Greenhouse questions

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500lbs Guerilla

500lbs Guerilla

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I'm planning on building a greenhouse or two for next season. I've heard that the smaller greenhouses (ie: 8x8x20) have issues with unequal distribution of heat and light, causing lots of growth variation. Does anybody know how much truth there is to that?
I would be fine with two 8x8x20 greenhouses, but for around the same price, I could build myself a 20x8x50 cold frame greenhouse. Does anybody have any experience with these larger commercial size cold frame designs?
 
another_sellout

another_sellout

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Light and heat distribution are questions of how the green house is oriented, not the size of the greenhouse. In the northern hemisphere, the sun will always be to the south. Place your longest sides on the north and south, preferably without any trees blocking the sun from the south, and remember that the sun is much lower in the sky mid winter than than it is now. By having your long side to the south, you should maximize your exposure time to the sun each day. This should eliminate irregularities in light distribution. As for heat, remember that no light is coming in from the north. None. Take your north wall and turn it into a giant heat absorbing thermal mass. 55 gallon barrels of water painted black take a massive amount of energy to heat and cool. A row of them across the back would guarantee you'd never freeze and maintain nice steady temperatures all winter. You'd have to get them out soon though if you want them to be warmed up all the way before the fall equinox. There are all sorts of readily available scrap and improvisational do-it-yourself style "thermal masses" out there as well. Also, try raised beds with a hearty helping of sheep manure in your mixture. I've found 50/50 with sunshine 4 seems close to ideal. Why sheep? It's almost always organic, and unlike other poop, it's mostly air and decomposing matter instead of mostly water, allowing it to maintain a much higher temperature while it composts. It's the difference between a regular pile of shit and a steaming pile of shit. Steam is good. Warm, aerated roots that aren't fighting the cold or anaerobic microbes will thank you in yield. Promise. Now, if you grow them through the roof, that's your problem!
 
500lbs Guerilla

500lbs Guerilla

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Thanks for a great response! I haven't thought of, nor heard of using thermal masses to give and maintain heat to the less exposed side of the greenhouse. Now to just find a few truckloads of steaming sheep shit! Theres a mountain of horse manure down that road thats been sitting in the sun for over a couple years now. I wonder if that will do the trick?
 
another_sellout

another_sellout

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If you can convince the neighbor to dig out the grey, soil scented, well composted manure off the bottom, that'll be the best for your plants. The fresh manure is far too nitrogen rich and will burn your plants. To produce the heat you want, you're going to have to make lasagna. The same neighbor with the horses also probably has a wet bail of hay they can't feed them. Take the wet bail, take the manure, and in a one foot raised bed, layer them thinly in alternative layers. The resulting pile should look like lasagna, being light (hay), then dark (manure), then light, then dark, etc. ending with hay on top, to keep the residual scent down. Also, any decaying plant matter will do if you can't get hay. Compost can be used to, but it's more potent so spread it thinner. Water in dolomite lime from above to maintain pH, adding just a dusting evenly over the top. And when I say water, I mean heavily and daily for AT LEAST two weeks. While in this stage, covering the beds with black plastic will solarize the forming soil. This means your bed will be heated by the sun and itself, and the high temperatures will destroy unwanted microbes, but won't get hot enough to destroy beneficial microbes and rhizomes. The raised humidity will also accelerate the decomposition process. The excess watering helps spread the lyme, encouraging decomposition- which makes more nutrients and micronutrients available, and allows the incredibly potent compost tea / lime mixture to leach into your subsoil, enriching and loosening the ground below for your roots. A two foot lasagna stack makes about six hyper potent inches of loam, but your roots will cut far further into the moist, pH balanced subsoil. Remember, two weeks of heavy daily watering should be enough time with well composted manure, but even fresh manure can be turned into brilliant soil with two months of patient attendance. Also, you won't need to till the bed. Stack more layers to cultivate stronger, deeper, more diverse soil between yields. Introducing worms isn't only cheap and easy, it introduces worm castings and aeration to your soil as well. Best of luck, you've got plenty of time until spring to grow your soil!
 

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