Can I Feed my Family of 4 with a Greenhouse?

family picnic
can my greenhouse feed my family- girl in greenhouse
can my greenhouse feed my family- render

The answer is yes.

The more difficult question lies in the specifics. How big of a greenhouse do I need to feed my family? What do I plant? What growing method do I use? How do I design the space? What kind of greenhouse will I need? These are the questions you need to consider if you and your family are trying to be more self-sufficient. So let’s address each one.

What size of greenhouse do I need for my family of 4?

To figure out what size greenhouse you need, ask yourself how many vegetables does my family eat? And, how efficient is my family greenhouse? Keep in mind we can only approximate. A 12 ’x 18’ or 12’ x 24’ can be the appropriate size, if the family is growing fairly intensively. An 18’ x 24’ might be more ideal if you want to include fruit trees because they take up more space. Around 400 sq ft (20’ x 20’) is what we would recommend to eliminate the need for the grocery store.

 What should I plant?

 This question is really about personal preferences. So, the answer really comes down to– what do I want to eat? But also, what am I capable of growing? Climate will also play a factor in what you might want to plant. There are plenty of resources that can help guide your planting, and we recommend reading this blog on lighting or this blog about planning your grow calendar.

What growing method should I use for my family’s greenhouse?

 We recommend using soil if you are a novice or are on a budget. But, if you are trying to grow intensively and space is a factor, you might want to consider hydroponics. If you are an experienced grower, who wants high-output and a closed-loop growing system you might want to consider aquaponics (which incorporates the use of fish into the system as a means of fertilization and recycling of organic matter). We design for all systems and believe in the virtue of each. For a residential greenhouse any system can be used, and we can make recommendations considering factors such as how large of a greenhouse you have (soil takes up more room, as do fish tanks), how much you are willing to spend (nutrients for hydroponics can be pricey), and what you want to grow (hydroponic systems are great for leafy greens and tomatoes, but will not work for root vegetables).

 Here is what you could expect (approximately) from an 18×24 aquaponics system: 

75-100 heads of LETTUCE or LEAFY GREENS weekly

150-200 lbs. of FISH annually

225 lbs. of TOMATOES annually

135 MICROGREEN flats annually

Would this be sufficient to feed your family? If you love lettuce and tomatoes then everyone will be plenty satisfied. But a system like this does not allow for much plant diversity.

 A soil based system typically allows for the most plant diversity since you will be able to grow root vegetables, leafy greens, fruiting crops, herbs, and trees all in one space. Companion planting many different varieties together can also help increase plant health and reduce pest and disease pressure.

 The choice is up to you.

 How do I design the greenhouse space?

 This will depend on what you are growing and whether you are using any additional climate controls. If microgreens are at the top of your list you can design your system with shelves and supplemental lighting. If you want fruit trees, then you will have to consider maximum height growth and shading. We can work together to lay out the space that makes the most sense for your output and taste preferences.

 What kind of greenhouse will I need?

 If you desire a year-round grow system, we recommend a Ceres greenhouse. Ceres’ greenhouses are passive solar and highly insulated, built from quality, long lasting materials. This means you can expect to save money on operating costs, energy bills, and replacing materials. A Ceres greenhouse uses 50% less energy than a traditional greenhouse and is able to capture 50%-100% more light. We have a couple of residential greenhouse options, like the BackYard Kit or the DIY greenhouse, depending on your budget, goals and how customizable you want your structure to be. If efficiency and longevity are priorities, opt for the best in the industry. Do you want more customized information for your backyard greenhouse project? Contact us today!

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