When Fall arrives, I’m never ready to give up gardening. This is one of the reasons I dreamed of getting a greenhouse in the first place. But if you’ve tried to grow vegetables in an unheated greenhouse, you know that in the dead of winter, it’s just not possible without a little supplementation. Plants need heat, and just as important, they need lots of light. So, I’ve set to work getting my Greenhouse ready to sustain vegetable growth during the coldest and darkest days of our Washington State Winter.
Our Set Up
We have a 6′ x 8′ Palram Mythos Twin Wall Greenhouse. We’ve been talking about adding a heat source for winter growing for some time now and it just so happens that this summer my husband and I stumbled across an Ammo Box wood stove in a free pile! It’s homemade and certainly not perfect, but when we tested it out it worked great and burns pretty efficiently.
Sourcing Your Materials
For our Urban Homestead, my husband and I are always focused on salvaging and repurposing free or nearly free materials.
If you’re not able to find a free stove, there are YouTube tutorials on building your own out of just about anything. If you’re not interested in making your own, check your local classifieds or you can purchase one online. There are a number of options and ideas out there.
Using some salvaged metal roofing, leftover lumber and pavers, my husband constructed a stove surround and platform. The Metal surround protects the polycarbonate greenhouse panels from the heat. There are a ton of ways that you can do this to be more visually appealing, but I started this as an experiment and my objective was to spend as little money as possible.
High Heat Adhesive (for the roof vent): $8
New Stove Pipe: $18
Stove Pipe Top Cap: $15
With a small stove, it’s especially important that you source hardwoods for your firewood supply. Hardwoods burn slow and hot, which is what you need. You don’t want to be constantly having to refill the stove. As it is, I have to tend the stove once every 1-2 hours or so to add new logs. I also bank coals during the day and cover those burning coals with ash before bed to keep them going throughout most of the night. My stove is so small that my coals are almost always burned out by morning. I do not have a damper installed, so perhaps that would help.
With this 12″ x 6″ x 7″ stove, we are able to keep our 6′ x 8′ Greenhouse at 75-85 degrees while tending to it during the day (outside day time temperatures in the high 30s-40s) and about 50-55 degrees throughout the night (outside temperatures in the mid to low 30s). We burn mostly maple firewood. I use the Palram Automatic Vent Opener to ensure that the temperature inside the greenhouse does not climb above 85 degrees.
Important Note: It is a good safety precaution to install a carbon monoxide detector if you plan to use a wood stove in your Greenhouse.
So, it is possible to keep your Greenhouse thriving throughout the winter with minimal expense? Absolutely!
It is mid November in Washington State and we are still getting new & ripening tomatoes, as well as Lettuce, Kale, Sweet Peppers, Beets, cilantro, beans, peas, spinach, and lots of wonderful flowers!
With a little time, a small amount of money and lots of resourcefulness, you can do this too!
A Winter Greenhouse can be a wonderful sanctuary during the cold winter months. We are still succession planting and using our little greenhouse as a hands-on learning activity for our children.
Im interested in seeing and/or hearing about your Greenhouse set up! Please join my Greenhouse Gardening Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/292748811212511/
Have a comment, suggestion or question? I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment below!