Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

The Advantages of the Mobile Greenhouse

The following is an excerpt from The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman.

We have added one new twist to a winter-harvest system by reviving an old European practice—the mobile greenhouse.

According to the best historical information I can find, the first mobile greenhouse was built in 1898 in England. Even though it was a large glasshouse, it could be moved safely because railroad wheels running on steel rails supported its iron framework. We have copied the mobile greenhouse concept, but on a far less expensive scale. I describe our mobile greenhouses in chapter 8.

The mobile greenhouse offers a number of advantages. First, it allows us to avoid the expense of having to cool the house when starting our winter crops in August. Instead, we sow winter crops out of doors in the field over which the greenhouse will move. Meanwhile the greenhouse continues to provide protection for heat-loving crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, or sweet potatoes. We leave the greenhouse over the summer crops until the summercrop season is finished, sometime in mid to late October here in coastal Maine. Then, we move the greenhouse to cover the winter crops. The following October, the same process takes place in the reverse direction.

This idea, protecting hardy winter crops with a second layer inside an unheated plastic greenhouse, was pioneered in the 1950s by E. M. Emmert, a professor of horticulture at the University of Kentucky. For some reason no one picked up on Emmert’s innovation at the time: possibly because plastic greenhouses were so new; possibly because the concept seemed too good to be true. But it is more likely that growers were deterred by unfamiliarity with the day-length factor in winter gardening. Because of the slowdown in plant growth due to shorter days (coupled with cooler temperatures), winter crops have to be planted before winter. Timing the plantings is the key to success. The goal is to get plants almost to maturity before the day length becomes shorter than ten hours.
A second advantage of the mobile greenhouse is the avoidance of the buildup of pests, diseases, and excess soil nutrients, which can be problems in a permanent greenhouse. For one year out of every two, our growing beds are uncovered, exposing the soil to the cleansing powers of sun, rain, wind, and snow. As an additional advantage during the initial soil-building years, the uncovered year allows us to plant a long-term, deep-rooting, leguminous greenmanure crop on that section. This green manure can occupy the soil of the uncovered site for as long as thirteen months (June through the following July), if you forgo a summer vegetable crop, or ten months (September through July) if you sow the green manure toward the end of the summer-crop season. The benefits of green manures for protecting, enriching, and aerating the soil were an important part of our soil-fertility-building program in the first few years. All green manures should be turned under three to four weeks before the planting date of the crops following them. Related Posts:


10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading […] Read More..

Draft Power: The Life-Affirming Alternative to “Big Ag”

Farmers young and old are seeking new ways to shrink their carbon footprint and promote more ecologically friendly ways of getting chores done. So, what’s a modern farmer to do? For some, the centuries old approach of using draft animals—especially horses—is offering a very 21st century solution. Read More..

Top 8 Chelsea Green Books the Self-Styled Oregon Militia Should Read

The ongoing armed militia occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is showing no signs of ending — so, rather than send them snacks, or sex toys, we had an idea: Send them a book! Better yet, send them several Chelsea Green books. Don’t worry, we’ve picked five key titles that we think […] Read More..

A Book for the Fruit Nerd on Your Holiday Gift List

Have a fruit enthusiast on your holiday shopping list this year? Then give the gift that Booklist calls, “a thorough investigation of one wonderful fruit”—The Book of Pears by Joan Morgan.Sure cherries, plums, peaches, and other fruits have their unique qualities, but nothing quite compares to the pear’s luscious texture, richness of taste, and fragrance reminiscent […] Read More..

Unlock the Secret to the Perfect Salad with Soil Sprouts

As the weather gets colder and seasonal produce only means root vegetables, we begin to dream about fresh greens and colorful salads. Without a greenhouse or expensive equipment, it’s hard to imagine a reality in which you can have fresh and local greens every day. Luckily, Peter Burke has a method: in his book Year-Round Indoor […] Read More..
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com