Growing your own produce is immensely satisfying. The seeds you plant grow over the weeks and months until they're ready to harvest, and you can start dining on the fresh fruit and vegetables from your own garden. In addition to being able to eat products that I know have been grown without any chemicals, my greenhouse allows me to:
- Grow fresh food almost the entire year round
- Save money buying seedlings, plants and food
- Relax a bit as I actually enjoy gardening
- Spend winter days 'outside' but warm when it's too cold for the pool
For a survivalist, or anyone interested in reducing their reliance on the grid, a functional garden is a must-have asset. Building a greenhouse takes a simple backyard garden to the next step, and is a neat way to keep your produce growing as the weather gets colder. If you're a survivalist like me, you're going to be using the greenhouse you build to extend the seasons. Protecting your plants from the elements helps you start seedlings before the weather has warmed up, and you can often plant fall crops of broccoli or spinach that can be harvested long after the first frosts have made gardening outside impossible. Here's what you need to know.
Think about the size
The first step is to consider the size of the greenhouse you're going to build. Think about the plants you want to keep inside, and calculate the amount of growing space you'll need. A greenhouse is a long-term investment, so if you've got a choice opt for a larger size so you've got ample space for years to come. Plus, it means you'll be able to grow more vegetables.
Where to build
There are greenhouse kits available for almost every budget, and there are two main types. Attached greenhouses are usually cheaper and faster to install because you don't need to build all four walls. By attaching the kits to a load bearing wall, like the side of your garage, it means the rest of the frame can be lighter. These greenhouses are usually smaller, which is great for yards where space is at a premium. You can use them to grow herbs, seedlings and vegetables, but you'll only be getting sunlight from three sides of the structure. If you've got the room a freestanding greenhouse is my recommendation. You can place them anywhere on your property, so long as it's in a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight during winter. I'd orientate it with the largest side facing east to west and you'll get the most sun exposure, and whilst a little more expensive than the attached versions, you can get much larger freestanding greenhouses and as a result grow much more inside. For those confident enough to build their own greenhouse, there are plenty of tutorials that cover different types on the internet. You can build one with everything from up-cycled plastic bottles
, to a version that costs only $50
. With all the options don't forget access to both electricity (for heating and growing lights that may be needed in winter to ventilation in summer), and of course water for your plants. Plus, I'd also recommend building it close to your current garden, and not too far from your home. The more convenient you make it to use, the more use you'll get out of it.
Glazing the frame
The cover of your greenhouse is known as the glaze, which refers to the panels responsible for letting the sunlight through and trapping the warmth inside. Plastic sheeting is a great cheap option, especially if it's a temporary (or very large) structure, while more permanent greenhouses usually opt for glass or polycarbonate sheeting. Plastic sheets will need to be regularly replaced, and aren't the most environmentally friendly option if you've got an alternative.
Choosing your flooring
Organic materials are the best way to keep it natural, but most of the survivalists I know pick more long-lasting flooring solutions like concrete, gravel, or pavers. The key is to ensure you've got adequate drainage, and avoid the build-up of mold and mildew which can ultimately harm the plants you've got growing. In colder climates, pavers will absorb more heat during the day that helps to retain the warmth overnight, and if you're concreting it make sure you pick a textured surface that won't be slippery once it gets wet with the watering.
Getting the temperature right
This last step is critical in ensuring decent yields from your greenhouse. If the temperatures in your area drop below zero you may need an additional heating system, like growing lights, to keep your plants safe. As summer approaches, adequate ventilation systems and fans are needed to let the cool air in, if it gets too hot inside it will limit your plants' ability to grow. When you're looking for ways to make your home more self-reliant, a greenhouse is a great way to do it. Increasing the amount of food you can grow on your property will help you prepare for whatever comes, even if you're just using a small greenhouse attached to your home. Personally I'd opt for a fully-fledged construction that's got so much space inside you've got no problems growing food for your family, as well as additional crops to support all of your livestock, but that's just me. Every step you take towards going off-grid is a step forward in my book.