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Is My Greenhouse Green?

July 13, 2011

On one hand I can’t say having a plastic greenhouse is a sustainable move, and on the other hand I know I would not want to do without my greenhouses.  Big or small.  This post, Josh at Slow Hand Farm wrote last winter has been in the back of my mind since winter.  I know for us on our mountainside farm in the rainy Pacific Northwest having a greenhouse is the most economical way to extend the season.  I can start crops earlier, grow them later, ripen marginal crops, and if I wasn’t taking a passive growing approach I could grow many more things throughout the year.  Anything I do grow here is one less foodstuff that has to be transported from somewhere else.  I’m voting green.

Fall seedlings waiting…

It’s raining today, making it a perfect day for working in the greenhouse, outside I don’t dare walk in the garden and compact the soil.  I’ve been confined to the edge of the gardens stomping slugs!  At the first sign of drizzle they are out in force.  Normally with my dryland gardens, once the June rains have subsided, I don’t see slugs venturing out in the dry soil to get to the plants.  If one is brave enough to try, I usually find them about two feet in, shriveled on top the dust mulch before they could reach any plants.  🙂

And speaking of dryland gardening, it doesn’t happen in a greenhouse.  I have to water the plants weekly to compensate for the cover.  For the tomato and pepper rows I use soaker hoses and water deeply once per week.  For the various other crops I have been hand watering.

Shade loving cool weather crops are excelling between tomato plants with the weekly irrigation schedule.

I am using municipal water for the greenhouse irrigation, so I was eagerly awaiting the bill so I could see just how much water I was using in the greenhouse.  We used 11 ccf of water in the months of May and June.  To arrive at a gallon figure, multiply the hundred cubic feet (ccf) number by 7.48.  1100 x 7.48 = 8228 gallons of water.   Total cost $30.03.  Not all of the 8000 gallons went for irrigation though, at least 600 gallons went to the cows, we washed out the stock trailer several times,  and washed the truck a time or two also.  Since I planted in mid-May I missed about 10 days of irrigation, so I would estimate 10,000 gallons for a full two months of growing.  I have easily harvested much more than $30.00 worth of vegetables in that time, just in greens alone.

Here’s what’s growing in the greenhouse now besides lettuce and tomatoes.

Bok Choy.


Kale of all kinds.


Five color Silverbeet.






And lots of weeds! 

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen permalink
    July 13, 2011 9:18 am

    I think I could just snack my way through your greenhouse – never mind making lunch! Just start at one end and nibble your way through! Saving the strawberries for dessert, of course. 😉

  2. michelle permalink
    July 13, 2011 9:57 am

    boy, your greenhouse plants look so much better than my hoophouse plants! This is only the second season the soil has been grown in; its still very poor, what I think you would call shallow. I hope one day I can achieve what you have got going. Manure manure and more manure! I would definitely call that a green greenhouse. Look at all that food grown in your backyard instead of Cali where water is like gold.

    • July 14, 2011 5:33 am

      Michelle, I have some bad areas too, I just worked up the cover crop area and am planting some fall/winter stuff. It takes a lot to build soil, but if it was easy how much fun would that be? 😉

  3. July 13, 2011 2:57 pm

    I, too, have a plastic hoop house and I know it’s not really that green. In fact, it’s not green at all. I think the plastic component outweighs any steps I take to grow my own food, and not buy it off a truck.
    I like to think of my hoop house as carbon neutral.
    BUT – my plants are so happy, and south of Seattle, I need all the heat and love I can get to make ripe tomatoes, basil and peppers.

    • July 14, 2011 5:30 am

      Lindsey, I agree, I live 25 miles from a good farmers market that deals with food instead of being craft heavy, so the hoophouse is a keeper for me. Especially with this summer.

  4. July 13, 2011 3:02 pm

    Your strawberries look like mine! With grass!

  5. Sheila Z permalink
    July 13, 2011 3:37 pm

    edible paradise
    garden of eatin

  6. July 14, 2011 4:04 am

    WOW, it looks incredible.

  7. bunkie permalink
    July 14, 2011 4:13 pm

    awesome greens in the greenhouse moh! do you use a shade cloth on the structure?

    • July 14, 2011 4:55 pm

      Bunkie, Shade!! We have been waiting for a sunny day since last year… The pictures are dark because they were taken in the evening.

  8. Joe permalink
    July 14, 2011 6:07 pm

    I don’t think anyone should fret about the green-ness of plastic films. Compared to setting fire to it, this is a great way to use petroleum.

    I’m totally jealous of your beets.

  9. July 25, 2011 3:44 am

    You have a great rate for water! Ours would easily be well over $100 for using the same amount of water. Generally we use around 1600 a month and our bill is about what you pay for yours.

    Greenhouses – I vote green. Think of how much energy would be used for hauling all that produce around the world before you had to drive to the store to buy it (most likely your kale would be from Chile, your beets from China, your strawberries from California…) If you also consider the amount of plastic you’re not using in produce bags & other shipping containers you’re probably well ahead and are using far less plastic than if you purchased the same amount of produce in the store. If you add to that all the petrochemicals used, even in organic, I think you can safely say your kale is “greener” than most.

    I’m guessing you’re growing your own not just to be green but to take a first hand role in the production of your food. To know where it comes from, to have food security, to have the delicious taste of freshly harvested vegetables and for the sense of freedom that it brings.

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