Cold houses and winter vegetables

Coming back from winter break, I've been amazed with the productivity of our winter vegetable gardening experiment in the unheated teaching greenhouse (the Sprouting Wings Greenhouse).


Kales, lettuces, and spinach

a flourishing mesclun mix
With no heat, regular poly/hoophouse covering, and plastic water-filled barrels as a heat source, these greens have not only survived, but they've thrived and grown.


  1. Can you explain more about how the plastic water filled barrels serve as a heat source? I have a very small green house and a spare barrel from this summer's rain barrel projects -- I'd love to be able to use both through the winter. Thanks! I really enjoy your blog!

  2. Hi, Sarah-
    We actually wish we had metal barrels, as supposedly the heat transfer back to air is better than from plastic barrels.

    But the basic idea is that water-filled objects (best to be black in the outside color) absorb heat, and then radiate it back overnight.

    Good luck and thanks for the nice comment!


  3. This is really interesting. I'm wondering if Chicago is too far north for this technique. Not that I have a poly house, but I like to learn about non-fossil-fueled ways of doing things.


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