Getting the Most From Your Solar Greenhouse

This solar greenhouse guide helps maximize the growing space needed in the winter. The article includes care and feeding of crops, and light, temperature and humidity in the greenhouse.

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    Nancy Bubel, long-time garden and country-living writer.
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    The Bubels' solar greenhouse crop layout in winter.

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Getting the most from your solar greenhouse. In winter, every inch of growing space is precious.

The Solar Greenhouse

Remember how much you longed for your first bicycle—or car? That's how much I wanted a solar greenhouse! Many a winter I raised seedlings under fluorescent lights, always wishing the abundant sunlight of our south-facing land could reach my starts.

Well, dreaming, planning, and saving finally led to building. And now there is a modest solar greenhouse attached to our small Pennsylvania home. But, as always happens when I get something I've longed for, the realized dream brought with it a challenge: learning to use my greenhouse well. So, over the past few years, I've studied, experimented, and observed carefully, and—even though I still consider myself a beginning solar gardener—I've learned a lot I'd like to share.

A Room of Many Uses

Solar greenhouses can be much more than a place to start spring seedlings. Mine provides such delights as crisp cucumbers in December, green chard in January, and succulent Chinese cabbage in February. It also

• protects tender herbs and geraniums over winter,
• dries mint and such in summer,
• cures harvested onions and garlic,
• yields a fall harvest of potted peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and such, and
• easily roots cuttings of grapes, geraniums, and herbs (I use the loose, moist soil of my large growing bed for this).

Whatever design you choose for your greenhouse, I heartily recommend that it include a large growing bed. The soil will serve as an excellent, moisture-retaining plant home and will provide mass for absorbing and holding the sun's warmth.

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