Wayne Vandre from the Cooperative Extension Service spoke to our chapter on how to provide a favorable growing environment in a greenhouse for those of us who desire an improved environment to grow better fruits and vegetables. He presented an extensive slide show of greenhouses in Alaska and discussed the advantages and disadvantages encountered with each structure. The first slides demonstrated the necessity for using translucent materials that would let in the proper amount of light for good plant growth. The next set of slides demonstrated the need to control temperatures between 65F and 80F using fans, vents or raised structures. Humidity should also be controlled in this manner with air movement and ventilation to prevent mildew and fungus from attacking your plants.
Hanging baskets, vertical wall pots, or A-frame stands can be used to maximize space without substantially reducing the available light. Any inside walls should be painted white to maximize lighting. A small air pump can be used to separate two walls of plastic to create a thermal wall of air or you can purchase dual wall fiberglass panels to reduce heat loss and provide a longer growing season. Most greenhouses require some source of heat during May and June and between August and September. Inside wails can be insulated to reduce heat loss. Small solar collectors consisting of gallon water jugs work well to prevent temperatures from getting too hot during the day and too cold at night because they serve as heat reservoirs. A greenhouse can be attached to your home to heat and cool your home through the use of fans and thermostatic control devices.
If fluorescent lighting is used to supplement sunlight, the lighting should be 10-18 inches above the plants and raised as they grow taller. Information on various types of greenhouse construction and supply outlets are available from the Extension Service. For greenhouse supplies and equipment such as fans, you can contact Alaska Greenhouse or Alaska Mill and Feed in Anchorage.
Wayne recommended artificial sterilized potting mixes which can fee purchased, or you can make your own soil mix and sterilize it. Soil mixes can be made by using 1/3 loam or fine sand plus 1/3 coarse sand plus 1/3 milled sphagnum moss or other ingredient (not peat) to retain water. Soils can be sterilized in an oven at 160 F for 20 minutes or with the use of steam. At the end of the season you should remove all plant materials from your soil or pots to prevent disease and fungus from reappearing in the soil next season.
Editorial comment: Dianne Lillian in Halibut Cove has successfully grown fruit trees in an open-frame Quonset hut greenhouse for several years now. This open style greenhouse structure may have commercial potential in Alaska. Wild bees will enter the structure and pollinate the fruit blossoms.
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