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greenhouse gardening in HOT climates

Living in California where summers tend to be above 100 degrees makes gardening a water intensive activity. Last year I got lazy and didn't bother to take down my pvc pipe and clear plastic "greenhouse" (ugly but useful) that I used during the winter. Lo and behold, the vegies that were planted in it did WAY better than those put out in the garden beds (I did open up two ends to let lots of air in). I was wondering if any other hot climate gardeners out there have tried a greenhouse, and if you had success. I recently moved to a much drier and windier place, with hot summers, and plan on trying a summer greenhouse again.
 
Shading Shading and more Shading! I live in New Mexico, and since we're at minimum 5000 ft elevation, the sun is more intense and some farmer gardeners I know of actualy keep the shading on all year round (we get average 320 days of sun per year). I would recommend at least 50 % shading in the growing season (I think it comes in 33 %, 50 % and 66 %). Hope this helps,

Mirna
 
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Humidity has a lot to do with it. A local has a full-sun greenhouse that he keeps the doors closed on all year. In the summer the temp can get to 130 degrees F inside. The difference is he has about 40,000 gallons of fish tanks inside with 3,200 square feet of the water surface exposed. So it's extremely humid in there year round.
 
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What does this person grow at 130 degrees? And how does a person walk around in such heat to tend the plants???
 
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I have been thinking about building a PVC and plastic hoophouse too. We have really hot, dry summers. I'm on the quest to raise the perfect tomato, but the climate here seems to make for thick skins and lots of cracks. I thought the hoophouse might create a little friendlier climate. What kind of vegetables did so well in your greenhouse? What about pollination? Was that a problem?
 
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I was able to over-winter a tomatoe plant (it never died! I cut it back during January, and by March was in flower). Usually, frost wipes out everything. Mostly I had cool weather plants such as celery, onions,cilantro, peas and carrots. (I had started these in January, although the celery volunteers itself year after year as I let some go to seed). These all grew beautifully without bolting. Mainly, I think the temps stayed more steady, and the soil moisture stayed constant in the enlosure. As far as pollinators, the ends were wide open by May, so all kinds of flying insects checked out the plants. My cats LOVED lying in the greenhouse even on hot days. Unfortunately, we moved last summer so I didn't get to grow another round of crops (fortunately, I like where we moved way more although gardening is more challenging here, having to start all over with lousy soil). I was so impressed with last year's summer greenhouse that I decided to start building a new one this week. The soil where I live now is sand and granite, and a soil test showed ZERO nutrients (I was amazed at all the zeros that developed when I tested the soil). So my gardening is xeriscape flowers and shrubs, but for edible crops, I'm planting in the greenhouse (the wind blows every day and dries out the sandy/rocky soil instantaneously, which vegies do not survive in as I discovered last summer).
Keep me posted on how your own experiments turn out!
 
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In commercial tomato hothouses, pollination is done every 2nd day with a vibrating wand that gets touched on the stem around 11:00 am (before that the temp may be too low, and pollen may be sticky making it impossible to shake off. 11:00 am is supposed to be the best temp of the day for the pollen). But if you have a small greenhouse and have the doors open every day for ventillation, you probably won't have to worry, your friends the bees will make do. If you're starting the plants early and they start flowering before the necessity for open doors, just hit the stems a couple of times every 2nd day to ensure early fruiting.
 
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Thanks for all the good info NM farmer and mulchwoman! You've inspired me to build a hoophouse of my own. The reason I asked about pollination was because we live on twelve acres surrounded by wheat fields, and it seems like my garden suffers from a lack of pollinators. My squash would turn brown on the blossom end and shrivel up, etc. I found out that was from insufficient pollination. Maybe if I plant flowers around the perimeter of the hoophouse, it would help! Anyway, thanks for the info!
 
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What does this person grow at 130 degrees?

The guy does research in his greenhouse, so whatever he's working on is in there. The purpose is not to get the temp as high as possible. He's a soil researcher.

And how does a person walk around in such heat to tend the plants???

That's hot even for here (San Antonio). The inside humidity was in the 90%, too. He probably doesn't do much tending since he's interested in the soils. He might have a half dozen plants, all the same, planted in different soil mixes. Then he might have four flats like that, so there's not much in there for all the space he has. But there's no tending needed, just general plant health observations. Usually that can wait until night time or tomorrow morning before it gets hot again.
 
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The "thanks for the information" in the last reply to this original thread along with the comment that the information was an "inspiration", is a perfect example for bumping this significant contribution.
 
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