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Dryland Potatoes in the Greenhouse?

May 21, 2015

Dark Red Norland
We do grow our potatoes outside using dryland farming methods, but inside the greenhouse?  Sure, as long as I pay attention to where I plant them.  I look at our greenhouses as a way to secure our food supply.  Nothing fancy, basically just a way to hedge our bets and grow more food.  No bells and whistles, just an unheated greenhouse.

Like our gardens, our greenhouses are oriented north and south for maximum light to all plants, and to extend our growing season.  When you mention greenhouse, most folks think of an east/west orientation with some sort of heat gathering device to grow things in the winter.  That’s not what we’re after, we’re after a longer, slightly warmer, and drier growing season.  Also an east/west orientation limits you somewhat on rotating crops due to plant sizes and growing habits.  Note, I said limits, many sites only will allow east/west orientation due to terrain or other issues like tall tree shade etc.

Dark Red Norland, greenhouse final harvest July 19, 2014

Dark Red Norland, greenhouse final harvest July 19, 2014

We grow most our potatoes for storage outside in the garden, but since we’re treating the greenhouse like a garden space we grow a row of early maturing potatoes inside the greenhouse each year.  The potatoes in the photo above are the final harvest of greenhouse potatoes last year, and I set aside the best ones for seed for this year. Here they are again in the photo below growing like gangbusters.

greenhouse 1

greenhouse 1

The edge rows of our greenhouses are the coolest and give me a little wiggle room for planting crops that would like it a little cooler and that can get some of the natural seepage from rainfall too.  While I do water by hand every day in this greenhouse because our starts are in here, I have not watered the potatoes.  The plastic has been on since mid-February and it is dry inside.

But at the edge, you can see the soil is much like our dryland garden outside, a dust mulch is conserving the moisture below the surface and not allowing the soil moisture to evaporate at a high rate as you might expect.  Mulching in here is a folly, slugs abound and all they need is a moist passage and some cover, and they have their way with many things growing in here.

I understand greenhouse growing is not for everyone, but if you’re not a dabbler I think they have their place on a farmstead for season extension.  I still firmly believe that any food I grow here in my own environment that is in my face, is owning it and all that goes with it.  You know what I mean.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2015 9:30 am

    We are growing some potatoes in the greenhouse this year, not because we are growing for early starts, but because we have reduced the growing space at our allotments from two gardens to one and we want to make sure we still have plenty of potatoes by growing them out on our land instead. We can’t grow them outside yet, as we haven’t fenced off our new plot yet and yes we are worried about those darn hogs! A whiff of potatoes and they will be in

  2. Bee permalink
    May 21, 2015 10:31 am

    A greenhouse is the one garden tool I don’t have an really, really want! My zone 7 garden suffers enough late frosts that I don’t dare start things like tomatoes on April 1st, which is the ideal time to have them ready for transplanting. I don’t have anywhere near enough windowsills, and I don’t have any good south-facing windows — probably wouldn’t want them, anyway, as it gets so hot here in the summer. Once you get to the stage where you’re looking at 60 tomatoes, at least four dozen peppers, a dozen eggplants and a few other odds and ends, a greenhouse becomes a necessity, in my opinion. Yours looks great, Nita.

    • May 21, 2015 11:15 am

      Bee, it has changed the way we eat and garden, instead of preserving everything from a few short months, we can eat a bigger variety of fresh foods. The expense is the bows and plastic and then you’re home free, unless of course you really want to push and try to heat one. It took me a while to learn to skip the grow lights, because it still gets you transplants to early for planting even in the greenhouse. So natural light and natural warming gets me in sync with the season or a little further south 🙂

      • Bee permalink
        May 21, 2015 1:06 pm

        I’ve got one of those portable garage frames, so that’s a big part of the cost out of the way. We’ve used it for storage, but the original cover got pretty badly shredded in the last few serious storms. I wasn’t even thinking of lights, because we’d probably set it up down by the big garden, and there’s no power there. Maybe once I get hubby’s dental bill paid off — two crowns and a bunch of fillings…

  3. Bev permalink
    May 21, 2015 3:49 pm

    You have such a great system for growing–working with the ebb and flow of the seasons and weather…in your area, do you need a special storage system for your potatoes? ie. a root cellar?

  4. Ali permalink
    May 21, 2015 7:49 pm

    In regards to your greenhouse, do you have high winds where you live? A greenhouse is on our summer to do list but my hubby doesn’t think a hoop house will withstand our high winds so we are leaning toward a permanent structure made with corrugated plastic sheets. Any thoughts?

    • May 21, 2015 8:06 pm

      Ali, only occasionally in the winter, but not constant. The polycarbonate sheets might be stronger in the constant buffeting of the wind.

    • May 22, 2015 6:50 am

      We have had a few hoophouses for the past several years in somewhat high wind areas. If you can pull the plastic tight on a warm day then the wind isn’t much of an issue as it doesn’t have much to grab. That 6mil poly is pretty tough stuff. The greenhouse companies want you to concrete the leg footings, which is a good idea in a high wind area. They also say to set up your greenhouse so the prevailing wind blows against the side as opposed to against an end wall. Good luck!

      • Ali permalink
        May 22, 2015 9:17 am

        Thanks Matronofhusbandry and saurfarming for your input. We have two prevailing winds which create like a washing machine affect on our property which is why I wondering about the strength of the hoop houses. Our gusts can be up to 60mph with constant wind of 30 or so mph. Good to hear about the 6mil plastic being that strong as it sure would be cheaper to do the hoop house rather than a permanent structure.

        • May 22, 2015 10:21 am

          Ali, the 6 mil is very tough, it lasts forever as long as it’s tight. You do need the aluminum channel and springlock though to make it that tight. That sounds like some wicked winds!

        • Elizabeth permalink
          May 24, 2015 4:17 am

          We have the same issues with wind: high winds from the north in winter, high winds from the west in summer. Which direction would you recommend we orient our hoop house?

  5. Ali permalink
    May 22, 2015 1:13 pm

    It is!! We just moved here in February and haven’t gotten used to it yet. We’ve had 2 months straight of wind with it rarely stopping for a half day. Funny thing, it was NEVER windy when we came to look at this property. Came here six times and in three different seasons before we moved in and no wind. Guess we never came in spring! LOL!

  6. Mich permalink
    May 26, 2015 12:36 am

    Ali…2 months of wind. Eek that’s not nice. I live on top of a hill and we get blown on by SW wind, thankfully it’s not often fearsome.
    I have just bought a polytunnel am very excited by this, hoping it will compliment my greenhouses. Gives me more space undercover, much needed in middle England!

  7. June 2, 2015 8:18 pm

    We are buffeted by 30-50 mph winds often and our 20×60 hoophouse with 6 ml plastic is going strong on it’s 2nd year.

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