Winter Greenhouse Experiment

Discussion in 'General Preparedness Discussion' started by Kimba, Mar 11, 2011.

  1. Kimba

    Kimba Member

    When we bought our place 5 years ago, the first thing we did was to jack up the house and put a full basement under it (1200 sq. ft.). Then we added a 10'x28' concrete block room at the basement level and topped it with 12" of concrete. That is now our "safe room" (we're in tornado country). On top of the safe room, we built a 10'x28' greenhouse which opens to our living room and the master bedroom. There are also two large windows between the greenhouse and the living room. On sunny days we get quite a bit of solar gain from the greenhouse through the two large windows. Which is a good thing, because while we were doing all of this construction, we added a radiant floor heating system. The hitch was that we never got it finished because we were doing a lot of other remodeling and had to add in the heat tubing as we went. So, for the last four years the greenhouse (and most of the house!!!) was not heated. Because we get winter temps of -40F, we haven't been able to use the greenhouse much. Until this year, when hubby got the basement and first floor heat online.

    So, we experimented to see what we could grow in our cold Midwest winters.
    We already had two lemon trees, two key lime trees, and two peach trees and have been harvesting fruit from them for several years. They have been overwintering in my living room until this year. Happy to send them out to the greenhouse!

    I planted one Earth Box planter with cucumbers and melons, and we have just started harvesting the cucumbers. Looks like we will have plenty of cukes for our table use from two plants- a third one died yesterday, not sure why, but hopefully we won't lose any more. The two melon vines are growing and have flowers blooming, but have not set fruit yet.

    Earth Box planter #2 has salad greens and broccoli raab in it. I should have used an entire planter for salad greens and staggered the plantings because we are eating them faster than they are growing. Still, we're saving a small fortune on salad greens from the grocery store. The broccoli raab is reaching for the moon, but no flowers yet.

    Earth Box planter #3 has three standard tomato plants in it which are blooming like crazy and have just started setting fruit. In addition to the EB planter, I have two hanging planters with cherry tomatoes and two huge potted cherry tomato plants which I brought in from outside- they were last Spring's plants and are around a year old now and still producing like crazy!! We eat a LOT of cherry tomatoes, like they were candy, and although we have plenty, we could use another couple of plants and it would not be too many for our own use.

    I brought in a small compost bin and planted potatoes in it late last Fall. The plants are thriving and started blooming last week. Presumably we will have some fresh new potatoes before much longer. I brought in several pots of chives from the garden and they have done great, so we'll have plenty of them to go with our potatoes. I also started a few garlic bulbs just to see if they would grow during the winter, and lo and behold, they are! That will be nice when our storage garlic starts to sprout later in the Spring. Oh, and I put in some onions which had already begun sprouting and we have been using those for scallions.

    I have a small four-tiered grow light stand which I used to start some seeds a couple of months ago. I now have marigolds and cosmos which are about to bloom- YAY!!!! And, a LOT of herbs, including sweet basil, lemon basil, lemon balm, peppermint, lemon grass, cat mint, dill, and cilantro. Everything but the cilantro is doing great- not sure why the cilantro isn't but I've been too busy to pay it much attention or try to figure out what the problem is. Other flowers started from seed include maiden pinks, Mexican sunflower, calendula, salvia, and coreopsis. I can't really start any more seeds until next week when I start my veggie seedlings for the garden, or I'll run out of room:(

    The very coolest thing though, is that I finally learned how to propogate plants from root and/or tip cuttings and/or divisions and have started a few hundred plants that way. Some of them I am growing for my Spring plant and honey sale, so I have a lot of several varieties that did well, like, lamium, coleus, geraniums, peppermint, gazania, polka dot plants, aloe vera, and hen and chicks. I didn't start any of these until almost Thanksgiving, and then I wasn't sure if they would root so I was conservative in my efforts. Next year I will start everything much earlier and more of it.

    I had just enough room left over for a few of my own special container plants which I brought in from the yard last Fall, so I was able to have blooming plants and flowers all winter long- that was awesome.

    Our only failures were the dozens of johnny jump ups I potted and brought in from the garden, and a couple of other perennial plants. We had a bad infestation of spider mites early on and they got to those plants before I was able to figure out what was killing them. Haven't seen any in over six weeks, but now we have a problem with aphids. Have to figure out what organic treatment we can use to get rid of them now. They don't seem to be killing anything, but I don't want to take a chance by waiting.

    All in all, a very successful experiment I think. We now feel very confident that we would be able to supplement our food stores during the winter months by keeping a steady supply of fresh greens and veggies coming in from the greenhouse. And, until TSHTF, I will be supplementing my income by producing extra plants to sell.

    Next project for me is to work on seed-saving. And, next Fall, I want to pot up some strawberry runners from the garden to see if they will produce in the greenhouse. Mmmm, imagine fresh strawberries (fresh, FREE, strawberries) when it's -30F outside with 4' of snow on the ground. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that!!!!!

  2. IrritatedWithUS

    IrritatedWithUS Well-Known Member

    I have always wanted a greenhouse in the winter :)
    And I have always wanted a lemon tree!

    Have any pictures? :D

  3. UncleJoe

    UncleJoe Well-Known Member

  4. MrSfstk8d

    MrSfstk8d Well-Known Member

    This sounds awesome. Can't wait till I can get a greenhouse one of these days.
  5. Kimba

    Kimba Member

    No pictures, but I just started Spring break today- I'll try to take some and post them before I go back to school.

    Uncle Joe- thanks so much for the advice- I will definitely try the NEEM oil.