[MittleiderMethodGardening] Building Your Own Year-Round Geo-Thermal Greenhouse



Many of you are starting to consider building your own Geo-Thermal greenhouses, and some are asking searching questions about the Foundation's and LDS Prepper's.  There is definitely "no free lunch", and while I am very happy with both of mine, they have not been "a walk in the park", and there may still be problems in the future.  The one in Missouri fulfilled all my expectations, and I would definitely build it again (hated giving it away when we sold the home!) and the one we are just now putting the finishing touches on here in Idaho Falls is also looking very good, but I want everyone to have "full disclosure", so there are not a bunch of disappointed people hunting me down (-:.  Following is what I wrote to the Facebook Group, and you all need to read it as well.

The jury is still out on our efforts in Idaho, but so far everything looks good. Everyone needs to know that this is not a slam-dunk cinch.

For example, in Missouri we installed the Geo-Thermal in early January, 2014, when the outside temperatures were -17 degrees Fahrenheit. With the fan running the temperatures in the greenhouse stayed above freezing. But I wanted it warmer, so that I could grow citrus trees, as I had heard Russ Finch does in his gwo-thermal greenhouse in NW Nebraska.

My deepest pipes were only about 5.5' deep and looped on top of each other, so that the shallowest were about 3' deep.

I installed a propane heater, set on on low, and in about 10 minutes the inside temperature went from 40 to 60 degrees. I maintained the heater on low with a thermostat, and the greenhouse stayed consistently around 60 degrees on cold nights.

Of course on sunny days it got warm, even in JanuaryFebruary.

Seedlings were growing on a table in January, and they were transplanted into the soil of the greenhouse in early February, including many different greens as well as tomatoes & peppers.

The capacity of my double-insulated greenhouse to maintain temperatures hospitable to growing, even in the coldest weather, was proven to my satisfaction in Missouri.

However, there was a problem that developed in late spring that we struggles with all summer long. The greenhouse was built directly in line with the drains from the home's roof downspouts, and when rains came my pipes filled with water.

Because all 6 lines were single-piece solid drain pipe we were told that they would not allow water in, but that was definitely NOT the case, and we had to pump them out several times.

To (hopefully) solve this problem we dug a trench across the back end of the greenhouse DEEPER than the lowest line of pipes. We then drilled holes into the pipes on that end so that the water would not accumulate, but would drain out. The deep trench was lined with gravel and we installed a catch-basin and a sump pump on one side.

This SEEMED to take care of it, but I don't really know because we moved out within days of completing this "fix".

The GH that got me excited was built over 30 years ago by Russ Finch in Valentine, Nebraska, and he used SLOTTED 6" pipes. In doing research , specifically with the Green Cube Network, who supposedly are the experts in this new field, I was told to use SOLID 4" pipe, which I did, and I regretted it greatly (at least the solid part).

In Idaho Falls I have used SLOTTED 4" pipe. I surely hope I do NOT have to dig a deep trench and install a sump pump to keep my pipes clear this time! By the way 6" pipe is a great deal more expensive than 4" pipe, so that is one reason for the 4" recommendation by GCN.

We are learning as we go. In Missouri we used a Ditch Witch and trenched, and every line was clear and we had excellent air flow. In Idaho Falls, we used a large Mini-Excavator and dug out the entire area for the pipes to go. We then laid the pipes on the soil and had the machine dump dirt on top , with layers about 1' deep between runs of pipe. My greenhouse ended up with 7 of 8 lines working fine and one apparently crushed by careless placement of dirt crushing the pipe.

LDS Prepper's greenhouse only had 4 lines, rather than the 8 I chose to use, and he also lost one line in the back-filling process. While 1 in 8 was not a big deal to me, 1 in 4 WAS a big deal to David, and so he is preparing to trench a new line to replace the one that is not working. I can't emphasize enough the importance of being careful back-filling over your pipes. They CAN last a very long time, but they have to START OUT in one piece and working.

I recommend everyone do your DUE DILLIGENCE, and look at what others have done as well as carefully assessing your soil situation, before investing the time and money in building your own Geo-Thermal greenhouse.

Jim Kennard


Posted by: jim@growfood.com
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