Greenhouse Alternatives for Crop Protection

When it comes to extending the growing season, sometimes a greenhouse just isn’t the right choice. Learn about alternative crop protections with this handy guide.


| May 2016


Jerome Osentowski, director and founder of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, shows how to design and build successful greenhouse projects in The Forest Garden Greenhouse (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015). Learn how to use passive and active solar heating strategies to create tropical or Mediterranean climates even at high altitude or in cold climates. The following excerpt is from chapter 2, “Expanding the Possible with Season Extension”.

You can buy this book from the GRIT store: The Forest Garden Greenhouse.

Crop Protection Structures

In the sections that follow, we describe cloches, hoop houses, domes, gutter-connected greenhouses, and four-season greenhouses. By combining solar collection, thermal mass, and insulation to capture and store energy, we can effectively grow a much wider variety of plants, even in heavy snow country.

We are also learning how the underground soil mass can even out the temperature swings of both cold and hot climates to provide a supportive growing environment for the food plants we want to eat. As we write this text, we are designing a climate battery for a greenhouse in the hot desert Southwest that uses the same principles in reverse. That greenhouse will draw daytime ventilation air from a shaded orchard area through cooler underground pipes before it enters the greenhouse, with added water-fogging evaporators on really hot days to help maintain moderate inside temperature and humidity levels. For a future dependent on renewable energy and constrained supplies, we need to conserve as much as we can. Growing a wide variety of food crops locally will save transportation energy, keep resources within the community where they are generated, and help create unique regional cuisines and artisan cultures.

Let’s get growing!

Cloches and Row Covers

The simplest form of crop protection is a cloche, or fabric-covered hoop, erected over a bed of plants. The simplest form of cloche is just a layer of floating row cover, a porous, nonwoven fabric, laid over an area of seedling plants and held down around the edges with rocks or tent stakes. Sunlight passes through the white fabric to nourish the plants, and heat builds up in the soil to keep them warm at night. This can even provide 4 degrees of frost protection (at 29 degrees outside, the plants inside the cloche will remain around 33 degrees). The fabric can be supported on sticks in the soil when the seedlings are young. And as the cover is very light, the plants will lift it as they mature and spread out. Using heavy wire or thin plastic pipe, you can create a “hoop” cloche that will support the fabric above the seedlings, providing them ample sunlight and air space for growing.





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