I have learned over the course of the last three years that there is a vast difference between having a casual hobby garden and growing food to help your family become self-sufficient and produce income for the farm. All through my childhood, when the weather started warming up, my dad would start looking at seed catalogs; we tilled the garden and got everything ready for warm weather. When the weather finally warmed up and stayed warm, that’s when we started planting and weeding. It was time to “play” in the garden.
It’s a little different when you are growing to feed your family and others. At least it is for me, anyway. I find myself thinking about the spring plants when most people are shutting down their gardens for the winter. With the usually mild winters here in South Carolina, we can grow three gardens a year, spring/summer, fall, and winter. It means a constant rotation of planting, seed starting, and the like.
Here on the farm, we started the seeds for many of our herbs and vegetables during the first week of January. I know that you are thinking that it is way too early to start plants, even in South Carolina! But I have learned a few things along the way. Last year we started using low tunnels to cover crops that we planted, and actually had good success with it. This year, we finally got to add our first greenhouse to the operation.
It was made of simple construction with ¾” PVC, 6 mil plastic, and a wooden frame. The treated wood frame was secured to the ground with posts set 3 feet deep. We gave the hoop frame more strength by placing a 10 foot piece of ½ metal conduit piping inside the top piece of the PVC assembly.
The hoops were attached to the wooden frame with metal conduit brackets The end hoops were attached to the base with treated 2x4s and conduit brackets. It took two of us to install the hoops to the frame, and it went nice and quick.
I placed two sheets of plastic over the hoops for the cover, to make an air cushion to help insulate the air inside.
For the door, we repurposed a broken storm door by cutting it to size for the doorway. The greenhouse measures 12 by 14 feet with a height of about 7 feet in the center. We have had our cool-spring plants inside since the beginning of February, and they are growing great. In fact, I walked inside the greenhouse the other day and it felt like an 80-degree day. Outside the greenhouse it was 40 degrees. We have been able to duplicate the temperature conditions of Florida in our simple greenhouse.
This week, we are repotting about 250 tomato seedlings into bigger trays. Then they will be heading out to the greenhouse, to make room for more seed starts.
We are excited about our greenhouse and how it’s performed so far. In fact, I am already looking at building 3 more just like this one, so we can grow year-round here. If you like the idea of eating fresh vegetables during the winter and early spring, consider building your own green house. They don’t have to be expensive to build or very big, but they are well worth the effort.