are you and I laymen?
Back to the initial post who are the "Big Names" that have come out against greenhouses.
Economy of scale I have built my greenhouse that uses no specialized parts


 
Matt Ferrall
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OK,I agree that the forces in oposition to greenhouses are small indeed...for now.What with our super star Sepp curently under suspition of using a greenhouse himself.And Paul Wheatons only endorsement being associated through hosting the greenhouse suck factor thread.Fukuoka is assumed to be linked philosophicaly.So yea,by far the majority of so called "permaculture""big names"are pro greenhouse for their ideas of right(subjective)reasons.The greenhouse culture is winning the product vs unmediated personal relationship with ones enviroment.
 
Rion Mather
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Whenever man enters an ecosystem he is making a change. Man alters the environment by planting a seed, moving earth, cutting trees, adding/taking away animals, etc. I don't see greenhouses as any different. The Romans, Incas, and Babylonians lived the same way. They manipulated the environment to create gardens.

As far as saying large greenhouses are too industrial, the Amish use them. The ones I have been in are very low tech. Since the Amish have been doing the self sufficient/minimalist thing for a lot longer than almost everyone on this board and the "Big Names", I don't see a problem with an environmentally friendly greenhouse.
 
Matt Ferrall
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I guess I can see how large industrial greenhouses could be an integal part of the self sufficient\minimalist lifestyle although its confusing to imagine.Many civilizations have risen through manipulation of nature.About as many as have collapsed partialy due to exccesses in that same manipulation.
 
Robert Ray
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Matt,
I've lived and owned property and gardened in SC, WY, and now OR. I did not need a greenhouse in SC, didn't need one in WY even though I was 1000 ft higher in elevation. I am now in a location that is zone 3 with rock gardens, ponds and walls I can push zone 4. Have you ever gardened in that zone 3 type of climate for any length of time?
 
Matt Ferrall
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NO I HAVE NOT.However the folks you should be trying to supress are those successfully surviving in colder zones without greenhouses.Their act of survival threatens the argument that greenhouses are somehow needed by those hoping to exist in cold winter regions.
 
Robert Ray
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oy
 
Cris Bessette
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Matt Ferrall wrote:NO I HAVE NOT.However the folks you should be trying to supress are those successfully surviving in colder zones without greenhouses.Their act of survival threatens the argument that greenhouses are somehow needed by those hoping to exist in cold winter regions.


Lets pull back here a little bit. We are not trying to suppress you or threaten your beliefs.

This is what I am seeing you say, or what seems to be your position (please correct me if I misunderstood)

1. For people to be able to truly work hand in hand with nature, they must not use technology.
2. Greenhouses are unnatural.
3. There are people that live in cold zones that are able to produce their own food without greenhouses.
4. Developing a " relationship with the land" is better than the use of artificial environments.


In my opinion you are right! (but so are we) I think its a false dichotomy to say one way is right, and the other wrong. There are infinite grays between black and white.
Working with nature is great, taking advantage of natural functions of environment, using native methods,etc. are all good.
The major thing that sets humans apart from the rest of nature is our brains. We can use the creations of our minds and hands to work with nature, though as you well know, we have also
used our minds to create chemical fertilizers and monocrops,etc, that are against the ways of nature.


The Romans would grow a cucumber type plant during parts of the year under structures of oiled cloth , at other times they would grow them on wheeled carts to be pulled inside at night.
Their technology, oiled cloth and wooden carts, did not subvert nature, it just made nature work for them.

I have a passive greenhouse in my front yard, built from discarded windows. Inside that greenhouse right now, amongst other things, there are some Serrano chile plants growing.
The exact same plants in beds outside the greenhouse are dead crispy dry. Have I hurt nature by having chile peppers in January?
To truly live in harmony with nature, should I be satisfied with dried peppers from the last growing season?



 
Robert Ray
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Matt,
I think we agree on many fronts. It's obvious that you're passionate about people having a personal connection to the ground they work. Not everyone lives in a temperate climate if we did there wouldn't be any room to farm.
The careful thoughtful selection of tools and techniques will differ from place to place and some personal choices do have or will have an impact on others.
For me experimenting in my greenhouse helps give me an accelerated vision of techniques or ideas that I can carry outside the greenhouse, things grow slower here. It's not what produces the majority of my food but it is a component of the overall design. A classroom for me.
 
R Scott
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Well, greenhouses that run fans all day and heaters all night to climate control the environment just like a suburban house are wasteful--but compared to shipping food half way around the world??

Greenhouses are tools and just like any tool they can be used for good or for harm.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Cris-I appreciate your points except for the reference to the unsustainable Roman empire which I believe referencing as a success actually works against greenhouses as a solution.
Personaly,I think industrial tech provides a level of mediation in our relationship with our enviroment.Each layer of dependency and devotion that we alot to the technology clouds our and distorts our understanding.We usurp from nature its function by creating artificial enviroments.In our implemention of control we create a lopsided relationship.I think its possible for people to produce food using observation and understanding instead of industrial tech Fukuoka style but we must step away from the layers of technological mediation that cloud our observation.Feeling poetic so thats all I got today.
 
Cris Bessette
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Matt Ferrall wrote:
Personaly,I think industrial tech provides a level of mediation in our relationship with our enviroment.Each layer of dependency and devotion that we alot to the technology clouds our and distorts our understanding.We usurp from nature its function by creating artificial enviroments.In our implemention of control we create a lopsided relationship.I think its possible for people to produce food using observation and understanding instead of industrial tech Fukuoka style but we must step away from the layers of technological mediation that cloud our observation.Feeling poetic so thats all I got today.



Obviously Rome fell, but I'm not sure what role precursor greenhouses had in that
Don't get me wrong, philosophically I am pretty well aligned with your basic point.

Right now I can go to the grocery store and get a bell pepper. That bell pepper most likely was grown in Mexico and was harvested with machines, carried by trucks to a central point where they were processed and packed, then put on yet another truck and sent across the country, where it is put on the shelf and maintained with refrigeration.
This is unnatural and wasteful.

So I'm left with two decisions:

1. Do I stop eating bell peppers outside of season?
2. Do I at least extend the season by using a local "green" greenhouse / Building drying racks and storing dried pepppers?










 
Rion Mather
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Matt Ferrall wrote:Cris-I appreciate your points except for the reference to the unsustainable Roman empire which I believe referencing as a success actually works against greenhouses as a solution.


I am lost on this one. There are many civilizations that collapsed and they never used a greenhouse.

Matt Ferrall wrote:
Personaly,I think industrial tech provides a level of mediation in our relationship with our enviroment.Each layer of dependency and devotion that we alot to the technology clouds our and distorts our understanding. We usurp from nature its function by creating artificial enviroments. In our implemention of control we create a lopsided relationship.I think its possible for people to produce food using observation and understanding instead of industrial tech Fukuoka style but we must step away from the layers of technological mediation that cloud our observation.Feeling poetic so thats all I got today.


This touches on my last comment. You are creating an unnatural man made environment without using technology. Every little action that you take on your land changes the ecosystem. One change creates a domino effect on nature. Even if you bring in native plants, you are altering the purity of the land. Every homestead is an artificial environment. It is a lopsided relationship to begin with.
 
Rion Mather
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I'm starting to feel like the Ian Malcolm of homesteading. Ha!
 
Robert Ray
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Early man flourished in warm climates until he did his tweaking of his environment with advances in clothing and shelter. Intelligent use of technology is what has allowed us to survive. I like Rion have seen where some dismiss zonal differences and small holdings as inconsequential. I think they are the most important component.
All technology isn't bad.
 
tel jetson
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I've got a lot of sympathy for both camps here. Matt's desire for unmediated interaction with the natural world especially resonates with me. and yeah, every little bit of even the most benign technology can interfere with that interaction, but that doesn't require giving up the project entirely.

if there's a spectrum that goes from treating the world like a garbage dump on one end and treating it as a partner that deserves as much or more consideration as we ourselves do, then most of us here are probably a whole lot closer to the latter end of that spectrum than the former. and Matt might be trying to be even closer to that latter end. everybody has their own priorities, and taken from each individual point of view, most of our decisions regarding the use of greenhouses makes sense. (before anybody objects, the spectrum I named might not be the most accurate. it's just for demonstration purposes.)

full disclosure: while I believe that greenhouses have the potential to short-circuit any quest toward a deep understanding of our local environment, I currently use a small greenhouse and I've got a larger one under construction.
 
Rick Roman
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Matt, you have thrown the proverbial clog into the gear works of my brain.... but I like it!
 
Rick Roman
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Hey Matt, Paul W. just uploaded (meanigless drivel) the great documentary film "Rivers and Tides" about artist Andy Goldsworthy. I think you might like it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_opAMkK95gE&feature=fvwp&NR=1
 
Ken Peavey
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Matt Ferrall wrote:"Greenhouse cultures use too many resources and create dependencies on water and energy"Sepp Holzer.With so many of the big names coming out against greenhouses,I thought it might be nice to have a thread open for critique of these resource intensive crutches.


Resource intensive? I beg to differ with this. I use water, sunlight, and a light bulb when I'm in there. I use the greenhouse to start seeds. Since these require little space, they also require little water. If I were to start the seeds outside, I would need considerably more water, as the entire area would need water lest it draw it from around the seedling. The light bulb I have on where ever I am at night. As for the sunlight, that's what warms the space so I don't have to add a fuel.

Growing in a greenhouse is not necessarily rows of monocrops. I've seen a number of them in back yards which are production intensive, offering an array of luscious fruits, vegetables, and herbs all year long. For comparison, growing a head of lettuce, widely spaced in a row, irrigating it with diesel pumps because it is not mulched, spraying it with fungicides, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, harvesting it with a tractor, expending energy to chill it, spraying it with preservatives, then loading it on a reefer truck to ship it an average of 1600 miles to a distribution center, then to a store where I can drive 20 miles to go get it...THAT is what I would call resource intensive.

There are countless examples of greenhouses offering more than plant production. They can serve as spaces for relaxation and meditation, quiet reading, recreation, and a place to be one with nature when the dooryard is 3 feet under the snow. When figuring up the equation, there is more here than input : output ratios. There is a human element which does not translate to accountability figures. Perhaps there is a means of measuring energy consumption in the greenhouse to sitting in front of a big screen TV, watching a rented movie, and eating a bag of cheese puffs.

Not everything I do is related to permaculture, or 'green', or part of a plan to save the planet. I cannot subscribe to the notion that greenhouses are evil. Having one does not make me anti-permaculture. I am not the enemy. If you don't want one, that's ok with me. Don't build one. But it would waste your time telling me I'm doing wrong.
 
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