Greenhouses are essential for temperate climates, they are commonly used for special crops, aquatic species production, to heat the house and – perhaps the most important thing- to produce fruits and vegetables during the Winter time.
There are many types and designs for greenhouses and it will depend on your own local resources, budget, climate and ideas to decide what sort of design will be the most adequate. However, there are a few thumb rules that should be followed to, for example, been able to grow food during winter time.
Location. A greenhouse relies on sunlight so where to locate it is of great importance. We should never forget that the sun changes its angle throughout the year and because of this our greenhouse should be placed where it can receive an equal amount of light in every changing season.
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Insulation. It is essential not just for the soil below our greenhouse but for our walls also. There’re diverse ways and materials for insulation: wood, plastic and air are generally the most used and economic. We have to dedicate time to insulate our greenhouse to get the best performance out of it.
Heat. Even if the location of the greenhouse is right, during the cold nights of winter we might experience some freezing temperatures that can affect the life inside our greenhouse. To solve this problem we can include some thermos mass objects like water drums, tanks, domestic animals, compost heaps, black walls, dark curtains, among others.
Irrigation. Every crop needs water. There’re many designs and systems to have an appropriate and efficient water usage. If you manage your greenhouse to harvest its own water, then you really did it!
Ventilation. Finally the ventilation – either manual or automatic – fans or windows will complete the essential components for the correct way to build a greenhouse with an efficient design.
Because the construction of the greenhouse can be expensive, you can orientate your crops to be high valued – depending on the market and the demands – or just enjoy with your family the many different and nutritive veggies that with no doubt will pay it back.
Turmeric, ginger, tomatoes and kiwis are just a few examples of the possibilities that your greenhouse can yield. Here at RDV we are thinking in cultivate Luffa, turmeric, ginger, kiwis, mushrooms, tomatoes and capsicum as our high value crops. Having in account all the essential components of a greenhouse we can share with you our own greenhouse and its design.
Most of the wood we used for building was cedar wood that we got from the river coast, the whole roofing lumber was made in-situ from our own trees and the whole wall from the left overs of a nearby sawmill.
The design gives the greenhouse a wider and longer northern face, maximizing the sunlight in the whole house. We would’ve liked to have roof with an angle of 70° but because of our inexperience and the lack of resources we just made it with an angle of 20°. The consequences of this are unknown to us but in the worst scenario the low angle can reflect the winter sun.
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Inside the greenhouse we used a key hole design instead of the typical 3 beds 2 paths design. In our own calculations we got around 5mt2 of extra cultivation ground!!
Finally, we want to say that as we were planning the design we decided to dig the paths of the greenhouse aiming to lower the whole roof to just 2mts and 1.50mt also by doing this we “raised” the beds 50cm but as we worked through we realize that the soil wasn’t in very good conditions (very sandy soil) so we raised another 30cm with just soil resulting in a very comfortable bed for the back.
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The plastic will be installed during the spring 2016 together with the extra 30cm of soil that’s already composting.
We invite you to share this experience and to dare to build, design and implement such a useful and beautiful building!