Community greenhouses are a wonderful space to meet other people in your neighborhood, as well as to grow a great deal of the produce you’d normally have to purchase. But what happens in the winter? While there are plenty of people who wrap up their gardens in the fall, if you and the rest of the members in your community agree, you don’t have to give up the greenhouse for the chillier season. Growing veggies and flowers in the winter is still possible, so long as you take a few winterizing steps and prepare your Asheville, NC greenhouse for the colder weather.
How to winterize your community greenhouse:
If you’d like to keep growing in your community greenhouse over the winter, the first thing you’ll have to do is winterize the place. And that all starts with a bit of cleaning. Just like a good spring cleaning helps get your space ready for the new growing season, a deep clean before the snow falls will help ensure your greenhouse is prepared for the winter. Since you’re working with a community greenhouse, the job will be a little easier, too. Simply organize the greenhouse regulars so that everyone has one, manageable job to clean up your space. Someone can wash out empty pots and trays for the plants you’d like to bring indoors, and someone else can work to clean the windows.
Make sure greenhouse is sealed
Once your community greenhouse is nice and clean, it’s time to check and make sure it’s sealed. Any greenhouse will naturally retain heat, but if it’s got holes and cracks, then you’ll be letting that precious heat escape, wasting your community’s money, and potentially causing your plants stress. So, have a few people from the community go around to check the seams and windows of your greenhouse, and caulk up any open spaces.
Set fans to push air down
A lot of people think that fans are only really made to cool down rooms. In fact, they actually work to circulate air throughout your greenhouse, whether it’s warm or cool. In the winter, set your fans to push air down, and that will help keep heat circulating through your greenhouse, ensuring your plants stay nice and warm. Though any greenhouse will have areas that are naturally warmer or cooler, fans will help keep the heat as evenly dispersed as possible.
Set up a heating plan
Once your greenhouse is ready for winter, it’s time to start thinking about additional heat. Though your greenhouse is already ready for cooler months, life in Asheville, NC can still get pretty chilly at night. While your greenhouse will naturally absorb light from the sun, sometimes it’s not enough to keep plants healthy when temperatures dip for extended periods of time. If you’re looking to keep your community greenhouse growing throughout the winter, you’ll want to work with other community members to set up a heating plan that works, but doesn’t cost anyone an arm and a leg. Here’s how to go about it:
Figure out coldest and warmest areas of greenhouse
As mentioned above, any community greenhouse will have warmer and cooler spots. Work with other community members to identify those spots as best you can. This will give you a better idea of where to place which plants, and where to put any heaters you might need. Some plants can handle and even thrive in cooler temps, while others will want to be warmer throughout the winter.
Set up heater, and test thermostat
Once you’ve got those warm and cool spots all figured out, you’ll know where to set up a heater, if you’re using one. Not all greenhouses need them, but for the mountains in Asheville, NC, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll drop below freezing at some point. It’s a good idea to at least have a backup heater set up, and attached to a thermostat that will tell it to kick on if temps start to drop below 42°. If a heater doesn’t seem like the right option, know that there are a ton of heating solutions for greenhouses, from heat lamps to natural growing lights.
Keep plenty of heat supplies
If you’re not planning on using a heater, or if you’d like to use it as little as possible, then be sure to compost your greenhouse before the snow flies, and keep warmers like horticultural fleece around. Both of these products work to trap in heat around plants’ roots, keeping dirt from freezing, and ensuring plants stay warm enough to keep growing.
Only use the heat you need
If you do opt for a heater for your community garden, make sure you and the rest of your greenhouse community are only using the heat you absolutely need. This helps keep your plants out of shock, and it saves you a bunch of money. Most greenhouse growers only use theirs to keep their greenhouse above 42° on the coldest nights, and are sure to place it in the area of their greenhouse that gets the least natural heat. In addition to only using heat strategically, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve tested your thermostat well. If your thermostat isn’t working, you’re likely to either spend more money heating a greenhouse when you don’t, or your heater won’t turn on when it gets truly cold, which can kill your plants in no time.
Set an emergency plan in place
When you’re working with a community greenhouse, one of the biggest benefits is that you have plenty of people to share the work. One of the drawbacks is that sometimes, with so many people working, it can be hard to determine whose turn it is to do what. It’s a good idea that your community greenhouse set up an emergency plan, in case the heater turns off, or the weather gets extremely cold, so you know someone will definitely take care of the greenhouse. Whether you set up a schedule of community members to keep an eye on the temps, or you have one go-to-person to check on it when temperatures dip, it’s important to know that someone will be there to take care of the plants in case of emergency.
Finally, once your thermostat is tested, your heater is in place, and your greenhouse is clean, caulked, and ready to go, you can plant the winter veggies your community has been wanting. Plants like broccoli, beets, cabbage, spinach, swiss chard, and cauliflower do really well in cooler temps, but there are all kinds of options out there if you’re keeping your community greenhouse well-heated through the winter. If you’re not sure what to plant, be sure to have a community meeting, so everyone can weigh in on their favorite winter crops.
If you’ve been looking for a new home in the Asheville area with a quality community garden you can be a part of, then be sure to check out the options at Couch Mountain. A sustainable mountain community, Couch Mountain offers a great deal of amenities to their residents, like community greenhouses and gardens, as well as apiaries and the opportunity for backyard farming. With lots almost completely filled, be sure to get in touch before they’re sold out completely!