Answers to all the little questions.
I think the first three Saturday blogs answered the
“Why did we do it?” “What did we do it for?” and “Why so big?” questions.
This final bit of our greenhouse process will hopefully answer more questions. Please feel free to write me if you have more after this!
1) Why Plants vs. flowers? This one is easy – FOOD. Everyone will always need food, not always need flowers. We do plant flowers, but only for our admiration or to share with friends.
2) Why inground instead of on tables? In ground is more natural. It also takes less water. Plants can dry out much faster sitting up on a table. The other main reason is temperature. It would take more to heat the underside of the table vs. allowing the sun to warm the ground.
3) Why so big? We wanted to make sure we could produce enough (in the long run) to sell the extras. We love to can and process our homegrowns, and it takes a lot of food to make something like a sauce.
4) Why build it ourselves vs. hiring a company? This one I would re-think if we did this again. I am very glad for the learning experience, but, it was hard, hot work. I had never done something on this scale before (thank goodness our friend did) but I do love learning new things. In hindsight, I would have paid a company to do it and just did some oversight on the hard stuff (to learn how it operates). Also, because it took much longer than we originally anticipated, funds became scarce. This is the main reason why we only have plots on the north end for now. However, I and my motto (everything happens for a reason) also think we may have other ideas for the south end (a special seed start area and maybe an aquaculture spot?).
5) How do we keep it hot? The sun does most of it for us. We do have natural gas heaters installed, but have never used them yet. Thinking we may switch to electric, easier in the “alternative energy” long run.
6) How do we keep it cool? This is harder than the heating part! Since we are in Colorado and we are closer to the sun, it is quite warm here during the summer/fall months. We try to plant close to the seasons, but we also like things like spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets all year long. During the summer months, those plants are closest to the swamp cooler (remember it is the width of the greenhouse – HUGE!), and we have started using shade cloth and warm weather crops trellised to provide more shade areas. This helps to keep our cool weather crops cooler. We tried to grow spinach and lettuce outside in the shady areas, didn’t work very well.
7) How do we water? We have our own well, plus we have rain barrels to collect any snow melt and rain that we can. We have several tanks that we can transfer from one to another in, and if you noticed last week’s blog, there are several blue barrels that hold extra water inside the greenhouse.
8) How do we feed the plants? As natural as possible. We have animals for manure, several wood chip piles that are continually composting down (part of this is through an agreement with our local tree trimmers), egg shells, coffee grounds, end of season plants (except tomatoes) are all mixed into our composting piles (yes, more than one).
9) Do we use pesticides or garden naturally – how? NO PESTICIDES! We pull weeds by hand or dip in a vinegar, salt, and dish soap solution. We use companion planting in EVERYTHING! We have just started introducing the Weedless Gardening Methods to our exterior plots with great success. We have free-range chickens and guineas to help keep down the pests (guineas are great for the grasshopper, snake, and rodent control). The bummer to the birds is chickens scratch up everything. We have to build good wire borders around the exterior plots, at least for the first couple of months. Once the plants are established, the birds are pretty good about just going after the bugs.
We also leave part of our gardening areas weedy – this has been very beneficial! We have left/created a natural attraction for the bugs, good and bad. We found tons of Praying Mantis, Ladybugs, and Lacewings all over the natural area in the last years. This then led them to our plots and protecting our food area as well.
It’s funny when you think about it; this trick was an accident! Things got very overgrown after the fire and because of my surgeries. It was all we could do to keep up with our food areas, so some outer areas were left to nature. When we finally did get around to work on them, we could not believe how many good bugs were hanging out there!
Well, I hope this helps anyone that is thinking about creating their own greenhouse. I will gladly share more with anyone that asks and give you any helpful hints that we have learned along our journey. You do not have to go as big as we did. There are now tons of online places to purchase some fantastic kits to help start you on your way. My last bit of advice to you – HAVE FUN WITH IT! We have been having a fantastic time learning all the unique attributes in all our garden areas. We still are learning (hope that never stops!), and would love to hear what natural ideas you use!
(Note: Neither garden looks like this for a couple of months yet)