Hello Fellow Gardeners!
I was up early this morning and saw a story on KIII 3 News of a poor unfortunate person who burned their greenhouse down to the ground by trying to keep their plants warm using a kerosene lamp.
First off let me say, I hope that this poor unfortunate person is NOT an NMG but if they are – I really wished they had contacted some of us from the group for assistance.
We have two more months of winter and I thought I’d write a quick article on greenhouse safety and tips.
Using kerosene lamps to generate heat is not a smart safety procedure for any occasion, but most certainly not for keeping a greenhouse warm. I am of the opinion that it really does not get cold enough for a heated greenhouse here, but if you like and want a heated greenhouse, then by all means please ensure that you’ve set up correctly.
Hire an electrician to run your lines, have GFI plugs, or safety extension cords and ensure that if you’re using heaters or blower fans, that they’ve been inspected properly and meet the conditions for which you are attempting to use them. Check to make sure that plugs and cords are all in good working order and that there are no exposed or frayed wires sticking out. I would even go so far as to suggest that you get an ohm meter to make sure output is correct. While kerosene has been used to keep plants warm, this has mostly been used out of doors – orchards and the like, but also back in the day…..no need to do that now.
I purchased myself a greenhouse at the beginning of 2020. Good thing too, because I went back to check the price of it, and where I paid $285 with free shipping for my 6×6 polycarbonate greenhouse, the same exact greenhouse model is now over $500!
The first thing I did upon getting the greenhouse put together was to weather/waterproof the panels. I purchased some waterproof repair tape. This tape is pretty pricey and to make it go further, I simply cut strips of tape in half, lenghtwise and used this to seal the panels of the greenhouse on the inside. This does two things: (1) – prevents water from getting inside the greenhouse from leaky panels, (2) prevents the polycarbonate panels from blowing away in high wind.
When I heard about this most recent cold snap coming I started two days ahead of it by properly preparing the plants – deep watering and moving them inside the greenhouse. My greenhouse is not heated, but what I did do was take some old painter’s plastic and tape it all around the greenhouse, including in front of the entrance. I used Gorilla tape as duct tape does not tend to hold well in cold weather. The plastic I used was leftover from when I painted my office, so make do and mend/recycle when you can.
I am happy to say that I just went outside and checked the temperature and it is a balmy 65 degrees. Just from taping plastic along the inside walls. I did not tape plastic to the top panels as hot air rises and I did not want to create too much heat inside the structure as the temperature came up to 40 something. But also, the humidity inside is pretty high ensuring that the plants are both warm and hydrated as they wait out the cold weather.
If you don’t have a greenhouse, shed or garage in which to shelter your plants, I recommend getting row cover cloth to keep the leaves from getting frost bite. You can use this on ground plants too, but I would add the additional step of putting an extra layer of mulch around the base of each plant and then covering with row cloth material. Make sure to have some garden twine handy too, as some plants don’t like to behave when covered up and can come from under the row cloth.
If you don’t have any row cover cloth, you can use weed barrier cloth in a pinch but just make sure that you double up the fabric for good protection.
Gathering up materials to keep on hand is the best way to plan and prepare for inclement weather. And if all else fails, you can get outside and cut everything down to the ground, place mulch around the base and pray for the best when spring returns.
When not in use, I keep the row cloth sealed in space bags as the material is reusable for quite sometime.
Another thing I’ve tried on cool nights in the greenhouse – roll my little composter inside and leave it there overnight. This too has generated heat for me on cool nights with my plants. As long as your compost is alive, you can use it as an alternate heating source too.
Gardening is about experimenting, and I’m not afraid to try different things and see how it works. I just make sure that whatever experiment I’m doing, it is done safely.
I’m sure that most of you may know some of this information or have a few tips and tricks up your sleeves as well but I just felt after reading that story about the guy burning his greenhouse down with kerosene lamps just needed an article to point out that this type of plant protection is extremely dangerous and should not be done. One would think it goes without saying – leaving kerosene or any type of flame unattended is a surefire recipe for disaster, but then again, shampoo companies have to put warnings on the bottle instructing people not to ingest shampoo.
I’m attaching a few pictures of my greenhouse and my little raised bed with the row cover cloth. If you’re going to purchase painter’s plastic, make sure you get the thickest type available and get the box with roll. You won’t need to double the plastic up if you’re taping it inside the greenhouse, you’ll just need a way to make sure that it stays up.
I will provide links to the products I purchased here:
My 19 Gallon Rolling Composter
I hope this little article helped and gave you a few tips on how to protect your plants during inclement weather in a safe manner. Remember, February is typically the coldest month of the year here in South Texas. Being prepared to get the jump on the bad weather is always a job, but it doesn’t have to be a really hard one.
Until next time.