Guest Post: The Advantages Of Greenhouse Gardening For Survival

Tyler Durden's picture

From Brandon Smith of Alt-Market

The Advantages Of Greenhouse Gardening For Survival

I receive letters often that contain questions on the limits of growing your own food in colder climates like Montana and the rest of the "Redoubt", and sometimes, even broad accusations that regions like this are "incapable" of sustaining food production.  Usually, these claims come from people who have never lived here, never built a sustainable garden, or never put any real thought into how to do so effectively.  There are numerous methods for growing vibrant gardens in less than perfect weather, and growing in colder northern areas with longer winters is absolutely possible, given the gardener has some brains.  In the video series below produced by The Survival Podcast, they showcase a very straightforward no nonsense experiment which proves that with a little ingenuity (and rudimentary greenhouse methods) you can indeed grow vegetables regardless of the temperature or the region in which you live.  Anyone who says otherwise simply doesn't know what he is talking about...



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evolutionx's picture

Confirmed: Mujahideen-e-Khalq, Iranian Terrorist Organization Trained On US Soil By US Military

Ynetnews reported in their article, "US operated deep in Iran, trained assassins," that, "the New Yorker reported over the weekend that the US trained members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen-e-Khalq. According to previous reports, Israel has been cooperating with the group, which allegedly carried out hits on Iranian nuclear scientists."

Gully Foyle's picture

I have to assume that the majority of people are absolutely fucking clueless these days, dumbfuck stupid.

Otherwise why the need ANYWHERE for an article on greenhouse gardening.

Gardening is pretty simple, that includes making a Greenhouse or coldframe.

Even using an Aerogarden or building your own Hydroponic system seem to elude the majority.


economics9698's picture

Gardening takes a little practice.

KK Tipton's picture

"Gardening takes a little practice."

And info:

Haney Hoop House (for big plots):
Kerr Center Publications - Hoop House How To (free .PDF plans) -

OSG Hexagon 2x2 stick greenhouse for $300
80 minutes of build video:
RBEglobal - YouTube -

Open Source Greenhouse Documents - Google Docs -

BYU solar funnel cooker. Cheapest and best:

*Great book* if you can't wait for full size veggies (emergency?) :
Microgreens: A Guide To Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens  -

Bulk Microgreen seeds:
High Mowing Seeds - Organic Micro Greens -

Philosophy of soil gardening and way more:
Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times : Steve Solomon -

Keep soil mineral levels high (goes with Steve's book):
The Ideal Soil Book: A Handbook for the New Agriculture: Perfect Soil through Cation Mineral Balance and Soil Fertility secrets of William Albrecht, Carey Reams, Agricola, and Michael Astera -

Container gardening. Huge free .PDF book:
Rooftop gardens Montreal project manual -


Kanchan biosand filter (MIT design quick filter made from a garbage can):
KAF Construction Manual .PDF -

Best DIY permanent install biosand filter website:
Slow sand water filter construction and study and harvesting rainwater -


To archive this info:

*Killer* free Adobe beater PDF Reader - Sumatra PDF -

Mozilla MAF plugin for Firefox (saves webpage with graphics in single file) - maf -

Easy YouTube Video Downloader :: Add-ons for Firefox -


markmotive's picture

Now to find a way to protect those greenhouses from mauraders.

Peak Oil Survival

T1000's picture

There's also underground greenhouses that moderate the temperature year-round:

Here's some aquanponic systems you can buy ready to use:

freedogger's picture

Great links.

I live in Calgary, Canada. Temps in the winter get down to -30 Celcius. Last spring I completed an underground passive solar greenhouse. Similiar to Mike Oehler's designs:


I also have a vertical hydroponics system along the back wall with 50 growing spots mostly for lettuce, tomatoes and peppers. It takes up 10 square metres of my side yard and keeps a family of 5 in tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, snap pees and peppers 3/4 of the year. I start my corn, squash and cucumbers early in little pots for planting around my back yard. I have a huge flemish giant rabbit in there as a pet for the kids. He puts out good CO2 as well. The only power input into this is to run the hydroponics pump 5 minutes an hour.

I have pistons that have wax inside that expand when it gets hot and push two vents open. The angles of the glazing lets more intense sun in durring the winter months and deflects it durring the hot summer. The temps were pretty consistent between 10 and 25 degrees Celcius. There were only 5 days last winter where the greenhouse had freezing temps. I could mitigate this with a small space heater that would only run a few times a year. Its nice to start over with all the plants once a year so I don't know if I will bother.

Here's a writeup with some pictures. The hydroponics wasn't installed at that point. Total cost, about 4,000. Could have done it for about 2k if I was smarter and took more time to shop around etc.

So yes, I agree, this can be done even in a very cold climate if you are resourceful enough and have some time on your hands. My only regret - should have made it 3 times bigger. I kept it under 10 square meters to avoid the need for a building permit. I can always build another one the same size right beside it now.


KK Tipton's picture

Thanks, I just threw those top of my head ones out there.

Steve Solomon's book tells you how to make organic fertilizer from scratch.
Source the bulk ingredients now.
He has a few different "formulas" at this time. Search out his current info.

The Rooftop Garden Montreal container garden people also talk about making your own fertilizer.

They both understand that you need to fertilize plants to have properly mineralized ones.
Store bought produce lacks the full range of minerals.
They juice em' to make em' big at all costs. Sells better.

Lots of info out there. Hope this stuff gets mental gears turning.

WillyGroper's picture

Way cool greenhouse! I'm pea green with envy.

Oh regional Indian's picture

I think Gully Foyle has been hacked. He has gone from super intelligent (OT or whatever, but superb writing and links) to this gibberish spouting troll over this weekend.

Gully, all well? Are you on meds or something?


Chump's picture

It's been going on longer than just this weekend.

FrankDrakman's picture

"though I am an old man, I am but a young gardener"


Race Car Driver's picture

I junked ya for being a consistantly ignorant, pompus fuck.

Most folks couldn't grow a dandelion, because supermarkets have supplied all their food for generations. Even more don't even know how to read an ingredient label. None of us know what poisons are in our food that aren't listed (see: Neotame). Outside of a SHTF scenario, the list of reasons for growing one's own food is getting longer and folks who don't know how will need some way of learning.

Food - die without it.

DCFusor's picture

At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that "news" is not something that happens to other people. He might learn how his ancestors lived and that he himself is no different – in the crunch his life depends on his agility, alertness, and personal resourcefulness.
–Robert Heinlein


tekhneek's picture

Gardening is pretty simple, that includes making a Greenhouse or coldframe.

Even using an Aerogarden or building your own Hydroponic system seem to elude the majority.

Oh really? What are you growing right now?

Whatta's picture shit.

We have gardened for years, in TX, and each year is different and offers different challenges. Even very knowledgable experienced gardeners experience crop failures.

Something is ALWAYS out to get your garden goodies...including (short list): bugs, viruses, fungi, walking critters, flying critters, hail,  too much rain, too little rain, too hot, too cold, noxious weeds, grasses,...

If I do not spend at least an hour a day tending the gardens I am getting behind, and something else is gaining an advantage. Of course we attempt to grow much of our veggie consumption ourselves, not just a random meal veggie for occassional consumption.

And greenhouses offer their own problems. We have a greenhouse as well. Temp regulation, humidity regulation, insect control, nutrient control, etc.

The average joe probably would starve if suddenly forced to go it alone in the world.

tekhneek's picture


That's why I asked that guy... and that's why I advocate wild seed that's native if you can. I grow wild cherry tomato seed from texas, South Texas Porter seed for tomatoes (survive extreme heat) and things like malabar spinach/chaya (tree spinach), and magenta spreent to combat the failures of typical crops. If my cucumbers/squash/tomatos/etc don't survive I still have food to eat without them.

You're absolutely right though. I'm in my second year with my new soil and just now will corn, tomatoes and everything else shoot up and what I've done to that soil is by no means "simple" it's been a very complicated, lengthy process to get highly productive, microbial vast soil going. THe main change is I don't water with the city's chlorinated water. I've killed plants by using that water. It will stunt and even in most cases kill your microbial web that delivers the nutrients to the roots of your plants which causes most failures aside from root eating worms and just general pests. After all that's said and done you've got squirrels, dogs, deer, and all kinds of shit that wants your goodies.

I've recently started moving certain things into pots with my best soil to move them to concrete where a lot of the bugs don't get them. After that I throw some diatomaceous earth around the base so the bugs that DO get up to them die within 48 hours... All things that are by no means simple and took years to understand and get right.

Anyone who says gardening is simple hasn't gardened for very long, or at all.

francis_sawyer's picture

In the Mid-Atlantic, we had a horrible 'stink bug' infestation the past couple of years...

They're still around, but I hear the swarm is kind of moving south (towards Georgia/Fla.) as we speak...

Also... Nobody has much mentioned the need for BEES & pollination... Anyone that thinks gardening expertise is hanging a "Topsy Turvy" tomato plant on the back deck is a nimrod...

Chump's picture

We're still trying to get rid of mf'ing squash bugs that we brought in our second year by (I think) using seedlings.  Dumb dumb dumb, and those fuckers are tenacious.

Whatta's picture

when you find a way to get rid of them let me know!

In TX last year they were terrible. I ended up jerking out yellow squash and zuccini prematurely because of them.

We use integrated pest management... still haven't found a cure for squash bugs other than pick and stomp.

Chump's picture

They actually started eating our tomatoes after destroying our squash and zucchini.  Season was just about over so I just threw up my hands and said fuck it.  We've tried Sevin, some organic soap crap, nothing seems to work.  I think the soap just made them horny.  Everywhere I looked there were squash bugs stuck together.

I think this year I'll spread Sevin, till, and spread again before I lay out some compost.  Otherwise I don't know what to do but "pick and stomp."  And I'm lazy.  For example, I haven't even tilled yet.

Back to the thread, gardening ain't easy.  We've been at it on a small scale for going on 10 years and I feel like a novice every year.

Lednbrass's picture

It is indeed a helluva lot harder then it looks, anyone who thinks its easy has never done much of it.

zhandax's picture

it's been a very complicated, lengthy process to get highly productive, microbial vast soil going

Alfalfa meal is your friend.   Two cups in 5 gallons of water and let it ferment in a five gallon bucket of water with the top on in the sun for a week.  Amazing.  And dirt cheap.  Like $6 for a 40 lb bag.  Do this every other week.  The only drawback; It smells like a Guadalajara outhouse during a burrito festival.

WillyGroper's picture

same problem here. i'm going to put some flour in a sifter sprinkle it on them & then spritz with some water this year. Maybe it will cast them in glue. Worth a shot anyway. I once asked a farmer what he used & he said you can't get it w/o a license. Don't want to eat that for sure.

krispkritter's picture

They made it...were bad last year.  One reason the choicest stuff is staying behind screens in the tunnels.

Harbanger's picture

The South has a longer growing season but people underestimate New England for survivability. I’ve got very few bugs, mountain spring water, fertile soil that grows huge veggies, apples, pears, maples, nut trees, berries, grapes and deer that run into my house. The house is made of local stone and the mountainous terrain makes it stealthy and very easy to defend.  Which is probably one of the most important things you’ll need.

Majere's picture

I disagree GF.  I take in extras from my garden each year to work, and I hear "I wish I could do this", ""I tried to grow tomatoes, and they just die on me", "How do you do this?", "My onions never get big", and the list goes on with the comments.  Once you do a little research and testing things out based on your soil and climate for example, how would one just "garden".  I also  know people that can't build a blanket fort in their own house, let alone a greenhouse of cold-frame. Hell, I've even offered to help people and I would direct them and provide the tiller and haul in some compost from the dump.  Not one person has ever taken me up on this.  What is also odd to me is there is a college of agriculture two towns away that provides some free weekend classes if your willing to get dirty.

Many people are lost in more than one area of their lives.  Sad.

MountainGreenhouse's picture

Check out aquaponics too!  uses up to 98% less water than traditional farming.  Grow tilapia and fruits/veges in the same system.

ArkansasAngie's picture

Ive got breem in mine little ole cement pond

francis_sawyer's picture

Tilapia are the easiest because they are basically like chickens (they'll eat anything)...

Plus ~ they can survive in a fairly wide variance of water temperature...

krispkritter's picture

Below 50deg their growth basically stops, they are very sluggish, and you'll get die-offs as you go lower. I'm in a warm climate so they work well but I do heat the tanks using a rocket mass heater with a heat exchanger when it does get cold. Catfish and bass or perch(?) may be better for cold climates.

MountainGreenhouse's picture

Do you have any details on using the rocket mass heater to heat the water?  I have unlimited wood, and my Pelton wheel is being pushed to its limit as I keep adding more fun stuff :)  I need to start taking more advantage of wood.

krispkritter's picture

I think has the most info on rmh's. I simply used coiled copper pipe as the exchanger and divert the flow from the grow bed to the diverter when I need to heat the water. Since the output goes into the bed, any radical change in temp is taken up by the hydroton before it's introduced back to the tank so I don't get fish stew.  You can use the coil inside or outside the combustion chamber or in the 'mass'. If used in the 'mass' pile(like cob or sand) you can use black plastic pipe which is much cheaper than copper.

fadgadget's picture

agreed is a great resource to crowdsource solutions, as are paul wheaton's youtube videos, and his other site (

francis_sawyer's picture

82 is probably the best temp for Tilapia (but I've never allowed it to get any colder than 70... & yes, that's a lot of stress)... Not to mention the fact that the plants themselves that are being fertilized in the system aren't very happy with a wide variation of temperatures...

PS... What you have to understand is that when I said "wide variety" of temps (above)... I was talking, like, 10 degrees... I consider that "wide"...

krispkritter's picture

I grow tilapia in 300 gallon totes similar to Murray Hallam's DIY design.  There are a number of new 'farms' locally that do it on scales from 300 gallons to pond size. Has it's own set of challenges but it does work. My hoop house or high tunnel is made from bent chainlink toprail and covered with replaced greenhouse plastic from another farm nearby. Costs are in the 100's and my savings are probably 10x that from having produce all year round. I'm going to be converting some grow beds to try citrus and bananas next. Just call me a food terrrist.

francis_sawyer's picture

The 300 gal size is probably the best 'par' scale... I'm still trying to solve the water temperature issue (without having to use a heating source to regulate temperature)...

The best I've done so far is to just keep a tilapia nursery (indoors) using a couple of 75 gallon aquariums... Then, when the weather gets warm, move the fish outside to the pond... It would be kind of nice to live in a place like Florida for this...

krispkritter's picture

Permies may give you some ideas; solar, composting, etc.  You could use solar pools panels, solar water heater panels, an old sat dish(10') with coils of black pipe(did that). If your pond is not natural but a piece of plastic and it's not insulated, redo it. Add rocks and thermal mass in and around the pond. Use a solar pool cover(just remember to aerate). Etc., etc. Not sure what your climate is but there are ways to solve most problems and shop Craigslist to keep costs down. And yeah, I live in Florida...

francis_sawyer's picture

Yeah... That's the whole thing (live in Fla)... Note: That's NOT a criticism (as you sound like you have a good handle on what you're doing)...

It's the 'marginal' cost involved in having to supplement heat (or cooling, or humidity) to get things right... The more variant the climate, the more STRUCTURE you need to account for... I've used solar panels as well, but, as you know, the more to scale up an operation, the more you need... Solar panels that I once used for adding heat to greenhouses & powering grow lights, now have been converted to back-ups to climatize & de-humidify the room where I climate control the food stores (which means it's time to DOUBLE my solar panel structure ~ more cost)...

Shit... Where you're at, I'm guessing that you end up having to worry about predators (i.e. pythons & gators coming in to eat the rabbits who are munching on your lettuce ~ lol)...

Then again... Python & gator meat... Mmmmmmm!

RockyRacoon's picture

I've never wanted a pool... until now!

minted's picture

I have this set up on the back of my office too! I also keep succulents inside in glass jars. This? was helpful, it's making me think to pan my soil and start my own herb garden.  I need to grow those lettuce!

Badabing's picture

I have a green house that has a pond in it the pond acts as a heat capasitor i heat the water with a coil buried in a mulch pile the bio chem. reaction makes heat. i start my plants two months early and then they go outside.

Oh regional Indian's picture

I have an Orange one.

It does not grow much of anything, sadly.....

By the way, a very interesting counter-point to "Let me grow and store as much as I can". is let me see how little I can do with.

Mice that were fed what is considered a near starvation diet by regular standards lived longer and healthier lives than overfed ones.

You canna get lean and mean ridind to MickyD's. Or quaffing too much brew either.

The oft forgotten demand side of the equation. ;-)



Gully Foyle's picture

Oh regional Indian

That mouse thing started a whole new diet fad.

Thing is though it just doesn't seem to translate well in the real world, other wise places like India or parts of Africa would have the oldest populations on the planet due to their limited access to food in their daily diets.

Using animals for anything is hard to fully translate to man, good basis maybe but in the end not quite exact matches.

Longevity boils down to good genetics and nothing more.

I don't care how you diet or exercise when you are young, once those little gene timebombs go off you are fucked.

Todays elderly had fairly shitty diets, by modern standards, yet they still soldier on. They had stronger genes because the weak were naturally weeded out. Something we don't practice toady, we keep everyone alive weak or strong sick or healthy. We spoil the pool for future generations.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Gully, you've gone from posting extremely interesting stuff (and links) to some rather strange, illogical stuff over the last 2-3 days, all well?

Just look at the assertions you are making, full of holes.

Staying Alive and Thriving are two different things.

City life and country life are two COMPLETELY different things.

I've lived/been in the country-side a lot. 

People are really healthy till westernizatiion comes about.