Turkeys in the Greenhouse

Greenhouse Growing and soil care

You’ll be amazed by the many uses of a Solar Gem backyard greenhouse.
Not only can you use it to grow crops in cold weather to extend the growing season,
you can also use it to provide food and shelter for poultry and livestock.
Turkeys in the Greenhouse(photo by M. Howe, a Solar Gem owner)

Another benefit of the greenhouse is that it’s a great place to put worm bins.

Solar Gem Greenhouses has the best heat retention values.  We believe out of all the greenhouses for sale, Solar Gem’s backyard greenhouse holds up better than any other.

A greenhouse is a very valuable addition you can make to your property.  Do you want to be more self-reliant by growing more of your own food?   With a Solar Gem Greenhouse, you can plant spring, fall and winter crops and extend the growing season.  You will enjoy fresh food for 12 months. Consider a large, medium or small Solar Gem Greenhouse for delicious home grown crops. LET’S GROW!



Greenhouse in the snow

The best vegetables to winter garden

With cold temperatures almost here, many backyard gardeners across North America will
soon be retreating inside, content to wait out Old Man Winter until a Spring thaw beckons them outside again. But plucky gardeners don’t take lightly to putting the soil, seeds, pots and fertilizer down for any amount of time. Their solution? Gather the right tools, identify the best vegetables to winter garden, and forge ahead with joyous abandon!

If you desire to transition into that latter category, and free yourself from high grocery store prices and GMO foods, let’s identify what you’re gonna need to succeed.

Location, location, location

First, where will you grow? Basements with heaters and grow lights have been a great fall back locale when other, better options aren’t present, but it’s fraught with setbacks including losing your basement for any other productive purpose while you try to cultivate plants in it. But more and more smart backyard gardeners are opening up their gardening world to year-round status by procuring a genuine year-round backyard greenhouse that’s made to withstand the worst winters and successfully grow fresh veggies when most people think you can’t. May I humbly suggest a Solar Gem Greenhouse? No other requires no assembly, requires no maintenance, diffuses all sunlight, is made for cold weather gardening, and comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Keeping it warm enough to winter garden

What will you need in your new backyard greenhouse? Well, depending upon your latitude, and the severity and duration of your winter weather, you are likely to need some combination of propagation mats (check out the store on the Solar Gem website) and a ceramic space heater to keep the temperatures inside conducive to cultivation. And what temperature is that, you ask? Generally speaking, you’ll want to maintain an interior temperature north of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s about 4 degrees Celsius). Also, a low-tech but helpful way to maintain warmer temps inside your greenhouse is to place a few plastic garbage cans filled with water inside… they will absorb the heat of the day (even in the dead of winter) and radiate that stored heat back into the greenhouse interior when the sun goes down and temps drop precipitously.

What’s on your menu?

Now to the exciting decisions – what will you grow? Some of the best vegetables to winter garden are (in no particular order) kale, potatoes, spinach, chard, turnips, carrots, Brussel sprouts, lettuce and onions. That’s not to mention some herbs and spices that do well in the colder times of the year… basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, chives, and sage. And yes, these can be grown in pots and containers.

For many of us, winter is a time of low humidity. So, be sure to maintain a solid watering regimen for those things you grow in the winter months.

Be bold, and don’t give in to cold temperatures!

You can be a winter gardener too, and enjoy some favorite edibles even when there is snow on the ground! For even more growing ideas, visit one of my favorite gardening sites www.backyard-vegetable-gardening.com. Take charge, eat healthier, and make this winter a memorable one as you grow fresh, delicious and healthful winter vegetables in your own backyard garden.

Family enjoying their solar gem greenhouse

School is back in. Let’s teach kids to garden!

It isn’t a big secret that the education of our children has greatly evolved over time; the
incorporation of computers and IPad’s as aids to learning, keeping up with the latest technology, teaching about new discoveries and cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, while never forgetting the importance of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s the basics which used to be part of curriculum’s – say, how to cultivate food and plants – that has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle….squeezed out in favor of preparing for standardized tests and other pressing matters. On this, the day that most of the North American school children return to school, let’s dedicate ourselves to teach kids to garden once again!

Family farms were yesterday’s classroom

Times were that family farms were the botanical classroom for most youngsters. Mom and dad would involve the kids in the full cycle of planting, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting vegetables of all sorts, whether for personal consumption or to sell at the market. This was first hand, hands-on kinds of lessons that were invaluable to teaching independent living and healthful eating.

As family farms became rarer, and school curriculum’s stuffed more and more subject matters into their school day, children have lost the critical knowledge of how to grow their own food. This is a trend that simply must change.

Can schools really fill the void?

While we can’t bring back the America of 50+ years ago, we can insure that kids learn to cultivate vegetables and fruits and thus learn how they can feed themselves. But here’s the rub… either our schools must find a way, or we (as parents and grandparents) must create our own backyard gardens and teach these critical skills to our posterity. And considering schools are so overburdened these days with standardized tests and limited funding – even playground time/Physical Education has been eliminated, for Pete’s sake – this seems like a far-fetched option.

Imagine generations to come who have no earthly (pun intended) idea about soil, seeds, fertilizers, irrigation, harvesting, etc. It’s a sad and scary thought that is already closer to reality than you may think.

Teach kids to garden: A call to mentor

Take charge today! Let’s teach kids to garden! Commit some of your backyard to a quality greenhouse and the year-round growing of healthy edibles. Then, generously share how it is done with a young person close to you. Not only will this be the most delightful hobby you’ve ever engaged in, you will be teaching invaluable skills to our next generation, not to mention the wonderful bonding experience that will ensue.

School is back in. It’s up to you or the already overburdened teachers. The future of backyard gardening is in our hands.

easy backyard greenhouse canned vegetables

A July 4th reflection: American self-reliance

From the pilgrims, to Colonial times, to the clarion call of “Manifest Destiny” in our push
across the untamed west, American self-reliance has been a proudly defining trait of our nation’s forebears. Today, with financial, climatological, political, and security uncertainties abounding, that spirit of “improvise, adapt, and overcome” has returned in spades.

Strength and preparation from the very beginning

When Myles Standish, William Bradford and 100 other pilgrims landed in Plymouth Massachusetts in November of 1620, bitter cold weather and a lack to sufficient provisions tested their very survival until the fruits of their labor (and some timely trading with friendly Natives) provided a path to prosper. It is likely that lessons learned during these times forged an indelible streak of independence in our collective DNA and a desire to prepare for all contingencies into souls of Americans for many generations to come.

A growing phenomenon

Know anyone who is growing their own backyard garden and either consuming or canning what they grow? If not, you likely will and soon. While farmers and farm lands are being squeezed, families who grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables are simply exploding in numbers. Experts point to fears about Genetically Modified Foods, escalating prices, the possible interruption of supplies, and the desire to eat fresher foods, as the things that animate them the most.

Look at the popularity of whole home generators, solar paneled homes, in-home root cellars, food storage plans, and backyard greenhouses as modern-American society hearkens us back to the frontier spirit of old and a culture of planning for the unknowns ahead.

An American self-reliance tradition

Our history is replete with heroic examples of rugged individualism and self-reliance. And on this hallowed holiday that we ponder and celebrate the birth of this great nation, let us be thankful for the blessings of liberty and observe that, in many ways, everything old is new again.

Happy birthday, America!

food growing in a greenhouse is a great hobby

The amazing economics of vegetable gardening

By now, just about everyone is aware of California’s drought and the impact it is having on America’s food production and the prices folks pay for their fresh and frozen vegetables. With this as the backdrop, it’s time to look at the economics of vegetable gardening.

Dollars and sense – the economics of vegetable gardening

First, let’s consider the economics of what you and the majority of your neighbors do to procure their vegetables… they saunter off to the local grocery store and buy what they need. By the time you get to the check-out line, at least three entities – often more – have had a chance to add their costs of doing business and their profit margins to the fruits and vegetables you have selected. This includes the farmer who grew it, the shipping companies that moved it along the way until it ended up in your grocery basket, a middle-man vegetable broker who packages and sometimes private labels for different chains, and finally, your grocery store. It adds up to pricey foods, and the drought has only added to the pricing misery we all experience. In sum, your food dollar is shrinking as is the quality of the vegetables they offer.

The backyard gardening formula for success

However, you need not be a hapless victim of the wild swings of Mother Nature or the profit needs of farmers and grocery stores. Think about starting your own backyard vegetable garden and taking control of both the costs of feeding yourself and your family, and controlling the quality and variety of the vegetables you consume. By starting your own peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, cabbage, broccoli, etc., from seed, you can save a ton of money over the long run.  Often times, mail order companies will charge $4 for a single tomato or pepper seedling.  Meanwhile, you can purchase 30 seeds for about the same amount of money and grow your own.  In addition, if you grow your own seedlings, you have a lot more varieties to choose from.

Long-term savings

The longer you backyard garden, grow your own edibles, and plant the seeds you cultivate yourself, the cost of food will shrink with each passing season.

Put your backyard gardening plan together today

So, what do you need to get started? A commitment, a plan, a great backyard greenhouse (to protect against weather, animals, and bugs), seeds, soil, pots, fertilizer, a water source, and of course, a backyard. You can do this. What’s more, your wallet and your taste buds will thank you for many years to come. The amazing economics of vegetable gardening are yours to discover!

Broccoli Spinach Tomato pic

Health benefits of backyard vegetables!

Mom was right after all. Vegetables ARE the elixir for much that ails us, much that our
body needs for health and balance, and much that our body requires to fight off disease and aging. The health benefits of home grown, backyard vegetables just can’t be ignored.

Remember how you stared at your dinner plate as a child, piled high with spinach, broccoli, and more, and wondered why your parents hated you so much? But, like Mark Twain, who once hilariously wrote about how much his father had learned from Twain’s adolescence to his adulthood, our parents were much smarter than we ever gave them credit for at the time. Today, the science is simply overwhelming where the health benefits of vegetables are concerned and each of us must consume a daily regimen of them if we want to maintain peak health and age gracefully.

Let’s take a look at three very popular vegetables, and their amazing health benefits.

BROCCOLI – the super food

When you talk about super nutritious vegetables, broccoli is almost in a league of its own. It is low in calories, it’s rich in vitamins and minerals (a cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as your average orange does, and it’s chock full of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, potassium, magnesium, and iron!), it contains needed fiber, and for most, it’s delicious when prepared correctly.

Broccoli is a “cruciferous” vegetable of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae) and its first cousins in the vegetable world are brussel sprouts, and cabbage, and cauliflower. Sulforophane is a sulfur-containing compound present in cruciferous vegetables, and it may have cancer fighting properties to it. The research is ongoing but is most encouraging.

SPINACH – strong to the finish, cuz he eats his

Were it not for Popeye’s love of spinach, and the super human strength he derived from eating a can of it, many of us would have drawn the line here as kids and refused to eat any. It was never appealing to the eye (then or even now), and it’s flavor makes few do back flips, but the positives of spinach cannot be understated.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are nutrients that healthy eyes depend. They’re both antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals in your body, and spinach is teeming with them. Speculation is that these two substances may protect the eye from light-induced oxidative damage, which is thought to play a role in the development of age-related macular degeneration.  As to other vitamins and minerals, spinach is also a super source of vitamins A and K and a good source of folate. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting.

TOMATOES – kryptonite to prostate cancer?

I’ve left the most popular of vegetables for last. Tomatoes are incredibly popular for backyard gardeners to grow, and they’re a staple of diets the world over. And good thing too because they have many nutritional benefits.

Tomatoes contain a substance called lycopene; a red carotenoid pigment and phytonutrient that is also found in pink grapefruit and watermelon. Lycopene is the ingredient that makes tomatoes red in appearance. Lycopene is a very potent antioxidant, thought to protect against some cancers and even cardiovascular disease. This substance has been found quite promising in protecting men from acquiring prostate cancer. Many medical studies on this topic have been so encouraging that even the FDA has approved a qualified health claim about the relationship between tomatoes and the prevention of prostate cancers. Wow.

The best defense against disease and the inevitable aging process is to eat things that help your body to be healthy, live longer, and fight disease. Fresh backyard vegetables are your weapon! And what better place to acquire them than your own backyard? You can start a backyard garden today, inside a great backyard greenhouse, and cultivate the tastiest, most healthful vegetables around, that are devoid of pesticides and chemically treated soils to insure that only the best stuff is served at your dinner table. Here’s to the good health that several cups of fresh backyard vegetables every day can help us all achieve!

Backyard Gardening (and California’s drought)

It seems that with every ominous new story of climatological catastrophe in California, the
critical importance and future of backyard gardening gets a little clearer. What was once a quaint hobby for many is now taking on far greater significance, and grabbing ever more headlines, as people across North America (indeed, the globe) are taking measure of the precarious nature of the food sources they have trusted for generations.

California…North America’s primary food source

A little back story is in order.

California – while best known for its celebrities, smog, and setting cultural trends – has long been America’s biggest bread basket. Since the mid-1850’s, when trains made shipping produce fast and easy, California has played a very critical role in feeding us and the world. But recent negative weather phenomenon, crippling droughts that have brought on draconian water conservation rules, and increasing populations here and abroad (more mouths to feed and thus more yield needed per acre), are pushing the Golden State to the brink, and forcing many families to rethink the way they procure their edibles. Many of your neighbors are not only thinking about backyard gardening, they’re taking concrete steps now to begin growing everything that they’re used to getting at the supermarket.

Inaction – many say – will cost more than aggressively becoming your own source for edibles via backyard gardening.

Food stats tell the story

California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Consider these California stats and you’ll have an idea what is at stake: California produces 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, 69 percent of carrots, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. No other state has such market share, and no other state can impact (positively or negatively) the quantity of fresh produce available at your local supermarket or the prices that each of us has to pay for them.

A drought of unthinkable magnitude

So just how bad is the California drought that America’s most populous state has been reeling from since 2011? It is unprecedented in its scope and severity. Here’s the bottom line: California is almost bone dry. So much so that in January 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a “drought State of Emergency” and directed state officials to “take all necessary actions” to prepare for acute water shortages. If conservation doesn’t have a big impact on water supplies – few think that it will – and Mother Nature doesn’t begin to cooperate by dumping apocalyptic levels of rain to refill near empty rivers, wells, aquifers, and reservoirs very soon, vegetable farmers will be faced with an almost cataclysmic lose-lose proposition… grow far less produce or water their produce far less. Beyond the obvious reduction in yield, this catastrophe could have the effect of also bankrupting both small and large farmers throughout the state.

It gets worse. According to National Geographic, California farmers are pumping irreplaceable ground water to counter the drought, and when it’s all gone, “the real crisis begins.” In sum, if you thought things were bad now, everything on the horizon appears rather bleak as well.

Hold on to your wallets

No matter how you slice it, all signs are pointing to increased scarcity, skyrocketing vegetable and fruit prices, and the quality of produce taking a nosedive compared to that purchased just a few years ago. For this, and many health related reasons, the future of backyard gardening is very bright and growing wildly in popularity with each passing day as every news report out of California purveys even more doom. What California cannot supply for the foreseeable future, in the fashion that it has for most of the past 150 years, more and more individuals and families across North America are concluding that they must begin to produce for themselves via backyard gardening.

Backyard gardening…your defense against California’s water catastrophe

The California drought is going to affect you sooner than later, if it hasn’t already. Bank on it. Acquiring a year-round backyard greenhouse and starting your backyard gardening plot soon (getting your gardening learning curve out of the way now) may lessen the fallout of the California drought and the impact it will surely have on your food dollar and quality of life.

How to kill snails and slugs (the bane of a gardener’s existence!)

Few things are more exasperating, and deflating, then to lovingly toil at cultivating your
favorite vegetables or flowers in your backyard garden, only to then have your harvest ravaged by legions of uninvited slimy vermin with voracious appetites who are seemingly always on the prowl for a delectable meal at your expense. Ahhhhh, but fear not my fellow gardeners… this is your guide on how to rid yourself of those slow-moving garden terrorists once and for all; your road map for how to kill snails and slugs!

Diatomaceous Earth – a natural, totally non-toxic substance that bugs loathe!

Many gardeners are rightly very conscious of not introducing caustic pesticides into their gardens as this is often the very reason people across the globe eschew vegetables and produce at the grocery store and grow organically themselves. So, grabbing some aerosol can filled with chemicals and poisons of some kind is simply a non-starter, and we strongly urge you to avoid doing this. Instead, Mother Nature has provided gardeners a sure-fire way to kill snails and slugs (as well as a host of other bugs with exoskeletons) with practically zero negatives.

It’s called Diatomaceous Earth (or DE for short), and you may have heard of it before if you own a pool as it is commonly used as a filter media additive. For everyone else, it is the natural, non-toxic substance that we unknowingly consume every day when we eat things like grains (DE is widely used to keep bugs from consuming harvested crops before they make it to market). It is completely harmless to mammals even when ingested.

How DE kills snails and slugs

First, let’s establish what DE is. It’s a substance made up of the fossilized remains of plankton, and contains almost pure silica with a few trace minerals tossed in for good measure. Under a microscope DE looks a lot like shards of glass and thus it’s naturally rough, sharp microscopic edges puncture the body of snails and slugs when they traverse a surface that has been dusted with it, and it causes rapid dehydration to take place and ultimately death. Mission accomplished.

Use Food Grade DE only!

As mentioned earlier there are two very common uses for DE…an additive for pool filtration systems, and a wonder substance for killing many kinds of bugs. Not surprisingly then, there are two different grades of DE depending on the application you intend to use it for. For gardening purposes, use ONLY “food grade” DE purchased from a garden supply center, or the like, to kill snails and slugs with joyful haste. The variety meant for pools has unwanted additives that makes it unfit to use around vegetables.

How to apply

DE must remain dry to be effective. So, even a morning dew can render it useless. This means that spreading DE around your garden is easier and more effective if done inside a greenhouse, for instance, where your moisture is much better controlled. If any of your DE gets moist/wet, simply reapply.

Lightly dust your plants, leafs, and soils with DE when snails and slugs are present. Sprinkle a protective circle around the base of plants to act as a fortress from those marauding gastropods! Also, you can spread some DE on surfaces where they commonly travel or places where they may try entering your greenhouse as a kind of preemptive strike. When you do, your snail and slugs problems are going to quickly become a thing of the past.


Though this blog is meant to impart a game plan for wiping out snail and slug infestations in your beloved garden or backyard greenhouse, remember that DE is very effective on ALL pests with exoskeletons (ants, roaches, etc.) that may be causing you consternation as well.


More people are saying “NO” to Genetically Modified Foods

Greenhouse Gardening: more people are saying "NO to genetically modified foodWith opponents conjuring up images akin to the Frankenstein monster of Mary Shelley’s famous novel, genetically modified foods, and other worrisome trends with our food supply, are sending droves of health conscious consumers to grow their own edibles through backyard greenhouse gardening.

Genetically Modified Foods

According to the online food advocacy site Bad Seed, “Genetically engineered plants have had either genes from bacteria or viruses, or genes that make plants resistant to toxic chemicals like the herbicide Roundup — spliced into their DNA. These genes were never part of the human diet until the first GMO plant was created in 1996.” In an online article entitled 50 Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods, author Nathan Batalion Pakalert stated, “…much of GM [Genetically Modified] technology is directed at eliminating surrounding biological environment – competing animals and plants by soaking them with lethal toxins.” And this from the Philadelphia Enquirer online, “In conclusion, seventy percent of our food is genetically engineered and Monsanto makes 90 percent of the genetically engineered seeds….unless you buy from seed companies that do not sell GMO seed, and then grow your own food.” But GMO foods are not without their fans and advocates. Advocates for GMO say that all the worry is groundless and such modifications to seeds can lead to higher yields and drought resistance, just to name a few. And with world populations increasing, they say, and weather patterns gaining wilder swings, the world’s food supply needs heartier seeds and bigger harvests to keep up with future demand.

The debate rages on, but ominous warnings from concerned scientists, advocates, and health professionals about the cons of GMO foods being outweighed by their benefits, is seemingly growing louder each day.

Greenhouse gardening and growing your own food

Think about the meals you ate yesterday. Was any of it grown with genetically modified seeds? Do you know? It’s this great uncertainty, the great unknowns of Genetically Modified Foods, skyrocketing grocery prices, the desire to eat healthier foods from a trusted source, and the trends toward self-sufficiency that are driving more people around the world to purchase their own backyard greenhouse and begin a lifelong journey of greenhouse gardening. How else can you be sure that your foods have not been altered at the genetic level? Also, how else can you be certain that caustic pesticides have not been sprayed on the vegetables that you and your family will consume? Greenhouse gardening puts you in the driver seat to insure that only the freshest, most natural, and healthiest foods are grown and consumed by you and your loved ones.

Solar Gem Greenhouses points the way

For almost 25 years, Solar Gem Greenhouses has been a favorite of backyard gardeners who, for a whole host of reasons, have decided that greenhouse gardening makes great sense for them. Whether you are a novice or advanced gardener, someone alarmed at the trajectory of our food supply, or you want a year-round garden of organic, worry-free vegetables that are teeming with amazing flavors, a Solar Gem Greenhouse simply cannot be beat, no matter what the climate in your area may be.

Let’s Grow!

9 Best Reasons To Grow Your Own Vegetables

9 Best Reasons To Grow Your Own Vegetables Solar Gem GreenhousesLists. They are ubiquitous these days. We make lists, we read lists, we share lists, we organize ourselves with lists, we motivate with lists, and we’re endlessly entertained by others who make lists for us that rank things. Who gets to decide how things are ranked, what are the rules, is there a governing body for these list makers, and is there any science to the conclusions they reach? Let’s not overthink this.

Gardeners, no matter their skill level, are not immune to this exciting “list” phenomenon, so what better blog could there be for current and future backyard gardeners than a “list” of the best reasons to grow your own vegetables? Oh, some will quibble with how these are ranked – gardeners have informed opinions, you know – and some will suggest that an obvious item was inexplicably left off of the list. This is what makes lists that ranks things so much fun. But this is MY list, and these are my top reasons.

Vegetable gardening, not being one of those controversial topics that tends to polarize readers and generate furious letters to the editor, seemed like an ideal place for me to begin what I hope will be a recurring theme…unscientifically ranking things purely for your reading enjoyment. Now, we shall wade into the waters of gardening opinion and share with you my iron-clad, no doubt about it, take it to the bank, 9 best reasons to grow your own vegetables. [drumroll please, Maestro]

9 Best Reasons To Grow Your Own Vegetables

  1. Sick of the lousy-quality produce at the grocery store
  2. SAVE MONEY (they’re charging how much for those puny, tasteless tomatoes?!)
  3. Desire to eat healthier and be healthier
  4. Eliminate caustic pesticides from your food and go organic
  5. Looking for a fun, productive hobby (perhaps to share with a child, or grandchild)
  6. Desire to live more self-sufficiently
  7. Want fresher, much tastier produce from a trusted source
  8. Want fresher, much tastier herbs and spices to cook with
  9. Want to grow vegetables (or uncommon varieties of vegetables) that you can’t readily find in your grocery store

There you have it. It’s official. These are the 9 best reasons to grow your own vegetables, right in your own backyard, and right inside your own Solar Gem Greenhouse.

Which brings me to a final exhortation…if you want to vegetable garden all year long – no matter what the season is, or how inhospitable the outside temperatures and conditions are (plus you don’t want to feed pests and the local wildlife instead of your family) a rugged backyard greenhouse, which diffuses sunlight in the interior, keeps the warmth in during the colder months, and greatly enhances your harvest year after blessed year – is a must-have gardening tool.

Let’s Grow!