Why a greenhouse might be good for growing fruit..!

Most places don’t have as good of a climate as west Texas for a greenhouse. But what I can do in mine isn’t matched by any place in the world for growing fruit.

Never a freeze in 15 years, 900 Utah chill hrs (37-48F) in 45 days, 320 day sunny warm growing season, no hail, no varmints, no rain or high humidity thus nearly zero diseases of fruit or tree, nearly full control of water, best fruit I’ve ever eaten. My next project when I have time will be a greenhouse within the greenhouse. Purpose of that is to avoid the chilling and give mango the best chance for high quality. I’d like to compare mango to my best stone fruit.

I harvest stone fruit for 6 months. Last yr I harvested main crop figs for 7 months. If I dropped the chilling I could do that or better every yr with figs. Which brings up what I might do some day: one greenhouse with chilling for stone fruit and one without chilling for mango, citrus, figs, etc.

In the greenhouse if one gets the water right many fruits can be grown at 24-32 brix. The best fruit I’ve ever grown has been in the greenhouse. And production is so much more consistent than outdoors. After surviving 30 yrs of growing outside in Amarillo the greenhouse is fruit heaven.

Only about 30% is currently hobby growing for fruit, the rest a business. When I get tired of doing business I’ll either convert back to hobby growing or sell this place and start over maybe with two greenhouses or one designed for both chill and no chill growing.

In a minute I’ll add some current pictures on another computer.

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Current pictures:


A few of past years fruit:

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" 24-32 brix"
I will set up my dental practice out there. I have a hobby greenhouse to grow 3 in ground citrus trees. I will never produce enough fruit to come close to break even over purchasing organic citrus fruits.

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I grew citrus in mine for a number of yrs. The fruit was good but no better than I can buy. I might try Cara Cara on my next plantings but would rather concentrate on getting Mango right. Thanks for the input.

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You do such a great job at keeping everything so well organized tidy and spaced. Your fruit always looks beyond amazing!

@poncirusguy Yeah but you can never buy ponci citrus at the store!

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I would love to have a greenhouse in my next house - planning on having a 5-10k build budget for it.

But my biggest concerns are:

  1. Pollination issues - I’m not going to hand pollinate, so there needs to be some other solution. I guess having it open during the blooming period could solve this problem but then introduces a pest problem
  2. Operating cost - I’m okay having a high upfront cost but I want to keep heating (and cooling) costs to a minimum

To resolve issue #2 I was thinking of excavating a few feet below the frost line and running pipes to have a climate battery type greenhouse, here is a good example: Climate Battery Greenhouse - Threefold Farm Would need to run the numbers on what the break even point would be though

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Pollination is solved for most things with a hive of bumblebees. A class C hive lasts about 5 weeks and covers everything I’ve ever had. They almost do too good of a job by over working the flowers. They’ve given good fruit set even on hard to pollinate blueberries.

Heating cost is highly dependent on what you grow and how to manage that. It won’t be much if you grow things needing chilling. In Philly you have a great climate for chilling and could get that over a 3-4 month period whatever fits your needs. During that period you only need to keep lows above the critical level for each stage of growth. Basically no heating in winter if growing stone fruit since it doesn’t get cold enough in winter to hurt them. Then in spring you could just heat based on critical temperatures for each stage of bloom.

What gets expensive in a hurry is heating more than 20F above outside. Avoid that and it’s not bad.

Cooling is critical all year long. If you go passive with roll up sides it’s cheap. And even a large exhaust fan like mine is low cost. Mine are 36 inch and even here in 100F heat in June one fan will ventilate 900 sqft. That’s a 1/4 hp motor for 900 sqft, not much at all.

It does take a wet wall here to make cooling really effective in summer. I can hold low 90s all summer without trying too hard. In winter the wet wall allows the 900 chill hrs when it averages 60 and sunny outside. In Philly because of higher dew points you might be better off with passive cooling in summer.

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Thanks for posting these photos. You have a beautiful system.

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Fruitnut your greenhouse fruit was the reason I started converting mine over to fruit about 3 years ago. Mine is in a very cold zone but my aim is not to have a year round operation but to have the ability to grow fruit that might not ripen in our short season.

My greenhouse is not heated from Oct. to March and I was surprised to see that along with my zone 4 grape which does an amazing level of production, some of my zone 4 plums did not lose their blossom buds during our 2 week -36C to -40C cold snap.

I decided to do step over pears, espalier apples and multi grafted plums. This spring I have Bluefre, Vilmitar, Peach Plum, Black Ice, Underwood, and Ptistun #5 blooming. Pollination is an issue as it is still to early for bees and some of the pollinators grafted for the Black Ice are not old enough to bloom. I made sure to have a pollinator for each variety of fruit grafted or to stick to plums that are mostly self fertile. Next year, if I push the start to April 1 and leave it on longer in the fall to extend the ripening time I think that I can roll up the sides and allow the bugs in to pollinate.

If I could give advice to any person growing in zone 2 it would be to set up even a small 4x8 greenhouse and grow a grape. Growing a seedless table grape with minimal supplemental heating is rewarding in a zone where outside it would be impossible. They love the increased heat, reward you with plenty of fruit and require minimal care.

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That is cold…!! Very nice to see someone making a go of it. Your setup is way different than mine but you are using it to good advantage. It doesn’t have to be heated to 60F all winter to add to ones fruit growing ability. A six month freeze free season is a lot longer than 60 days. Nice going.

I noticed you grew black berries in pails. How large a pot do I need and would a triple crown grow in a pot. I can put them outside in the summer but for spring start up or fall season extension I could put them in the greenhouse. Space is very limited so putting them in the ground is not an option.

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@poncirusguy Yeah but you can never buy ponci citrus at the store!”
I grow New Zealand lemonade, Valentine pomelo, Fukushu kumquat, and potted Meiwa kumquat. Can’t buy those at any grocery store. I outdoors grow peaches ,sour cherries, strawberries, figs,. pears’ and paw paws Can’t buy quality or any at the grocery store.
Heating is easy with my 4 layers of glass with 5/8 inch air spaces. I only heat when the outside temperature drops below 10F. When summertime comes I remove and store the glass panels. It is a hobby and I grow what can’t be bought.

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I’m curious about your experiment with mangoes. Keep us updated on the progress

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Thank you sooo much. I have so missed the pictures of your glorious fruits hanging on the trees and making us all drool. Yes, you have discovered perfection!

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I’ve grown trailing blackberries in 5 gal pots with good luck. Haven’t tried a more upright type but it should work similarly.

I am intrigued with the idea of a greenhouse within the greenhouse in order to optimize the temperatures for mango. I could grow mango with the normal chilling environment. It is after all similar to say Modesto but with nothing below 37F. But warming things up during the colder half of the yr might be a plus. So I’d try about 4 trees both my normal environment and warmer during winter. 60F seems important in mango to induce bloom. Too many months when nights are below 60F can cause prolonged bloom and reduce vegetative growth. So one environment would have 6 months of below 60F at night and the other I’d try to limit the period below 60F at night to a much shorter period. Having both might spread out my harvest over half the yr or more.

The waste heat from the inner greenhouse should be more of a plus than a negative. Mostly it would warm the outer greenhouse on winter nights when I’m heating to maintain 37F for optimum chilling.

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I think with that badly worded statement I might have given the impression that the greenhouse was heated so I did not loose buds that were in blossom at those temperatures. The greenhouse did get as cold as -40C those nights, but at that temp the zone 4 fruit trees up here often lose their dormant blossom buds and will not flower in spring, as well, they suffer sever dieback and frost damage.

Somehow, in the unheated greenhouse, they do not suffer this type of damage. I am no expert but I think it might be because of the length of time the buds remain at extreme cold temperatures. On those days even the weak sunshine can heat up the greenhouse, so although outside it only has a daytime high of -32C, inside the greenhouse gets considerably warmer. I am at a loss for any other explanation as to why an unheated greenhouse in zone 2 will successfully grow a grape vine slated for zone 4 and actually produce flower buds on plums from that zone as well.

I don’t have an explanation either. But it’s very interesting and I’ve heard of it happening elsewhere. So you gained two zones unheated with a greenhouse. You might well gain two more zones with a greenhouse within your greenhouse. Cover the inner greenhouse with frost blanket.

In zone 4-5 one greenhouse would move you up to 6-7 and two 8-9.

Building below ground also adds zones.

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I was reading this thread and the discussion on mangos with a greenhouse within a greenhouse got me thinking just that. Not to mention that I have a warm boiler line just outside the greenhouse and that goes to the house. Hmmm? the possibilities could be fun.

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Mango in zone 2. Ya if you’ve got free heat. At the top end I’d be thinking about pluots, sweet cherries, apricots, and nectarines. I’ll be surprised if I can grow mango in my situation that’s better than the stone fruit. In fact I’m not sure that mango can be better period than stone fruit. Mango will be very tough for you. Citrus yes if you can hold winter temp above freezing. Mango I think are more cold sensitive than citrus.

To grow the stone fruit in zone 2 hold Nov-Febr near zero F. Then the other eight months warm it up and you’ll have enough season and daylight to grow my best stone fruits. You’d be on a zone 6 schedule, bloom in March and harvest June into October. My bloom starts 2-3 weeks after chilling ends. You’d be the same.

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