greenhousing in NE ohio's cloudy winters...

hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)August 24, 2005

I spend a lot of time over on the Greenhouse forum. I'm still in the dream/design phase, alternating between 12 X 16 or vs. polycarbonate. However, many on that forum are from Western or Southern states so they just don't understand one thing:


Maybe some one here can be more sympathetic!

I live in Akron, OH and while we don't get the heavy lake-effect snows that the counties further east and north do, we do get the cloudiness. Two weeks can go by without a lick of sunshine in winter.

I plan to grow citrus in my greenhouse. Citrus ripens in winter and needs sunshine for sweet fruit. Glass allows 90% light transmission, with no diffusion and costs an arm and a leg for double-paned insulated (which with an R value of 2 is the only way to go)!

Polycarbonate allows 75% light transmission, (with 10mm twinwall) and insulates as well as glass (R value 1.9-close enough). It also diffuses light which on a sunny summer day is great.

What I worry about is winter. With the exception of the few sunny winter days we get, we're lucky to register 400 foot-candles of light midday in January. Which with even a glass greenouse will be diminished to 370 or so and polycarb even less.

I'm convinced that either way, I'll NEED HID lights if I ever want to actually pick more than a single orange off my trees!!! I have looked at daylight intesity charts and Cleveland in May has the same light levels as Miami in DECEMBER! Which means that Seattle is about the only cloudier place in the nation in winter than here!

Anyone have experience here??

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Citrus will ripen fruit during ohio's winters without any additional lighting.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 1:00PM
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Hi I live in Akron Ohio also and understand about the gray days...I am gardener too...I don't have a greenhouse but I wish I did...I have a friend who might be able to answer your me at

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 1:12PM
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Have you checked into the cost of growing tropicals in midwinter? Please do before considering if you really want to grow citrus in Ohio. I run five greenhouses and used to keep at least two or three of them running and never shut them down. As fuel has edged up, I began cutting back winter growing more and more, and buying in plugs and pre-finished products. Aside from Easter lilies, the temps have been lower and lower every years as well. The higher you set your stats, the more fuel it takes for each degree temperature rise.

I love my one polycarb house. It was designed and specially made and is a lean-to and we use it as a solarium. I keep it at 55 degrees and having one side of it against a heat sink (my brick/stucco house) has really helped to conserve fuel. It winters over my tropicals.......but that is the limit I am prepared to spend on fueling it. Our gas company says that fuel prices are going to go up again double digit this winter.

I hope you realise your dream, but please be realistic about what it's going to cost you to do it and go into it with your eyes open. My montly fuel bill in January for my smallest g'house alone last year 20x50 ran nearly four figures.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 4:32PM
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That was going to be my take on it too - that the limiting factor for ripening citrus would be keeping temps warm enough in winter plus the associated costs.

Depending on what you want to grow, you might be better off with indoor trees in the house and supplemental HID lighting. It is certainly possible to harvest some types of citrus fruit this way (Ponderosa lemon and calamondin orange come immediately to mind, and with enough light and humidity indoors to supplement summer outdoor growing, other types of citrus should be possibilities as well.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 5:40PM
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I didn't have a greenhouse in central Michigan, but I did grow a ponderosa lemon and a calamondin orange in front of a s/w facing patio door slider....and they ripened....

    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 9:31PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Calliope, I have looked at the cost. My GH will be one-third the size of yours and about the same temp (actually 68 day 45 night is what I'm shooting for) so I'll probably be looking at a more reasonable cost.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 3:02PM
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A lot of the cost is 1) what you are growing in it 2) how well it is constructed, and of what 2) the fuel type and your fuel costs 3) the proper sized heating system and distributon 4) the orientation of the house and microclimates.

Actually, although it sounds hokey, the larger the g'house, the cheaper it can be it heat it per square foot of bench space. I think the most crucial factor in the total expense of heating a g'house is the needed temperature rise. I have long since (unless absolutley necessary to push a crop) stopped running my winter houses at the higher temps. This is referred to as the degree or temp rise . That's the temperature your heating unit has to strive for over the outside ambient. It's not a straight line, for every degree over 55 you demand out of your furnace, the amount of fuel it must burn for each degree temp rise increases. IT costs me a lot, lot more to run a small easter lily house at 72 for instance than a large bedding plant house at 55. I have my polycarb house with heat sink flooring and it gets a decent amount of solar gain, but once the sun it down........if a heater fails one can be in real trouble in about three hours. That's how quickly a house looses the stored heat.

I'm not trying at all to discourage you. I think it's great and you'll love having a g'house. But, get ahold of a sales engineer at a greenhouse production or distributing company (somebody like Crop King who sells to the public as well as to the trade) and talk to them about your heating questions. They have all the formulae to hit it pretty much on the nose about costs. You won't regret it.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 8:25PM
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