Are You As Concerned As I Am?

It is Wednesday, February 8, 2017, and it will be over 50°F. in Brush, Colorado.  We are expecting 70°+ on Friday – BUT IT’S FEBRUARY???   This is so not normal.  We have started seeds, but I am afraid they may be in for as much of a shock as we are.

Starting long-growers this time of year is nothing new, but my sister is looking at starting a bunch of flowers?  She wants to replace all the Iris’s around the pond in the front yard with a multitude of flowers and colors.  Great idea, however; starting them right now may not be.

the-pond-in-feb-normal

This is the normal pond area this time of year.  Last Thursday (2/2/17) we had such a bad ice storm that they shut down over half of the state (schools, businesses, and roads).  I tried to approach her on this, but she has spring fever extremely bad!  The flowers she is thinking of are of fantastic colors and strange looks, but they must have a “no freeze” time to make it.  We are zone 5 (click on the zone 5, and you can locate your growing zone) and are still susceptible to a deep freeze.

We historically put in our onions and potatoes about the middle to end of March.  Then we cover them with a very thick layer of straw mulch (this year I am adding chicken wire and my feathery monsters decided that was the best place ever to dig for bugs, and dug up everything I put in – grrr!).  They will last through most any freeze here.

One of the best things I have always loved about Colorado is our weather, however; a couple of years ago, was a real freaker.  It was 90° on Friday, then less than 30° and snowing on Monday.  We had planted our corn in mid-April – normal –  but lost it all to the wicked, weird weather.  This warm in February worries me a lot.

I love the strange and abby-normal things, but not when it comes to my food sources.  We grow our own and rely on the seasons to determine when to start what.  Yes, we are lucky to have a Godzilla-size greenhouse, but we do not keep it heated throughout.  We usually let the weather (the sun mainly, but even on a cloudy day it can get over 70° in there easy) manage most of it.  We keep a single electric heater on the west side for the herbs and ever-bearing strawberries.  The heater only maintains those two rows.  There are four other rows for seasonal things.

greenhouse-interior-before-plants (This was before we filled it. You can see the very first plot on the far right side – that is our “east” side of the greenhouse.  The ladder in the center is 6′ tall, the edges (where the plot and the dog are) are 3′ underground.  From the outside it looks like you could easily reach the top – not – it’s about 20′ up.)

 

We are looking at cabbages, spinach, carrots, broccoli and other “cold weather” crops this time of year.  But if that greenhouse gets over 70° for more than half a day, we could lose those in a heartbeat.  We have a swamp cooler that covers the whole north end for the hot summer days, but it is in storage right now.

We also hope to build a “starter area” in the southeast corner this summer.  Right now, all the starts are done in the house and the porch.  It is enclosed and attached to the house, but no heat vent to it – just small space heater to keep it over 50°, and a HUGE south facing window that warms it up to over 80° when the sun is out.  These wild changes in weather have us worried about what may happen in the greenhouse starter area?

I have a lot of family in the upper Midwest area (MI, WI, OH) and I watch what their weather is doing also.  They started out with a mild winter then –BAM­ – getting nailed with tons of snow and freezing storms.  Their storms have been so bad that they have gone without power for short periods of time.  One other reason to fear to start seeds now.  If we cannot keep the heat consistently above a certain temp, they won’t germinate and grow.

The other great thing about Colorado and weather is that when the sun shines here, even as low as 20 degrees, it will make it warm enough to melt the ice.  Place that sun in a huge window or greenhouse, and you have instant warmth.  As I said earlier, even on a cloudy day, we can be warm.  It is the fluctuations that are freaking me out.  The abby-normal warm temperatures are no help either.

miser-brothers

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12 thoughts on “Are You As Concerned As I Am?

  1. How do you power your heaters? Solar/wind, oil, etc?

    Having seen what my tiny greenhouse did a couple of years ago (30C in early feb!) kinda made me wary about starting delicate plants in there as there was no window.

    BTW… Why do you not have a window to help regulate the temps?

    Overnight here we are supposed to drop up to 10 degrees C overnight… That then makes us a lot colder than is seasonal. We should be having 0C tomorrow.

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    • Not hard to manage, was hard to construct. Once the outer structure was all done, its a matter of deciding what to plant when – easy. It has 2 huge windows with huge fans in them on the south end, the north end is all swamp cooler system. there are small circulation fans on the inside to help keep a level air flow and temp – most of the time. We have propane gas heaters, but never used them yet – no need. We use extra row coverings. Maybe I will do my next blog on all of our secrets to working a greenhouse? I have tons to share.

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    • Hi Kal – sorry didn’t get back to you sooner, side-tracked again-grr! Propane is no more expensive than electric here – so cost it’s a toss up. But, after we installed it, we realized that gas is just not our way to go for the greenhouse. It is vented outside, but it still leaves a film on the ceiling of the greenhouse. Right now we have only used them a couple of times so the film is minimal. But now we do not want to use them again incase it could be worse. So we are flipping to electric (also looking at alternative energies to work in there.
      The heat is not as much of a worry as the cooling in summer. Since the structure naturally holds/absorbs the suns warmth, in summer it gets pretty intense. When the temps get up there enough to also warm the air, then even the fans wont cool it down. so if you are thinking of going this way – concentrate more on the cooling than heating ways to manage it. Hope this helps!?

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      • Over here Propane is not cheap at all.
        (£22 for a 6kg bottle)

        We don’t have those heavy sunny days, so just opening a vent will cure most of the issues.
        Winter heating could be an issue though.

        Have you considered using your greenhouse to hear water for your house?
        (I mean a solar water heater… )

        The kind of greenhouse I would get would be about a 6ft x 8ft building. I can’t see the point in anything bigger than that.
        The problem is that where we are now we can’t get a 6×6 anywhere!

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    • Yes, solar water heating is one idea. We also found a ton of do-it-yourself solar heaters through Pinterest (the one with tin cans is way fun!). Have you tried looking into something like this; http://www.hoophouse.com/ …they have bunches of ideas, kits, and help. It was one we looked at before moving out here AND they are still in business which is a good sign! Anything that can last on the net must be doing something right – LOL! Also – in regard to heating, we dug ours 3-feet underground so it was already partially insulated by doing that. Then the base sidewalls are triple insulated – structured foam – cement – more foam. The foams are actually molded bases used on houses over here now. You pour the cement into the middle with rebar sticking out of it and viola! Instant triple insulated basement walls – in our case, greenhouse foundation walls.
      If you don’t dig down, do you have (or can you have) access to straw bales? A ton of people are using them to build whole houses. They are created so tight, that they cannot burn – no air. Then they just cover with cement and add wood where they need a stronger support. Lots of alternatives to heating, unfortunately only so many for cooling.

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      • Over here the biggest issue is heating.

        I’ve seen that modular greenhouse before… Or something just like it anyway.

        I have also seen the idea of the straw houses. I think it was in Australia that it was done… But I can’t see it being any different.
        The used bales trapped between sheet wood or something. Not sure it would work here… Too wet.
        It’s also the reason we don’t have the wooden houses you guys over there often have.
        What about using an air conditioning unit that uses a modern equivalent of freon?

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      • The plants do best with a cool “wet” environment. The A/C can dry them out (I get headaches from it). The next best thing that we have started doing is “shade cloth”. comes in all styles, shades, shapes and can fit over whole rows. the plants still grow nicely, just don’t seem to get so hot/burned out (ha ha). So far the best is the swamp cooler. It recycles the water so it uses less, keeps it about 70-75 degrees in there even on the hottest day. We plant cool weather crops – carrots, cabbages, etc. up closer to the cooler and they do great in summer. The only fear we have is power outages (more so in summer than winter here), but we also have a back up gas generator – just for the greenhouse. We have a back up drop cord set up to keep the swamp and big fans running. So far, so good!?! Living and learning more about it all every year.

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  2. I’m always thinking I’d like to have a greenhouse (actually a big glass conservatory so I can grow tropicals all year…) but it looks like something the size of yours is hard to manage. Yes, the temp fluctuations are a PITA to deal with but I’m looking forward to the warm weekend here, especially after I spent a vacation week in Arizona bundled in my winter coat and knit beanie the whole time. We can dress for pretty much anything but our plants/crops need more help.

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