Greenhouse question

Fundybayfarm(z5westernN.S.)December 14, 2005

I have a question regarding a greenhouse that hopefully, will be going up late winter, or very early spring. It may even get started if we have a thaw in-between snow fall. (I'm hoping) I was given a large, 21x50 GH that was steel with fiberglass sides and top. This was an expensive GH at the time even, (20 yrs. old) and had a motor that opened some of the top panels. Dismanteling had my husband wishing he had never started this project. Anyway, this thing is NOT going to go up as it was, but at least we have all the pieces. I was thinking along the line of putting up a steel structure and covering it with plastic. I'd love to make it double walled, but there is no hoop design to this, it was rectangular. I wanted the area plowed in the summer, and then tilled a couple of times before winter, but that didn't happen (it was hard enough getting my cut rows tilled in) so I guess when the time comes, I'll just have to cover the planting areas with something to kill the weeds. No round-up! If any of you have a suggestion regarding this project, besides buying a hoop house, ha, please feel free to speak up. Thanks,


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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

Are you planning to plant in the ground inside the greenhouse? Is it in a place you've been cultivating, so it doesn't have a thriving weed population? If it does, covering every inch of soil that doesn't have a desired plant in it with weed-control fabric will help, but you'll still have to weed the plant holes. Direct-seeding anything might not work for the first year or two, until the weeds stop coming up. If you aren't planning to plant in the ground, covering the whole floor with weed-control fabric would work well. I use heavy-duty black plastic to cover the ground in my little hoophouse, but it gets too hot from the sun unless I cover it with wood shavings. That would be an awful lot of shavings for a greenhouse that size, and they should be cleaned out annually (at least) for disease prevention. If you plan to plant directly into the soil in a formerly-weeds area and won't use Roundup (I don't, either), I know by experience that you have a heckuva fight on your hands. You could try solarizing, but I don't know if the sun would be intense enough inside a greenhouse. Has anybody tried it?

Have you looked into Twin-Wall for covering? That's what I intend to use if I ever get a rigid-walled hobby greenhouse.

Once you get the greenhouse built, the soil will warm up and be tillable. You can't get a farm tractor into a greenhouse that size, but you could rent a walk-behind tiller that you can take into it. Rent the biggest one you can handle, so you can get reasonably deep with it. You might want to till once, wait until the weeds start to sprout, then till again before planting in it. The time and work you would have to spend on weeding otherwise will make it worthwhile. If you have quackgrass like I do, tilling 5 times is even better!


    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 4:33PM
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Without an actual picture, it's a little hard; but, I gather your greenhouse has a pitched roof. You didn't mention why you don't want to reconstruct to the original specs. The biggest drawback to pulling greenhouse film over the roof is the possibility of creating pockets where snow can accumulate. Our first greenhouse was an Agritech. The style of this house had three purlins running the length at the top of the hoops. Snow would gather in the pockets created by the purlins. During a particularly heavy snow one January day, the greenhouse collapsed in the middle. We were home at the time. We had checked on it two hours before the "accident." We were, however, (with the help of visiting relatives), able to brace the house up one set of hoops at a time -- and patch the big gaping hole. We do learn from our experiences; however, this is one exercise one doesn't want to partake in January.

We haven't found a month where pulling greenhouse plastic film to be any fun. It's stiff in the winter months. The slightest breeze in the spring will move it just when you think everything is going fine. And, this with eight able bodies holding the film in place while two more are tacking it in place as fast as they can. And, who has time during the summer or fall??

These greenhouses/coldframes require ventilization. We have wide doors installed on each end of our coldframes. They are also situated with the prevailing winds. Roll up sidewalls also help when the temperatures soar.

With wide doors on each end of the house, our Ford 8N tractor would fit. However, we use the walk behind tiller in the coldframes. It isn't a large machine. Everyone on the farm can manage it well. Let's just say: We all get a workout!!

Solarizing also works really well. During the extremely hot periods of summer, and the greenhouse isn't in production; and, if the house is closed up, the weed seeds will be gone (with the exception of Tansy). I do recommend, however, using the black landscape fabric as soon the frame is up. This really helps. You should be able to get weeds under control within one season. I don't actually mind weeding in the hoophouses -- especially when it is so windy in the field. Last season it seemed to be windy forever.

We don't recommend the use of Round Up in any greenhouse. While the chemical may kill off the weeds, it also sticks to any nonporous surface -- the metal posts, greenhouse film. And, it will kill any plant material that may come in contact with it weeks after the initial spraying.

Kansas State University has a very informative website on hightunnels. If you want the link, let me know.


    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 6:15PM
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All very good advise. Trish, I think the web site you mentioned would be useful to me. I do plan on planting in it, I think somethings like larkspur and even dahlias would be an advantage in there, and I look forward to being able to have a better place than my sun porch to start all my plug trays.
The reason the design is going to have to change a bit is that the GH didn't come down easily. It had been up for 20 years in a very windy area of this province, and wasn't meant to come back down. Some of the fiberglass planels broke, and since the main poles of this were cemented into the ground, they had to be sawed off, so it's a little shorter than it was. That can be altered, and we need to decide on the best design for snow, which I'm sure is a rounded roof. We can get the same storms as Michigan, and then some. We get the ones that come across from the west, combined with the ones that come up the eastern seaboard, and make quite a mess. I would love a double walled GH because a freind of mine put one up last year and had good luck starting lots of plants early, with no heat. He is also on a hill like I am, with lots of wind. The area I plan on putting this is sheltered a bit from the north wind, and we would be situated where the westerly winds blow through it in the summer. We seem to have those a lot! I have a lot of research to do on this.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 7:26AM
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You can bet I understand that weather. We also get some of our weather patterns from the west. They pick up a massive amount of moisture travelling across Lake Michigan and don't stop until they hit our farm where they dump tons of it in the form of snow. And, of course, we are subjected to those huge air masses from Canada!! We like to think all the snow cover is good for the field. Sometimes we really have to remind ourselves of this.

Anyway, below is the link to the website. You can look at archived information on hightunnels; and, you can also sign up to have discussions emailed directly to you.

I am just curious. How high are your sidewalls on the greenhouse going to be? Many hightunnels/coldframes are 24-36" at the sidewall. We had ours extended to 48" for headroom and for more space for plants growing taller than 36." The extra height isn't always a good thing in high winds. These structures are like massive kites. We have to always be on the watch for wind, and we're constantly running out to close up the coldframes at all hours of the day and night. These things are like children that need babysat all the time. We absolutely love growing in hoophouses though.

Here is a link that might be useful: Information on Greenhouses/Hightunnels Including Links

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 9:23AM
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Trish, the sidewall height is something we haven't decided on yet. I was wrong about the top part, as I was thinking it was a more squared off gothic style, but my husband said it is more rounded. This thing was huge, very high, but of course since we've cut the poles off at ground level, it wouldn't be as high. Our friend who put one up last year, used wood about 24, maybe even 36" up, and then the plastic comes just to that point, rather than to the ground. I need to go see their's again, as I didn't really study it last year when I was over there. Thanks for the site, I'll let you know more information when we start getting the details worked out. I appreciate your input.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 8:39AM
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