Greenhouse Design

Kim and I have a beer at Sundog on Memorial Day 2011

The Ranch is subject to frosts nearly every day of the year.  It has even snowed in every month of the year except August at one time or another, and the only reason August is not included in the snow fall is because it is too dry to snow!  Even in a good year, the growing season is very short (June to September).

Both Kim and I love to garden, but between the weather and the critters, we were worried that we would not have much hope of harvesting anything without the help of a greenhouse.  Now that we have discovered Permaculture techniques, our optimism has increased.  However, we still plan to have at least one greenhouse to provide us a winter harvest.

Whenever you are designing a greenhouse, you need to keep some key things in mind.  Altitude, rainfall and water sources, potential for solar energy generation and wind speed and direction.  Here are our stats:

Altitude: 5600 feet
Average Rainfall: 12.5 inches (mostly in the form of snow)
Water Source: well, seasonal river, small pond, recycled grey water 
Solar Energy Generation: 6 kWhr/m2/day on average
             ranging from 3.41 kWhr/m2/day (December) to 7.19kWhr/m2/day (July)
Lowest Altitude of Winter Sun:  24 degrees (so solar panel would tilt 66 degrees in Winter)
Highest Altitude of Summer Sun:  69 degrees (so solar panel would tilt 21 degrees in Summer)
Wind Direction: Generally from the West
Wind Speed:  Generally a steady breeze in the afternoon, sometimes high wind gusts.  May be useful in pumping water or generating electricity.
At this point, I have two styles in mind.  The first is likely to be a 

RESEARCH:  My favorite book on this subject is Greenhouse Gardener's Companion by Shane Smith.  Shane not only provides a wonderfully detailed description of all the components of a greenhouse (from walls, to planting boxes, to lights and heating options), but also includes a long list of flowers and plants that grow well in a greenhouse environment.  It does not go into a lot of detail about building designs, but all the components are there.  I have many books on this topic, and this is by far the best.

My next favorite is  How to Build Your Own Greenhouse by Roger Marshall.  This book focuses primarily on building styles and plans.  It does not have an earth-sheltered green house (like I will build in PROJECT 2), but it does have a lot of good information.

PROJECT 1:  I have two sites in mind for greenhouses.  The first project will be a small lean-to greenhouse near the guest room.  This will be our kitchen garden and will include herbs and greens, and perhaps a tomato or two.  It will eventually be connected to the house through a doorway into the guest room, and will likely need to be heated (and maybe lighted) in the winter due to the trees that block the sun in winter.

PROJECT 2:  The second greenhouse will be larger and will probably be located on the north-eastern most portion of the property.  The north end of the property has a small rise that faces south and the NE section gets the most sun in the winter.  The north facing half of the structure will be half buried in earth to help regulate the temperature of the greenhouse.  There is a spring nearby as well that might be encouraged to provide water. Rain water will also be collected.  The structure will also include a small livestock area.