Why Movable Greenhouses are a Great Idea

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Movable greenhouses (on rails, skids or wheels) can be a great idea for the serious backyard grower or small-scale veggie farmer.

They’re a great way to benefit your plants, extend your growing season and avoid the potential insect and disease buildup of greenhouse growing…

Organic salads at Allsun Farm in early spring, benefitting from the protection and warmth of a movable greenhouse

Organic salads at Allsun Farm in early spring, benefitting from the protection and warmth of a movable greenhouse

Greenhouses have many benefits in a  range of climates for growers. In our dry climate, they help increase humidity and provide frost protection. Closer to the coast, I’ve seen them provide wind and fruit fly protection to tomato crops. In other regions, they hold off the snow and keep the ground from freezing.

But a greenhouse is a closed environment, in a way. And that means the soil in the beds of that greenhouse is also in a closed environment.

There’s many ways to keep the veggie beds naturally vital, healthy and alive in this environment.

Creating movable greenhouses is one great solution, to prevent disease buildup and to give the soil it’s season in the sun, between crops.

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Above is the movable greenhouse system at Four Season Farm in Maine, USA, as used by Eliot Coleman.

The rails and wheels allow large polytunnels to be shunted between blocks of veggie beds as part of Four Season’s crop rotation.

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A four year crop rotation designed for two movable greenhouses – snapped from Eliot Coleman’s awesome book The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, which you should definitely read.

But if you’re not up for the infrastructure of rails and such, or if you’re growing at a smaller scale, removable wheels for your movable greenhouse are a great option.

Our friends Joyce and Mike at Allsun Farm have several movable greenhouses that work on removable wheels.

Like Coleman, they move these greenhouses back and forth through their garden with the seasons, to ensure disease-free fertility for their organic veggies.

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Movable greenhouse at Allsun Farm

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Moving day: first, jack up the corners of the greenhouse and attach the wheels…

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Mike Plane fixes the wheels on…

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Ready to roll…

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A couple of helping hands, and it’s done.

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The greenhouse is now moved onto a fresh block of beds that have had a good rest and renewal with green manures, which are now dug in and ready for planting the next crop in the rotation.

The crux of the movable greenhouse technique is the organic nature of soil management that you’re committing to in an organic garden. You’re trying to keep your soil as alive and healthy as it can be, while dealing with pests and diseases in a natural way.

So spraying fungicides to deal with disease build up in the soils is simply not an option. Neither is laying on the synthetic fertiliser when your plants grow poorly because your soils are so depleted of nutrients.

Instead, you’re using the cleansing powers of sunlight on the earth and the powers of photosynthesis in the forms of green manures to assist your garden’s nutrient cycling. Which ensures good food grown in healthy soil – all year round.

Allsun Farm

Allsun Farm

In a few weeks (21 – 23 Sept), we’re hosting a Market Garden Masterclass at Allsun Farm! As part of the course, students will be moving one of the greenhouses to its next place in the organic crop rotation cycle.

If you’d like to see how this technique works first hand (and learn stacks about growing good food) please join us for an awesome 3 days of learning and doing.

I’ll be cooking up a storm from the garden also, so bring your appetites too.

>> More stories and resources on growing good food…

Cheers muchly to Joyce Wilkie of Allsun Farm for the photos above.

11 Comments

  1. Posted September 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have a dedicated tomato house made from fruit fly netting to grow tomatoes, capsicums and eggplant because I am in a fruit fly area. It measures 6M X 2M and is easily picked up by 6 helpers and walked to the new site each year for a 4 year rotation.
    A 6X4 structure is ample for a household production to supply all needed for the growing season plus have enough to dry for the off season and share for capsicums and tomatoes. I eat tomatoes every day of the year from my garden.
    Two seasons ago I produced about 300Kg of tomatoes from a 4X2 structure.
    By the way, the diagram about the 4 year rotation is actually only a 2 year rotation unless the crops are reversed from top to bottom in each of the illustrations in years 3 & 4.

  2. David Trees
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great post thanks. I will have to look at my Kindle edition of Mr C’s book. I don’t remember that image. If it’s not there I will need to grab the paper edition as it is recommended reading for the course above. I doing my reading now so when we come back we’re right up to date and ready to do the courses.

    Thanks again Kirsten :)

  3. Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is great! Sounds like really simple way to maintain soil health. How heavy are the greenhouses? What are they made from?

  4. Posted September 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Howdy! A quick couple of questions to Milkwood and to anyone else who might know. I may have the opportunity to receive a 9x12m dome tent / hoop house / green house thing. The catch is that it has an opaque white plastic-canvas cover. I have been in a similar one, and it is extremely warm and well lit, but…will the opaqueness of the canvas block out any of the spectrum that my plants may need?

    A free green house frame (brand spanking new and galvanized) is a wonderful deal, and perhaps I could re-cover it with translucent plastic down the line IF funds permit. Does it seem worth it to plop it onto my field if I have to keep the opaque cover for a (long) while?

    Thanks

  5. Posted September 10, 2013 at 1:50 am | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on homesteaddad and commented:
    What a great idea. I will have to remember to incorporate a moving hoophouse into my plans for next year.

  6. Carole
    Posted September 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have a home veg garden of six raised beds (only one sleeper high) each 5m X 1.5m. I errect a simple stakes and polypipe and growcover ‘hoophouse’ over a different bed each year according to the rotation. At a smaller production level, it makes more sense than moving large fixed frame greenhouses.

  7. Janet McConaughey
    Posted October 1, 2013 at 6:01 am | Permalink | Reply

    What exactly is a “fruit fly area”? We have them sometimes around the compost bucket but not outside.

  8. Jim & Judith
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 2:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    What are best techniques for reducing potential wind damage to moveable greenhouses? My wife has built two. One was rolled over by wind despite some staking, and the other was flipped entirely out of our field onto the neighbor’s fence. We are in Oregon, and only occasionally have high winds. Thank you!

  9. Posted May 19, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on Slow Natural Living and commented:
    Great idea for the colder areas

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] Why Movable Greenhouses are a Great Idea […]

  2. […] can read a bit about the theory behind movable greenhouses here, and more about Allsun Farm […]

  3. […] Click HERE To See Why A Movable Greenhouse Is A  Great Idea […]

  4. […] of the growing setup at Allsun Farm works off a series of movable greenhouses, based on an Eliot Coleman […]

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