The snow is melting and spring flowers are growing, bird songs fill the air. What a great time for sowing and planting! Yet, garden lovers need to be careful – the frost might hit again and small plants are very sensitive and can easily die. How can they be protected? One way is to grow them inside at a place, which has enough sunshine and at the same time can keep the temperature.
That’s when small greenhouses or big windows inside our houses become very useful.
Greenhouses and hoop houses are not only beneficial for the spring season. Some other advantages are:
· Controlling pests and diseases is made easier
· Beneficial insects can be kept inside
· Bigger variety of plants to grow (even exotic plants)
· Regulating the temperature during the whole year. In winter it can be heated, during summer times it can be cooled down with a ventilation system.
· Regulating watering and in that way also regulating growth
· Extending the season – that will give a higher yield as well as higher quality of the vegetables
· Longer growing season
Looking at the advantages, it’s very advisable to have a greenhouse where you can grow some winter salads also during the whole winter period. Personally I have enjoyed growing spinach as well as Asian Greens which have survived even longer periods of about -15°C outside.
A few years ago, I was very excited about the idea of having several greenhouses but researching on the internet I was put off very fast by the high prices. 2018 I came to Herghelia Lifestyle Center in Romania and my boss Gicu Vasilache showed me how you can build one yourself in a very affordable way. He will share a little about how he builds his greenhouses. I have been very blessed working with him and many times amazed by his creative way of using simple and cheap things while having a tremendous harvest of vegetables every year.
Gicu Vasilache originally comes from Matca City where the greatest agricultural project in Romania was developed. In his family gardening and greenhouse production have been the tradition for generations. He was raised working the soil from his childhood on, and for decades he sustained his family from his own farm. The last 14 years, he has been the agriculturist at Herghelia LifeStyle Center and has also been heavily involved in Herghelia Mission School's administration and teaching. His passion is to combine theoretical study with practical and spiritual applications, offering to the students a balanced and complete education.
Considering the climate changes that occurred in the last years, and the frequent acid rains, we, as small farm owners, need to cultivate the vegetables in protected areas, offering more advantages like:
A) protected areas can be equipped with simple and modern heating systems
B) a bigger vegetable production can be realized
C) two or three crops/year can be cultivated
In the society that we live, there are many types of greenhouses, some of them are very modern, but I prefer to talk about the most simple and efficient ones, used in farming which can also be used in a small family garden.
There are many different types of greenhouses which you can build and it's good to first think about what you actually want. Hoop houses are usually in a round shape while greenhouses have a roof top or several of them. At Herhelia we have greenhouses with roof tops which are easier to be build out of the wood we have available there. Our greenhouses last around 15 years. Then it’s good to exchange both the plastic, sometimes also the wood.
At times small greenhouses are also placed on the side of a building which is more wind protected. Some are heated (can be done with hot air or also with an oven and pipes going through the house) others are not. Some are permanent others are just temporal. You can use glass or plastic. There can be small ones with a height of about 50cm and then tall ones with 2m.
Big greenhouses have the advantage of cooling down slower as well as the air is better refreshed. The loss of vegetables in colder periods is not as big since in smaller greenhouses it might happen that vegetables freeze on the sides of it.
Before placing your greenhouse you need a good spot on your property. It should face the sun and if possible be on top of a hill. In the valleys the cold is staying longer especially in spring times and in general in the mornings. The length should point towards south-north. Check if there is a lot of wind, which would make it necessary to have a better construction. Best is a place which is a little wind protected.
In order to best harness the ecological conditions in the area and local opportunities, in building a greenhouse the following steps need to be followed:
1. Choosing the ground surface for the greenhouse
2. Setting the size of the ground surface
3. Choosing the type of the greenhouse or temporary shelter
4. Drawing the field placement sketch according to the cardinal points. (preferably towards N-S)
5. Leveling and making a slope of 0,2%
6. Establishing the list of needed materials and get them
7. Basic preparation of the ground
8. Manufacturing the permanent and temporary greenhouse
9. Establishment of the intensive use of the soil
The ground should be leveled, big stones removed. For the plants it’s best if the soil has some sand in it. In case it’s not so rich on humus, it can always be amended with compost soil. Don’t forget to think about watering: In some areas the water is close to the surface. It should be at least 1,5m deep or even deeper, otherwise the top soil is too wet. If possible place a water pipe under the ground leading to the greenhouse which will make water always available inside and you don’t have to carry it from somewhere else to it.
The best material resisting humidity is acacia trees. These ones should have about 20cm diameter. Along the two sides of the greenhouse one can take 2,6m tall beams and place them 0,6m into the soil. The distance between the pillars can be up to approximately 3,8m. In order to have the roof top in the middle higher, the beams should be about 3,3m above the soil there. The greenhouse itself can be ca. 7m wide in total.
At Herghelia we also have some which are 15m wide, and there the middle pillars should be 3,9m above the soil with a second row of pillars on each side, meaning that you have in total 5 rows of pillars.
If possible get beams (diameter of approximately 10-15cm) which have the length of the width of the greenhouse (7m). If not, they need to be well nailed to the middle pillar. The beams can be the same wood as for the pillars and they are placed to connect the pillars. The outside pillars can be connected lengthwise with slats or beams in order to hold the plastic on the right place.
For the rafters it might be better to use square ones instead of the round ones with a measurement of 5x8cm.
It’s best to buy a special greenhouse tarp which is also UV-protected. There are different brands but it’s best to look what they sell in your country. Calculate some extra square meters since you will loose some when cutting it.
In general you can nail or screw it always to the slats and the rafters. Careful to use some nails or screws with flat washers, otherwise the plastic will tear very fast where it is nailed/screwed.
8. Slats or rubber bands
After placing the plastic it’s good to use slats on the top always there where there is a rafter.
You can also use a thin rubber band or a bigger one which can be fixed with screws on both sides in order to really pull it tight.
9. Door and windows
Doors can be simply built out of wooden laths, covered with plastic and hang on hinges. Make them big enough since you might want to be able to walk inside with a wheelbarrow.
Instead of making windows you could open the plastic on the side from the top down about 50cm-1m. This will help with air circulating through as well as inviting bees and other beneficial insects.
10. Other types of greenhouses
A) Semicircle greenhouse type (temporary)
In order to protect small plants outside for a period of time or to start inside the big greenhouses even earlier, this type of greenhouse can easily be built.
Take bendable plastic tubes or willow tree branches about 1,5m length. These can be bent into an arch and placed approximately 10-15cm into the soil on each side. The arches can be put in a row with about 1m distances between them. Cover them with a thin transparent plastic or fleece foil.
In this type of temporary greenhouse you can cultivate: lettuce, radish, onions, watermelon as well as outside even different cabbage plants to protect them from white flies in the beginning of their growth.
B) Seedling house with biology heating covered with foil/glass
This is often built to start small plants very early in the spring time.
It can be build with glass or plastic foil. In contrast to glass frames, foil frames being lighter, can have bigger dimensions, but need to be well anchored against strong winds. When making the foil frames, you should use a foil with 0,25-0,15mm thickness.
Building the seedling house can be done using the next sketch:
Building Your Own Character
The most important thing that God has given us is our character. It is our responsibility to build this character well.
Reasons for building it well:
- To reflect God’s character to others so they have a desire to also have a character like that
- God can live in us – “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Ex 25,8
10 things which help us to have a character according to God’s will:
1. Plan – Let God be your architect and He will construct it according to the best functional model which is His character. It’s good to not just start building but to receive a plan and build according to it.
2. Place – ““Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” Matt 7, 24 – The best preparation is having a willingness to listen and do.
3. Foundation – The foundation is God’s character, His 10 commandments.
4. Pillars – These pillars are the fundamental beliefs we have in our spiritual life. As Seventh-Day-Adventists we have 28 pillars taken from the scripture which give stability for our character.
5. Beams – Beams are there to hold together the whole building. Our thoughts are holding our body and mind together. Paul writes “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” 2.Cor 10,5. If our thoughts are kept between the pillars, the whole building will be able to stand.
6. Rafters – Every habit is like these rafters – they are built on the beams of our thoughts.
7. Plastic – “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Rev 19,8 The plastic can be the clothes of righteousness, the actions which follow. The thoughts and habits inside will give the actions outside a certain shape.
8. Slats or Rubber Bands – “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth” Eph 6,14 – the truth will keep the actions connected with the whole building, no matter what storm comes into your life.
Doors and windows – “I am the door” John 9,16 – Jesus is the only one through whom it’s possible to enter in. A door is there for other people to come inside and see, which gives an opportunity to share with others about the foundation we are built on.
10. Inside the greenhouse – Fill yourself with the promises of God: “The Bible is the garden of God, and here we must learn to gather the roses and the lilies and the pinks of God’s promises. We must hang them as precious pictures upon the wall of memory, and have our eyes fixed upon the glorious things of God, so that we shall be able to go through the world and not dwell upon its corruptions, or be polluted by its wickedness.” RH March 1, 1892 Par. 12
May God bless the harvest of your greenhouse!
"Building Your Own Greenhouse" by Craig Baird