How to Grow Vegetables in the Winter Using Solar Power

Written by christopher donahue
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How to Grow Vegetables in the Winter Using Solar Power
Greenhouse (greenhouse image by ann triling from Fotolia.com)

The most basic part of growing vegetables during the winter is capturing and holding what heat is available. Greenhouses are built on the principle and do it well. Better greenhouse designs improve on that concept. Better insulation methods will reduce heat loss in your greenhouse and get the greatest value from your investment. Using other solar techniques, this efficiency may be increased and augmented by drawing more than the heat applied directly to the greenhouse. Adding solar batteries to power grow lights will extend the effective daylight, balancing winter's shorter days.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Greenhouse (glass, Plexiglas or non-opaque plastic)
  • Clear sealant (silicon is best)
  • Mylar blankets (emergency or sometimes called "space" blankets)
  • Matt or flat black paint
  • Paint brush
  • Solar electric panels
  • Solar storage battery (9 to 12 Volts DC)
  • Low voltage "grow" lights (9 to 12 Volts DC)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Position your greenhouse to receive the longest average amount of direct winter sunlight. If possible, choose a location with both direct sunlight and minimal wind exposure.

  2. 2

    Install your solar panels near your greenhouse to minimise cable length from the panel to the storage batteries you place inside the greenhouse. Place the solar panels for direct sun exposure, but not where they block sun exposure to your greenhouse.

  3. 3

    Paint any flat surfaces inside your greenhouse (not the clear wall and roof panels) with flat or matt black paint. This will help those surfaces absorb solar energy which the greenhouse will keep inside for better vegetable growing conditions.

  4. 4

    Add extra sealant to panel joint areas of your greenhouse to minimise air leaks. The more tightly sealed your greenhouse is, the longer it will hold the solar energy it captures during the day.

  5. 5

    Mount your low-voltage grow lights directly above your vegetable platforms or trays. Connect the grow lights to the solar storage batteries and turn them on at sundown (or install a light detector to automatically turn on the grow lights for you).

  6. 6

    Place Mylar blankets near your greenhouse, reflective side up. Position them to reflect sunlight onto your greenhouse and solar electric panels. Use rocks to hold the reflectors in position. Reflected sunlight is less effective than direct sunlight, but it will add to the energy your greenhouse and solar panels collect.

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