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Medium greenhouse suggestions (build or buy kit?) and grow light help (LED?)  RSS feed

 
Christopher Robbins
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I live in western CO where the winters can be harsh for short periods, about 6,000 ft above sea level. I’m looking to put up a sturdy greenhouse (at least 10 by 10, maybe up to 10 by 15 ft footprint) and install grow lights in it. We want to extend our growing season for vegetables.

I have wood for framing and tools so I could build a frame for one (and wrap in plastic or other sturdier clear materials), but was wondering if it would be better to buy a kit?

In the Summer we have occasional wind gusts that I fear will blow down most square greenhouses (the dome type would likely be ok, but I don’t like the wasted head room). I wanted to put my greenhouse on the south facing, but that is where the wind whips through. So I thought to put it on my south-east side, that is protected by one side of my house. This will not get full sun as the pure south side, thus, the grow lights I want to install to help with that, and also keep on during nights to help with freezes.

Does anyone have plans or kits they suggest for such a greenhouse? I could spend up to $500 on the greenhouse. Up to $200 on grow lights.

Does anyone have suggestions for good quality grow lights? I have read that LEDs can be good, and I could eventually rig a solar panel for them because of their lower wattage demands. I also read the blue color is best for veggie growth (whereas red is better for flowering and budding plants).

Any suggestions?
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3981
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Christopher,
I spent a few years over in Rifle. Love that area.
Would it be possible to dig the greenhouse into the ground instead of everything being above ground? Also if you can find some old patio door windows you could use glass instead of plastic. If there is a window replacement company near by you could ask them for old windows.
My greenhouse was built into a hill and the roof was made of 2X4's and that corrugated fiberglass stuff. I lined the inside with rock walls and it really worked well.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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We just put up a much larger unheated hoophouse. Before you spend a dime on materials, get Elliot Coleman's book The Four-Season Gardener. He grows year-round in Maine without any additional lights or heat. If you just want season extension, you don't need them either. It's been 0 or below here for several nights this last week and all of my veg except some bok choi made it without extra heat. They are growing, slowly. The sun is so low this time of year that you probably aren't getting as much blocked by the house as you think (I'm roughly the same altitude and latitude as you).

We bought our kit from Growers' Supply, in part because our wind is insane and I know of several high tunnel collapses in the area. It's a great product. They have smaller ones. Build as big as you can, ours is already feeling small. I made a timelapse of the installation that turned out pretty cool (watch the clouds). And now that the chooks are finally moved in, I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to open their coop for them.
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I would pay a visit to Colorado Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt, and talk with Jerome or Stephanie before you plan any further. He has pioneered successful greenhouses in our climate, and his 30 years of experience would be worth every last penny. Elliot Coleman is the master for his region, but there are distinct differences in greenhouse design between high-latitude maritime Maine, and mid-Latitude continental Colorado.

Among the many things you would learn at CRMPI, I do not think grow lights would be at all helpful. The cold is what shuts down plant production during the winter, and the led lights dont add enough heat to matter. If they did add much heat, they would thereby consume tons of power. Direct heating is not cost effective, IMHO. Again, I am but a lucky amateur comapred to Jerome. Go to the source, learn from the best. Here at Permies our advice is free, take it for what that implies. Go to CRMPI, learn from the best, assure yourself of success. Greenhouses are a great idea in Western Colorado, but like everything, the devil's in the details, and there are far more poor deisgns than good ones.

good luck!
 
Whitney Segura
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For Colorado gardening, I would suggest the following items, of which there are many other's, but here's my top list:

Accessories:

Heaters - If you're living in the North, you will need to calculate the number of BTU's you'll require, to heat the entire structure. This can be done by a simple formula and tool, you can find one here; http://www.minigreenhousekits.com/pages/BTU-Calculator

Fans - Vital

Automatic Watering & Misting Systems - Vital

Automatic Greenhouse Roof Window Openers - Vital [Depending Upon Location] (Usually they're default programing is to open if it get's above 73 degrees F.)

Shade Nets - For Southern USA greenhouse gardening, you would want to cover you're greenhouse, when it get's too hot. Generally, you will get about a 33% shade reduction factor from the traditional shade netting.

Glass Greenhouse Designs: Glass is elegant and something most people can't & won't ever have, simply, because it costs too much and can shatter, causing the greenhouse to be a somewhat dangerous place, when working around family member's and employee's even.

Polycarbonate Greenhouse Designs: Polycarbonate is the way to go, in my opinion, it's cheap, extremely durable, I mean it's virtually unbreakable, and it won't shatter like glass, but still provide similar see-through qualities. Poly panels can get very think, and provide excellent insulation, they are also easy to install and replace.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Your best option would be to build a half buried greenhouse. If that is too much for you try out this one
http://www.solarbubblebuild.com/bubble_insulation.php
 
Danny O'Blivion
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Have you considered a walipini? I experimented with a mini version last year in denver with some degree of success. i used plastic and a half wood frame half hoop house design. I dug into the clay, about 3ft down and built it 5 high on the n side and 3.5 on the s. covered in sheet plastic, nailed plastic to clay, cobbed the seal. Stayed warm enough to sprout seeds and start my plants. downside i experienced, aside from the crampish space, was moisture. if i was around every day or so to open it up it was ok but ventilation would be nice. It seemed to stay warm enough down there all winter last year though i would burn a candle or so in there on nights below 0. So this year im trying to go about three times deeper, use reclaimed windows, baby rocket stove, and figure out a way to vent it better, the windows will help. Maybe a small fluorescent or a t5 fixture to stretch the day? leds that are worth a damn seem to be outrageously priced still, a couple companies are getting there but not close enough for me. http://www.advancedledlights.com almost got 450 of my dog hairs before i wised up and bought a t5 instead for 175

 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I have several rebar hoophouses, they are great in the wind. they are made with 20 foot rebar bent into hoops with 10 feet between, (each end is 18-24 inches in the ground) sliding a 1/2" PVC pipe over the free end of the rebar before inserting it into the ground. Rebar tears up plastic, and gets hot, so it needs to be covered. Put the longest expanse in a southern exposure in the northern hemisphere. Keep the height of the hoop just high enough to walk in with a hat on. No reason to have heat up at the 8 foot height, less to cover, lower in the wind.

Hoops 4 feet apart for whatever length you want, but keep in mind the length of polycarbonate panels if you go that route, and made your hoop length fit it. I.e., a 20-foot greenhouse can be covered by a combo of 12 foot and 8 foot panels.

Then horizontal rebar with PVC over them, wired every 2 to 4 feet up and over the structure, depending on the width of polycarbonate panels (Home Depot clear polycarbonate panels where 90% of the light gets through are 2 feet wide), (only the clear ones let 90% through) so you want a sturdy piece of rebar behind attached edges of panels. Panels would go on horizontally, starting at the bottom.

You might start with plastic, but it never lasts very long, and polycarbonate panels won't break, even if they get bent by wind and are not too old. Been there, done that! They aren't getting any cheaper, and are a good investment. Wide woven lashing bands over the top every 4-6 feet also help in case a storm wind wiggles something loose.

I build big 3 x 3 compost piles every 4 feet for heat, and keep them hot. They eventually shrink to great growing mounds.

Cover the ends however your want, making sure you can open the ends for cooling and airflow. Doors at each end are handy, and make sure your wheelbarrow can fit through the door.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2497
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I installed a Harbor Freight 10 X12. Cost not on sale is around $700. As sold it's a bit flimsy, but I read up on how to strengthen it, and it has survived the winds great. I haven't heated it, because it is very drafty, so night-time temperatures are the same as outside, but the hotter daytime temperatures made it possible for me to grow extra early crops of greens. Caulking would help. I'm currently harvesting tomatoes that were grown under floating row covers and cloches. I recommend the auto window openers. Best greenhouse accessory ever invented.

If I had a south facing hill, and a place to call my own, I'd definitely build the next one into a hill, or into the ground.

The door is poorly designed. I ended up bolting it to the frame during wind storms.
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