Monthly Archives: November 2014

Fall Garden Update November 8, 2014

With the cold weather on the way, I thought I should get out in the greenhouse and show everyone my fall garden set up. It is nothing too fancy, just a small plastic tent inside of the unheated greenhouse with an aquarium heater in a five gallon bucket to try to keep the temperatures above freezing.

Mini-Greenhouse Set Up
The first step I took to set up the small tent was to place down two slabs of 1” thick foam insulation cut to the same size as the tent floor (4×4’) and stacked them on top of one another.

Next, I put together the tent, which turned out to be a real pain doing it inside the greenhouse. There really isn’t as much room in there as I thought, but once it was finished I set it over the foam and tucked the sides underneath the foam to minimize the amount of cold air that could make it inside.

After that I used some bubble wrap to go around the inside of the bottom part of the mini-greenhouse to act as a layer of insulation for the inside of the tent. The plan was to do this all around the mini greenhouse from top to bottom, but I ran out of bubble wrap, so I only got the bottom done, and then two strips that went up over the top of the frame, but under the plastic to try to keep some of the heat from escaping upwards.

After that I placed my water containers inside. I had two five gallon (19L) buckets, four 4L (1 Gallon) milk jugs, and three 1L pop bottles set up inside all painted black (mostly flat black) so that they would heat up in the sun and slowly release that heat overnight.

Then I placed my plants inside, being careful to keep them close to the water filled heat sinks, so that they could stay as warm as possible during the night.

The last step I took to set up the mini-greenhouse was to drill a hole in the top of one of the five gallon buckets big enough to fit the cord of the 25 Watt aquarium heater through it, fed the cord through (after taking off the lid) then dropped the heater into the bucket. This will not only help to keep the water inside of the bucket warm, but will also provide heat for the rest of the tent through times when the temperature is low and the sun isn’t shining.

Greenhouse Set Up

On the outside of the mini-greenhouse, but inside my regular greenhouse, I also did a few things to keep the cold out, and I plan on doing a few more in the near future as well. They are just minor changes that will be either taken down, or in one case, put back up in the spring when the little tent is no longer needed.

The shelf that I had up on the south side of the greenhouse all summer was incredibly useful to have while the sun was high in the sky. However, with the lower sun in the fall, it started to shade the area directly where I put the tent, so I gathered up some help and took it down. I think at some point during the winter, if I can find the space to, I will paint it white, so it can reflect a little light to the plants once it’s put back up come spring.

Next, I put up a white tarp on the north side of the greenhouse. To hang it up all I did was put fencing staples into the greenhouse frame on each side to hold up a rope. I then fed the tarp up over the rope and secured the end to the cattle panels that make up the roof of the with some clothes pins. This tarp will not only help to reflect some light into the greenhouse, making it brighter for the plants even on cloudy days, but it also slightly reduces the size of the greenhouse so that it will heat up a little quicker, and it will help to trap a bit of heat. Though admittedly without it being attached to the sides all the way up, and not having it make a dome shape on the roof to actually catch the heat probably doesn’t do all that much for heat retention or speeding up the heating, but it’s nice to think it does.

I also found out, after removing all of the plants and the fence panel they were sitting on, that the greenhouse doesn’t sit level where it is, and that there is a gap on the south side where you can see light shining through on sunny days between the ground and the frame. I remedied this for now by putting a piece of plywood in front of it, and when it snows it will seal it up even further, but I may also bring in a soil, or woodchip bag to place in front of it as well.

The only other thing I am planning to do in the greenhouse is to put up extra plastic sheeting over the window, and around the door. Both places have weather stripping, but as I’m not the best carpenter in the world, the door has a bit of a gap at the top, and the window’s one whole side can be seen through where the frame meets the window. These gaps will allow for a lot of air exchanging and when it drops to -30°C this could be a problem, even if the mini-greenhouse is heated.

The tent I’m using for the fall garden worries me slightly. The bottom of the flaps don’t have zippers, they only have three pieces of Velcro spread out across the opening, this means that when it’s closed, there is still a good chance that the cold air from the greenhouse can get inside. I will be making sure that there is at least a little more protection there with the bubble wrap on the inside, but I’m only hoping it will be enough, I am not sure if it even will be.

I am also a little worried about there being so much open floor space in the bottom of the tent. I am going to try to fill in all of the gaps with more painted bottles of water, but if I was going to do this again, I would put more plants inside as well, since the soil would also help to keep the temperatures up. This should be my only year doing it this way however, since in the spring I will have a raised bed along the north side of the greenhouse, and I can use that for my fall/winter gardening needs in the future.