Grow Warm-Weather Plants Year-Round with a Chinese Greenhouse: New Book Shows You How

| 9/5/2016 5:49:00 PM

Tags: greenhouses, winter gardening, season extension, China, passive solar, thermal mass, glazing, Dan Chiras, Kale Roberts,

Chinese Greenhouse Dr Sanjun Gu

A Chinese greenhouse with metal support beams and a heat-banking back wall coated with soil-cement or cement stucco. A walkway against the back wall is a handy addition for harvesting and tending to plants. Photo by Dr. Sanjun Gu and courtesy Dan Chiras

Many market gardeners and home growers struggle with how to grow produce throughout the dead of winter without running their bank accounts into the red paying exorbitant greenhouse heating costs. This is because, for conventional greenhouses, benefits are felt during daylight hours when heat is trapped inside but as soon as the sun sets, heaters (typically fueled by gas or electricity) are fired up to maintain temperatures plants can tolerate. By one account, a greenhouse in Iowa growing tropical fruit year-round is faced with a $20,000-per-month utility bill!

For those gardeners who wish to grow year-round — and we are talking truly year-round gardening of hot-footed favorites like tomatoes and peppers, not merely season extension techniques or growing only the most cold-tolerant of plants— longtime MOTHER EARTH NEWS Contributing Editor and home-energy expert Dan Chiras has a solution for you: the Chinese greenhouse.

Chiras’ latest book, High-Performance, Off-Grid Chinese Greenhouses breaks down “year-round aquaponics and soil-based gardening powered by solar energy” with concise and comprehensive instruction supported by dozens of diagrams. Before you’ve finished the book’s introduction, Chiras will have you convinced that these typically submerged, passive-solar inspired structures whip the competition without using an ounce of fossil fuels for heating. The book is available from The Evergreen Institute.

What is a Chinese Greenhouse?

Information on Chinese greenhouses is decidedly scant, and so you won’t find another book like this one. Searching the term online, offers a nice, but short, writeup with video, and Low-Tech Magazine ran a feature in 2015. You’ll otherwise find ad-sponsored pages from companies hawking aboveground kits.

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