Winter growing for vegetables to sell

Seedlady_OH(Z5/6)April 8, 2005

My hubby has this idea of growing vegetables in the winter to sell. We have a 20x50 greenhouse he is wanting to make beds in to grow the vegetables. What I need to know is has anyone tried this and how do you get things like beans, corn, tomato, cucumbers, peppers and squash to pollinate to set fruit? Any help will be greatly appreciated!!! I already grow plants to sell in spring in another greenhouse I have to sell in spring but he is wanting to expand a bit. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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huisjen(z5 ME)

You should get Eliot Coleman's book "Four Season Harvest." The short answer is that winter gardening in a greenhouse is definitely possible, but unless you provide LOTS of supplemental light and heat those crops that you mention won't do well. YOu'd never make any money at it because of the electricity and fuel bills. However, there _are_ vegetables that will do well under low-light, coolish conditions: lettuce, spinach, radishes, etc. Get the book.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 8:32AM
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You could probably also grow greens like Swiss Chard, Arugula, Broccoli Raab, Mustard, Turnip; cool-weather root crops like beets; some of the brassicas. I'd concentrate more on veggies that don't need pollination or extra heat - at least to start with.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 8:10PM
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Thanks for replying!! I forgot to mention heat is not a problem. We heat with wood and coal and we get it for free minus a bit of sweat! LOL!! Light was a thought I have been working on and think we have that figured out also. For my seedlings I start for my annuals and veggies for spring sale I use 4 foot florescent (sp) lights close to the seedlings til the days get longer. I am just a small community grower. So far that has worked wonderful and I have been doing that for over 5 years now. Once the days get longer I take the lights away and let nature handle the rest. Pollination was my greatest concern for doing the vegetable growing. I came to a standstill in my thought process when pollination came up. Thanks for all the great ideas!!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 9:46PM
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huisjen(z5 ME)

Seriously, on the heat: you will use more fuel heating your greenhouse to a reasonable termperature then you do heating your house. Do you really want to more-than-double the amount of wood you work? Think of the chiropractic bills alone!

And if you use 24 (40 Watt) flourescent tubes (six large fixtures) that will cost you 15 cents (our electricity rates, substitute yours here) for every hour that you have them on if you have the efficient fixtures that share ballasts (not the homeowner's special)...

Don't forget the cost of the fixtures themselves. You'll need to get ones rated for damp locations, which are more expensive.

I'm not saying that this won't be a fun project, and it will be great if you can grow vegetables for yourselves over the winter, but you'll never make any money growing the type of vegetables you were describing under light and heat in the winter.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2005 at 8:38AM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

We do winter growing and selling.

For the selling part a great deal of what we sell we grow the season before. Storage items such as winter squashes, yellow and red storage onions, garlic, carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes make up a great deal of our winter invantory. we also dry herbs and garlic and sell that through the winter.

Things like tomatoes and peppers we grow in unheated hoophouses until mid to late December when there is not enough light for them to set flower and most years too cold for them as well. we also do zukes, canteloupes and cukes til early winter this way. Everything is hand pollinated

Winter greens such as kale, bussle sprouts are started in October in hoophouses. Lettuces and spinach for winter will be seeded in Oct as well as November. generally we do not havest the greens other brussle spouts and kale in jan and the first half of Feb because the lack of light and cold means slow to dormant growth.

We grow in SW/WC Ohio in a unheated hoophouse with no artificial light

    Bookmark   April 10, 2005 at 10:55AM
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DOn't forget that for things to flower and fruit under artificial light, you can't use the plain jane fluorescent shop lights that work great for leafy seedlings. Gotta be at least the full-spectrum fluorescents, and LOTS of them, or the high intensity lights that the pro greenhouses (and pot growers) use.

I second the suggestion for Eliot Coleman's book. His attitude is to grow what *likes* to grow in the conditions he can provide without using extra heat and light inputs.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2005 at 11:19PM
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Just a thought. I was reading somewhere about a grower who didn't use florescent tubes but used a high power light similar to one of those sodium halide lights (not sure if that was the light since they usually have that odd pinky-orange glow, if my thinking is correct). Maybe something like a shoplight?? I thought I had read this in the New Organic Grower but I cant find the reference right now so maybe it was on the New Farm website or in Growing For Market.

As far as pollination goes, you will have to do it by hand. I did read about an experiment where a beehive was put at one end of a greenhouse so that the bees would have to go through the greenhouse to get outside and they would pollinate the plants along the way. This won't work in deep winter when they are hibernating, though.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 8:25AM
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I agree with the consensus that the crops you seek to grow are going to be difficult to grow through the winter, almost impossible for corn. But don't give up on season extension. I planted my tomatoes in mid March for a June crop and cucumbers are great in early spring- but get the all-female types like Corona(Holland type) or Sweet Success (cheaper GH type).

There is a lot of discussion about pollination. Most certainly honeybees are a poor choice for cool weather but you could buy boxed bumblebees or do it yourself either with a fan, vibrator or I just mist all first blossom clusters with "Blossom Set", a fruit set aerosol available at many garden centers. Those first fruits are usually bigger with many fewer seeds.

I would forget GH peppers and eggplant altogether because they will grow nice plants but set fruit about the same time as outside plants. Forget corn altogether. But don't limit yourself to veggies. Strawberries, raspberries and other fruits will bear fruit much earlier and you mentioned something about MONEY... early fruits will bring big bucks.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 2:53PM
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huisjen(z5 ME)

I'll second the comment about strawberries. Around here, if you have strawberries in the first week of June (which we do, in an unheated hoophouse) you can charge anything you like for them.

If you treat them as annuals you can get a second crop out of the same space.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 5:59PM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

From experience strawberries do not grow in a hoophouse in winter. the latest we have gotten them to set fruit is early december and than we had bed problems with grey mold so the berries were inedible fr the most part and not sellable. Also the taste was not good, bland to almost noexistant

But for the spring they do great. I will be getting my forst ripe berries in a few days and they will be going full tilt by May 1st.

These are day neutral BTW so they will contuinue to produce until it gets too cold and dark.

I get $4 to $5 a pint for early berries

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 11:22AM
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A friend of mine grows tomatoes year round in his greenhouses without any extra lighting and they do fine. He pollinates by hand three times a week. I understand that it is also very profitable.
Of coarse, we are a little further south than most and this may make a difference - I dont know.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 6:45PM
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