- Paul Betz, High Mowing Organic Seeds Sales Associate and owner of High Ledge Farm, VT
season gets closer every day, and while my greenhouses are sitting idle
at this time of the year, that doesn't mean I can ignore them. They are
always on my mind, especially with the threat of winter weather.
A few years ago I wrote about efficiency and maintenance. I am not going to rewrite that now; you can find a link to the article here.
I will say that now is the time to start thinking about any greenhouse
fixes and adjustments. Tune up your heaters and run them for a day or
two before you have a house full of seeded flats. It's better to find
out what's not working at the expense of a little fuel, rather than my
The work I do at this time of year is twofold; inside I am doing
some "imagineering". I think about work flow, supply storage, what
works, what doesn't work. Soon enough there won't be time or space to
make these adjustments. Now is also the time to do a really deep
cleaning. I haven't had the time to do one in the fall for a while, so
come late winter I remove any weeds and sweep up all the soil and debris
from last season. I check doors and openings for fit, and make any
my main concern is snow. Snow gets heavy fast, and can actually absorb
the water from the air and gain weight as time goes on. All that weight
pushes straight down on the greenhouse, until it overloads the capacity
of the pipe and any cross ties that support it. Typically the place the
pipes fail is at the hip board, where a hole has been drilled. The
result is a heavy, cold, expensive mess. As an aside, anyone who
received an NRCS high tunnel is
financially responsible for its upkeep, and if it comes down during the
study period, you are on the hook. Our greenhouses are a gambrel style,
with a high sidewall, which helps the snow to slide off. I make a point
of clearing them after every heavy snow. I use a roof rake, and the
snow generally comes off fairly easily. The bigger problem comes from
the snow once it's on the ground. At some point the sides build up and
there's no room for new snow to accumulate. I used to shovel this by
hand but now I have a new ally.
five years ago, I got a rear mounted snow blower for the tractor, and
it is an amazing tool. I brought it over to a friend's farm and cleaned
up his houses in a few hours. That includes the time it takes to fix any
broken shear pins. It really shines where the room between the
greenhouses is tight. It's hard to plow or push snow out for 100'. The
snow blower throws it out. It takes a few passes to get all of it
removed, but it is as easy as sitting in the seat. By keeping the sides
clean, the new snow (there's always more snow coming) can slide off to
then be moved by the tractor another day. An added bonus is that all
that snow can melt somewhere else. I have some drainage issues we are
still working on, and the last thing I need in the spring is to have all
that cold water running through the greenhouse and taking away my heat.
I can push it over the bank where it can melt in peace.
Here's to a successful season for you and your farm.