Polytunnel, polycarbonate, glass house, shade house...what to get?

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10 years 8 months ago #35709 by chrisgray
We have a 5 acre lifestyle block. I want to get into growing everything eventually, but initially start with hothouse usuals - tomatoes, capsicum etc. There are so many products on the market - tunnels/ glasshouses/ polycarbonate. Prices vary hugely.
I would like to keep it as cheap as possible but last as long as possible and initially set up just to provide some food for my immediate family of 4. What would people recommend?

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10 years 8 months ago #467431 by kai
If you are wanting cheap, the best option is to build your own. Whack in some deer posts for the uprights, put a horizontal between each pair, fasten and upright in the middle of the horizontal about 30cm tall, then bend a piece of wood from deer post to deer post over the small upright to create a curve. Then cover with plastic.

You don't give your location, it would help with the recommendation of shade house vs green house.

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10 years 8 months ago #467441 by Belle Bosse
From my understanding, the Greenhouse is usually for growing plants in warm conditions and can be used for year round vegetables for the family. It can come in the tunnel form, made in plastic or glass or poly form and in many designs. Main thing is the warmth for growing.

Shade house: usually for growing plants that need some shade/shelter or as a transition for seedlings from greenhouse to open field.

Length of time they last... can vary immensely!

We have dismantled a 30+ yr old, 37m long, ex-commercial glasshouse with steel and timber frame. But... before it can be rebuilt, it has to be fully reconditioned and brought up to current building code specifications. A lot of the timberwork needs replacing as well as the glass... it wont be cheap!

Glass can be long lasting but at the same can be very short lived! Each sheet of glass basically represents at least $10 for a replacement and when several break at once, or a number of loose ones get blown off the roof... you tend to develop a fatalistic attitude to how much it will cost to replace the broken glass...

I dont know the life expectancy of poly type materials. Each material has its strengths and weaknesses!!

If you want "cheap", a DIY project sounds like the way to go. Or get prefab kit form.

We have several books by Eliot Coleman who does a lot of greenhouse and cold frame gardening. His books are really helpful for getting started and growing year round.

He has a DIY tunnel project in (pdf format) listed below the "news and updates" line on his website: www.fourseasonfarm.com/
I have also heard something similar can be done with polypipe and plastic sheeting.

Do your research and Im sure a lot of folk on here can tell you what their experience has been with various materials.
All the best with your project!

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10 years 8 months ago #467447 by Stikkibeek
A lot will also depend on the kinds of wind loads you get in your area. If you have a sheltered spot for your project, that will help, but cheap kit set, may also mean poor wind resistance and you wouldn't want your greenhouse to disintegrate in a storm.

Our first greenhouse was a "Christie" built in Dunedin, which we purchased cheaply from an old trading magazine. Had to get it re galvanised, but it came out like new and was still only about $500.
Had to replace the clips that hold on the glass once in the time we had it, but we grew a heap of food in it. Best silverbeet I ever tasted was grown in it in the winter. Best tomatoes too, free from caterpillars and other greeblies, but did have to be vigilant for things like blight.

We have gone to more expensive kitsets this time. Love the auto openers and things appear to be growing well in them. I like the ease for attaching the glass. no more clips and the glass is safety glass, so less likely to have accidental breakages. Also they are in long pieces, so there are no joins to leak when it rains. Also they are high wind loading which we need here.

Did you know, that what you thought I said, was not what I meant :S

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10 years 8 months ago #467481 by Murray100
We've just bought a Fitlock 2.9x5.4 tunnel house which are well priced and good solid construction. They have a double lining which we didn't get - we'll see how we go this year and may add the inner lining next year once we learn how to drive it.

The extra lining is very effective. We saw one on a cold cloudy day (around 10 deg) at the end of July and it must have been well over 20 deg inside. Apparently you can almost get year round tomatoes with no heating (in Motueka area).

Does anyone know of any good practical books or websites on glass/tunnel house growing?

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10 years 8 months ago #467678 by Belle Bosse

Murray100;469788 wrote:
Does anyone know of any good practical books or websites on glass/tunnel house growing?


Author Eliot Coleman.
"Four Season Harvest". "Winter Harvest Handbook". "New Organic Grower".

His website is in my previous answer... Four Seasons Farm.

We bought the above books through fishpond which had the best price.

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10 years 8 months ago #467754 by Murray100

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