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Greenhouses at Altitute  RSS feed

 
graciela ellis
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Hi! Thanks for visiting!

What advice do you have for greenhouses at high altitude? We live at 7500 feet...


Thanks!
 
Darrell Frey
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i would check out the work of Jerome Osentoski in Basalt Colorado. He has extensive experience with high altitude greenhouse production
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1246
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
125
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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We heat our houses and produce some vegetables in greenhouses here at 11,000 feet in the Himalayas. We've got a good cold long winter -- people around here start using their wood stoves in October. But we run a residential school with lots of programs and kids living here, and we don't burn so much as a matchstick for heat. (We use our waste wood for a bread oven).

UV-resistant plastic film for veg-producing greenhouses is common here, so we use that as a seasonal attached greenhouse. All our houses are heavy earthen buildings, and south facing. We attach the greenhouses in October and roll them back up out of the way along the roof line in April. Because it's a high desert with mostly clear skies, that's all we need for heat. The temperature in the greenhouses goes down just around freezing at night in January, so we grow cold hardy vegetables like chard and some local mustard-cabbage thing, and also have perennials that are not hardy outdoors in our area, like grapes. None of it is very airtight or mechanised at all.

Here's our website www.secmol.org
 
Adam Klaus
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gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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2nd the reccomendation on Jerome's amazing greenhouse in Basalt, Colorado.
I could add my own 2 cents based on my limited experience, but Jerome is still miles ahead of where I dream to be.
 
Zach Weiss
pollinator
Posts: 296
Location: Montana
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Rebecca,

Looked over your website, amazing things you guys are doing. I've heard much about these types of buildings from a friend who went to school in the Himalayas. It seems like they're quite common there. Do you have any more pictures you could share?

I'm assuming that your using the heated air from the greenhouse to heat the house from October to April, do you run into any problems with moisture in the rammed earth homes? Is this managed in a particular way in order to avoid humidity from the greenhouse being trapped in the house?
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1246
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
125
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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Hi Zach,
One of the several wonderful things about earth buildings is their ability to moderate, store and slow-release humidity, just as they do with warmth and "coolth."

It's true moisture can be an issue though. One pair of our buildings is very small, just a row of 8-foot-deep rooms, with a greenhouse attached that has an equal or larger footprint. That greenhouse is used for full-on veggie production all winter, so in there we do get some moisture issues. It rains in the greenhouse in the mornings if you shake the plastic. The rooms are not too too soggy though -- I mean, at least the books don't get wavy, which I have seen with just normal weather in a normal wood frame house in Cape Cod. The only door that swells and sticks is the north door of the kitchen, where huge pots boil so the condensation is from cooking more than the greenhouse.

Our other houses have a much better ratio, ie a larger footprint of the house than the greenhouse, and the greenhouses are not fully planted to vegetables but to perennials like grapes and flowers with walking space. There is no moisture problem in their attached houses.

With normal-sized earth houses you never get condensation on the walls like you get in a concrete or other waterproof house in winter. We hardly get condensation on the windows even when we're boiling a big pot or have 25 people laughing and spouting hot air on a January night -- only in our central kitchen where a bathtub-sized pot boils, but not in our private quarters. Conversely, two of our houses have nothing planted in the greenhouses at all, and yet they never have that parched feeling I often got in centrally heated houses in the NE US.

Ooh, maybe I should write a jenkins-like book but about the marvels of earth houses!
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1246
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
125
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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Here are pics of our students pulling down and attaching the greenhouse in fall and rolling it up in spring. You can see the trench at the bottom where the end of the plastic is weighed down after going over a short adobe wall softened with old sacks. On these two greenhouses we use wooden battens for the sides. The plastic stays rolled up along the eaves all summer.

Putting-on-greenhouse.jpg
[Thumbnail for Putting-on-greenhouse.jpg]
Removing-greenhouse-Apr2013.jpg
[Thumbnail for Removing-greenhouse-Apr2013.jpg]
 
Zach Weiss
pollinator
Posts: 296
Location: Montana
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This is awesome! I'm very intrigued. Thanks for the pictures!

What are the houses with a better ratio like? 2:1 house:greenhouse? Is the house with more moisture like a 1:1?

I'm inspired by your guy's work!
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1246
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
125
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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The house with too much moisture actually has a larger greenhouse than interior floor area, because the rooms are tiny single bedrooms only 6' deep, while the greenhouse is about 10 feet wide and except for a path, is fully covered in vegetable beds. The greenhouse rains on your head on cold mornings, and in the shoulder seasons of fall and spring the rooms get pretty warm and humid.

The buildings in the post above above have an E-W axis maybe 20 feet deep, mostly a southern room for the main usage (solar heated by being attached to the greenhouse) and corridors or storerooms to the north. The greenhouse doesn't have any greenery in the ground, only some potted plants, so of course there's no moisture problem.

Our biggest building, two stories, has 14' deep rooms on the south wall, then a 5' wide corridor, then 5' wide storerooms in the north side, which is mostly bermed into a hill. The attached greenhouses on the south wall are about 6' wide, with the ground almost fully covered with perennial beds that are bursting green with grapes climbing up to the 2nd floor, crowded flowers, and volunteer apricot and apple trees squeezing in where they can. This causes no moisture problem in the building at all.
 
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