Maintaining a Greenhouse in the middle of winter

citrusweekendwarriorDecember 24, 2013

Hey guys,

This may not be the best forum to ask about greenhouses. Yet, I still feel this crowd would have more experience in winterizing their greenhouses.

I saw a pic that orangelime1 posted in "2013 taste test winners"
It was a pic of his(?, sorry it's an ambiguous name) greenhouse covered in snow and inside he had a bunch of happy citrus trees.

I guess my question is, how does one manage the temperature to provide a living environment for citrus trees.
I saw the bubble wrap, and I know about using black milk jugs with water. But there has to be some sort of main heat source that's safe and reliable.

Keep in mind that where I live, temperatures and fall to -5 F (-20 C) but is often around 15-20's F

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Steve, Z (6Bground,5B roof) Cincy,OH

I am using glass and it will be triple glazed. I have collected about 1500 square feet of glass and used treated timber for the walls and frame. This goes up against the south side of my house. I get some heat through my R-35 walls. The outer wall of glass is silicone air thigh. The center and inner sheets breath. the air condenses to the outer sheet hols that 32-F or warmer. Once that freezes then the middle sheet condense, and finally the inner sheet condenses. I have never seen frost on the inner layer.

What you need is a bucket of hot water to vapor into the air and it protect by condensing on the glass. The more hot water the more protection.

My prototype work very well.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 6:21PM
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I will always respect your experience and advice. Mostly, thank you for trying to help find a solution.
Currently in my situation, my backyard is on the north side of the house and any greenhouse I may get will be detached from the house. I also need a solution that won't keep my up at night. Meaning the plants will be able to stay in there (happily
) with out too much intervention from me (aside from watering)

Anyone that has a working solution please, enlighten me.
orangelime1, I hope you see this and could give me a few pointers.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 8:49PM
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I also use a greenhouse up here at the north pole..Not sure if you saw it...If so, if you would like my help I would be willing to..

Did you see mine?


    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 10:12PM
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Steve, Z (6Bground,5B roof) Cincy,OH

Any one using a green house to winter over plants should have an insulated white or mirrored wall for the north wall. No light passes through the north wall from September 1 through April 15th and through out most of the day a solid wall reflects light and heat back on to the plants. They need every extra ray of light possible. I used 5 gallon buckets filled with hot water for the evaporative condensate frost protection system. One bucket for every 5 F below freezing. It takes you through the whole night. My setup is exactly what will work for you. You just don't have a house with a R 35 wall. At R 35 the wall is useless as a heat source. Your job is to figure out how to make it pleasing to look at if that is important to you or your neighbors.

Most people use plastic and PVC to build theirs. I have good connections and can get glass and treated timbers for free.


    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 10:19AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

I have a hoop house. 10'x12' single layer of plastic. Wood sided end walls and 1/2 foam insulation the length of the side 2' up. I have a natural gas heater and an exhaust fan on a thermostat. It never gets below 60 and rarely above 85. It was 12F yesterday morning.


    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 10:29AM
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I was actually looking at your pics, thinking it was orangelime1.
So, I see you use heavy plastic over the greenhouse, and bubble wrap on the inside. Please let me know how you keep citrus alive in the north pole ;-) I'm all ears.

Very interesting.
I hope this isn't stupid question... But, your hoop house has a gas line and electrical ran to it? Was this something you designed, built and pieced together?

mksmth and meyermike_1micha,
If you don't mind me asking. Could you give me a ball park figure of how it cost to setup and annual cost to keep running?

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Citrusweekendwarrior I am really glad that you have found an interest in this hobby, it is a lot of fun and rewarding. My neighbors are always in awe when they see fruit which they think can only grow in the tropics grow right in my backyard.My concern for you is that your backyard faces north . Do you receive any sun in your backyard summer and winter. If you have no sunshine in the winter your heating bills will cost you lots if it is a detached greenhouse. My greenhouse faces the best direction southwest which really helps with the cost of running it. The heater is on at night and in the day if it is sunny the heater will shut off once the temperature hits 52 degrees which really helps with the cost.But being an electric heater I use if there is a power failure when I'm not home an there is no sun I will probably loose everything.8 years and nothing has happened yet knocking on wood loudly.Bubble wrap helps tremendously , it gives it a bit of insulation which you will need when the temperatures get to minus 5. Bubble wrap also helps protect the leaves from freezing on the sides and top of your greenhouse.A fan I find also helps with circulating the warm air from the top of your greenhouse to the bottom and air circulation is also good for the plants. You will also have to water , I use a portable hose I can wind up best thing ever. I hook the hose to the kitchen faucet with a adapter which are not expensive and run the hose out the patio door to the greenhouse.I water every second Sunday so it's not a lot of work.You will probably need a blow torch to melt the ice that sometimes forms around the door, not all the time just when it's really cold .It really is a fun hobby and there is nothing like picking an orange off your own tree in the middle of the winter not to mention the smell of the air when you are in there pure tropical bliss!! My only concern is you don't get enough sunshine, sunshine saves on your heating bills and will give you nice healthy plants.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 4:48PM
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Thanks for the response. It sounds like you a nice setup. How many winters have you kept citrus in the greenhouse?
My backyard is rather long, and where I would place a greenhouse (right next to my garden and currently where I put my citrus in the summer) would be full sun.
I guess what I'm most curios about is how it's heated... the finer details. For me, the thought of running an extension cord an out to a glass shack that's going hold my trees (one that is over years old), is sort of terrifying.
Now, a natural gas heater would be a little more ideal.
I pretty set on getting a green house. What I think I might do is set it up in spring, and when winter comes. Just record the temps I get. Worse case scenario I use it to get a couple of extra months of the growing session and to start my seeds.
orangelime1, I would love to see more pics of your greenhouse.
Can anyone else give me any details of their setup?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 11:25AM
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Steve, Z (6Bground,5B roof) Cincy,OH

The north wall should be the longest wall and be insulated. It can lean south up to 30 degrees to the south and a lean to glassed front to it. It is the easiest and most efficient to set up and maintain / heat. Just make sure the area at this time is getting full sun IE longest shadows from trees and house. I run an organic farm setup and design an built this type of greenhouse/ If it isn't efficient he is OUT OF BUSINESS.



    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 5:07PM
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Hi citrusweekendwarrior . That's great you will be able to place your greenhouse in a sunny location . This will really help with your heating costs and not to say the health of your plants. My heater is 1500 watt electric heater.It has a thermostat which is set at 52 degrees, so when the sun comes out and the temperature reaches 52 the heater will automatically shut off and when the sun goes down the heater will come back on. Speaking of sun I think we have had 1 day of sun since November first, worst year I can ever remember!! The heater is plugged into a short heavy duty extension cord which we payed a lot for.Watering is also very important how are you going to water ? Here is a picture of my watering hose with the small adapter beside the hose. I water from the kitchen sink out the patio door to the greenhouse. So if you use electric it shouldn't cost you a fortune because of your sunny location.Also is the area you live in prone to power failures?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 9:27PM
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Oh and here is a picture I took last year inside the greenhouse. This year has been to dark in there to take a picture no sun !!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 9:52PM
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