A Passive Solar Greenhouse – In the Alaska Garden with Heidi Rader

Hi, I’m Heidi Rader here in the Alaska
Garden. I’m with UAF Cooperative Extension Service and Tanana Chiefs Conference. I’m here in Homer, Alaska checking out all the cool things farmers are doing here to extend the season like high tunnels, hoop houses, low tunnels and also the other cool tools they’re using as small-scale farmers. I’m here with Emily Garrity at Twitter Creek Gardens and we’re gonna check out her passive solar greenhouse. So, how do you maximize the sun and heat retention with this
greenhouse? So the design of the passive solar is you want your glazing at an angle perpendicular to the shoulder season sun, so basically spring and fall
equinox. Okay. And what do you use the greenhouse for? So, we use it for various
things at different seasons. In the spring, we do all of our soil blocking
and seed starting and then in the summer we’ll put a summer crop and in the fall
we’ll plant a winter crop and that’s primarily for home consumption, but we
can grow spinach and kale and hearty greens in there in the fall and then
harvest them through the winter and then do the whole cycle again, come spring. Wow. That’s great. Let’s go inside and check it out. So you’ve got your passive solar greenhouse kind of dug into the ground a little bit. What aspects of the greenhouse help maximize the sun and heat retention. So, the glazing angle like
we talked about before really maximizes the sun and the heat retention qualities
of the greenhouse are both the concrete walls – the north side being completely
dug into the ground so the whole north wall is covered in soil on the outside.
And the east, west and south pony walls are at 4-foot and they’re all concrete
as well. And then our raised beds full of soil have the heat retention quality. Okay. Because that kind of gets the plants off the floor a little bit more. It gets the plants off of the floor. Yup, exactly. So down at the four-foot level it tends
to be a little cooler so we built the raised beds on platforms which kind of
doubled as a heat retention technique. So it worked out well. And then you even have a second layer of plants up there. We do. We use that just in the
spring for our transplants or our seed starting. And then all of those go out
into the field and we remove the shelving and then we’re just growing our
summer crop in here. Okay then that keeps them nice and warm up there, I bet. Yup. Full sun and
nice and warm. So, I see you have a wood stove here. Do you ever have to use this much? Not very often, but it’s really nice to have as kind of an insurance policy. So if we have a series of cloudy days or it’s really
cold and we have starts out here, then we can fire up the wood stove and it keeps
the space warm, so we don’t lose our tender starts. Great. So what do you grow in here mostly like say in the spring? So in the spring we do all of our soil
blocking and our seed starting to grow transplants to go out into the field. And
then once those are out in the field in the summer we put a crop of various
warmer-loving things like hot peppers or we grow in here – cucumbers – we’ve grown basil in here. Sometimes lettuce. So, kind of a variety of summer crops. Great. And then are you able to grow into the fall and winter at all? We are. So, once our summer crop comes out we’re able to plant the raised beds with hearty greens
or kale and we try to get them up to a harvestable size before the sun gets too
dim in the wintertime and then we can harvest through the winter those hearty
greens and if we get them in here a little too late then in the spring as
soon as we’re getting into February March and a little bit more light, then
they tend to have a growth spurt and we can harvest them really early in the
spring to eat. Nice. Well, it sounds like a really sustainable solution for Alaska. It is. Yeah, it’s really helpful and works really well for our farm as a
propagation house and kind of an extra warm climate to grow some of those
diverse vegetables. Great. Well, thanks Emily. This has been really interesting. Yeah, You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

15 thoughts on “A Passive Solar Greenhouse – In the Alaska Garden with Heidi Rader

  1. Easily one of the most impressive greenhouse designs I've seen. Makes sense, the natural pressure of Alaska would make very clear what works or not

  2. That is a well though out operation. One of the challenges I have here in Central Oregon Cascades is 2 to 4 feet of snow pack can cover much of lower part of greenhouse during winter.

  3. It looks like a really nice greenhouse! Do you ever put an extra layer of plastic over the outside in winter to add a little bit of insulation there at night?

  4. Whouiiiiii. Je suis le 45 000ieme visiteur.

    Vos videos sont toujours intéressantes.
    J'aime beaucoup la ferme d'Emily

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