A long time ago, my neighbor put up one of those portable green houses. You know, one of these greenhouse kits with the lightweight steel tube frame and pre-formed plastic covering that ties to it? I was baffled.
I told him, “I have never understood why you need a greenhouse.” No sooner did I get it out of my mouth he said, “because I like to eat fresh, homegrown tomatoes before July.”
We talked a while about greenhouse tips, the concept of the efficiency of the structure itself, and just what all they could be used for. Ever since that day, I’ve been in love with the idea of having my own greenhouse!
Let’s talk a bit today about some greenhouse tips, and why you need a greenhouse in general as a homesteader. Don’t let the term “homesteader” throw you off… there are reasons why you should have a greenhouse as a prepper, too!
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of putting a seed into dirt, then a few weeks later, eating something that came from that seed — whether it be fruit, root or leaves. Gardening is one of the most productive activities on the homestead.
Gardening is also a great skill to learn as a prepper. When SHTF situations arise that may halt the very supply trucks that would normally bring the food you eat to the grocery store, you will have to rely on your own self-sufficiency skills (like gardening) to provide food for you and your family.
The problem begins, however, when fall and winter roll around. What do you do about growing your own food then? There are some plants that enjoy the cold weather and actually perform better than they do in the summer. But even layers of snow will kill those plants.
The answer is a greenhouse! When you have a greenhouse, your gardening game advances to the next level! So what tips can I give you to convince you further why you need a greenhouse?
Winter Over Your Warmer Weather Plants
Instead of letting those plants die that aren’t as cold hardy as they need to be to survive, take them into your greenhouse. They may not produce any more during the winter, but the additional protection should at least allow them to survive until the spring so they can produce again.
If you’re growing with heirloom seeds, this is a wonderful thing, because you can have what I like to call a “legacy plant” — a plant that you keep growing all year round. Those legacy plants will continue to produce year after year as long as you move them to a greenhouse (or put a temporary greenhouse around them) in the winter. Talk about an “heirloom”!
Grow Fresh Vegetables All Year Long
Most gardeners I know harvest their last tomato somewhere in October — a few of us southerners can even make it to early November with fresh ‘maters!
With a greenhouse, just about anybody can grow tomatoes (and other summer fruits and veggies) even in the coldest of winters.
If your greenhouse doesn’t stay warm enough to sustain the life of your summer heat loving plants, you may need to invest in a small greenhouse heater (any heater will do, really) to keep the temperatures up. If you’re not looking to maintain quite that level of intense heat inside the structure, you could also build a solar heater that will still keep the temperature high enough to grow some of your favorite warm weather crops.
Continue Your Gardening Hobby All Year Long
If you’re more of a hobby gardener than a homesteader (or a really determined prepper), you can still feed the need for your hobby through the winter months with a greenhouse.
Maybe you like to grow flowers and some exotic plants, too. If that’s the case, you can nurture them all through the cold season, train them, prune them, and watch them flourish inside in the warmth and still get good sunlight even when there’s snow on the ground outside.
Save Money — Stop Buying Seedlings
At some point in every gardener’s journey, we find ourselves buying lots of seedlings that probably cost a good bit of money. If you tallied it all up throughout the years, how much do you think you’ve spent? Probably “too much”, right? (I know I have.)
With a greenhouse, you can start your plants early from seeds (which are WAY cheaper than the seedlings), and have them exactly where you need them in the growth cycle when it’s time to put them into a more permanent home in the ground… and if you’re saving seeds from year to year, you shouldn’t have to buy seeds ever again!
Another good thing about starting your own seedlings is that you can give some to your friends and family that also have gardens. You’re putting food in their mouths as well as your own, and it’s not costing any of you any more than a little time each day to tend the plants.
Sell Your Seedlings as Supplemental Income
Looking to make a little extra money? Start an abundance of seeds in your greenhouse in late winter. By the time spring rolls around, and people are looking to start their gardens for the season, you can set up shop at a local farmer’s market and sell seedlings!
Check with your local nurseries and farmer’s markets and see what all they typically have available as well as their prices. You can also ask them what people typically ask for the most — and what they ask for that isn’t usually available. You may just be able to corner the market on some items that people can’t typically find.
Research your local market and get a good feel for things, and then check with the city or county to be sure you’re doing things legally.
Greenhouses Benefit Your Health — in more ways than one!
Have you ever heard of “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (aka “SAD”)? It’s basically a depressive state that tends to set in around fall and run into the winter months. It may sound like a bunch of hooey, but lots of doctors (mainly psychological doctors) say that light therapy (“phototherapy”) will help keep the SAD at bay.
That’s where your greenhouse comes into play. Though it may be too cold to go outside and relax by the pool, with a greenhouse, you can still go outside and relax in some form of comfort while soaking in some rays from the sun. Even the diffused sunlight helps raise even the darkest spirits.
Greenhouses also benefit your health in that you know where your food is coming from. Lots of times, in the winter months, that “fresh produce” you just picked up from the grocery store is genetically modified and treated with tons of chemicals to make them grow better. In your greenhouse, you control your plants and how they’re raised, so you always know what you’re eating.
Grow Tropical and Exotic Plants and Foods
You’re able to provide “in season” foods to your family in the garden, and “out of season” veggies in the greenhouse… and if you use your greenhouse in the summer time to provide extra heat for plants inside, you could even be able to grow a few tropical plants.
Imagine being able to grow dwarf varieties of citrus fruits where summer temperatures normally don’t stay hot enough but for a couple of weeks! Going back to the “make money” part of this article, you could actually grow enough fruit that is “exotic” to your area that you could sell that at the farmer’s market, too!
Just be sure you’re looking into greenhouse ventilation systems so you can regulate the temperature during the summer months. It’s one thing to have a good, hot place to grow heat-loving plants, but it’s something totally different to put them in a structure that’s way too hot. The fans you find in commercial greenhouses may be expensive, but you could use bathroom fans (or any other type of vent fan or exhaust blowers) to do the job of green house fans.
The Bottom Line of Greenhouse Tips
All of this information is geared toward gardeners — urban, suburban, preppers, and homesteaders alike. If you are looking to become more self-reliant and raise more of your own food, you need a greenhouse.
Whether you have a small portable greenhouse or a full-sized, DIY greenhouse that you build from greenhouse plans you find on the internet — a greenhouse can help you meet many of your needs and goals.
Plant fall and winter crops to extend the growing season, and enjoy summer crops year-round. You can even use a portion of your greenhouse to provide food for your livestock! Anything to get you closer to whatever portion of the off-grid lifestyle you’re looking to live.
What Are Your Best Greenhouse Tips?
If you grow plants in a greenhouse (even if they’re not food plants), leave me a comment below and tell me your best 2 or 3 (or 10) greenhouse tips. Tell me why you believe every gardener should also have a greenhouse.