Advice on Screen House Garden : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

As many of you have heard, I am plagued by grasshoppers here in Central texas. I have tossed around the idea of screening in my entire garden, and have determined now that I really have no other choice. I am looking for advice on pro's and con's of gardening in a screened structure, or other pests or problems I might need to be aware of or just your thoughts on such a scheme.

The structure I am probably going to get is 30'x48' and is essentially a commercial greenhouse frame. The entire thing works out to being $6 more than if I built a screened house out of 4x4's and screened that in with house screen. this one I could tear down and sell if it failed to do what I intend....but it's a lot of money and I am seeking thee best minds thoughts on the subject! Thanks!

-- Doreen (, September 20, 2000


I have two thoughts on the subject.

What will you do for insect pollination? I'm not sure that I would want to put a hive of bees inside with outside access for them. Doubt that you could rely on wind pollination alone.

What about all of the insects and or their eggs already in the soil? Will you fumigate to get rid of them. Those are pretty powerful chemicals.

Just something to think about.

-- Notforprint (, September 21, 2000.

I agree with Notforprint. Are you willing to hand pollinate once or twice a day?

You could turn it and let the chickens clean it up before enclosing it.

Will the screen allow enough air movement to prevent mildew and fungus diseases? How much sunlight will be restricted? Are these things problems in your climate? If not, I think a screen house is a good idea!

-- Laura (, September 21, 2000.

Speaking of chickens.This year we have had maybe fifty or so running around. ( in the garden too ) Not near the trouble we usually have with grass hoppers this summer. I usually have a lot of trouble with the grass hoppers eating everything that does not burn up.

I have watched them,one chicken will start the chase and another will get the grass hopper when it lands. The only thing they really seemed to bother in the garden was the tomatoes. Thought maybe next year I would put something around them to protect them from the chickens.

Have you got chickens? Is that an alternative? I imagine it would be cheaper than screen. Just an idea.

-- Bonnie (, September 21, 2000.

I was intending to screen it in and let my chickens have at it for a week or two, maybe three. It would be right over half of my garden space currently and I haven't had the opportunity to be plagued with many things other than some aphids, flea beetles, squash bugs and cutworms. I can handle all of those easily, but the hoppers have won this battle.

My place abutts an area of approximately 5 sq. miles that is never cultivated just cattle range and a couple of houses. This means that the hopper eggs don't get turned over and they are just unchallenged for the most part.

I have 20 something guineas, and 14 hens, and they doo a good job eating these things, but I sincerely think that if I had a hundred guineas I would still have a terrific problem because the hoppers are often in the trees and on fences and the birds don't jump to eat them. I have stooped feeding the guineas in the am so they are hungrier and hopefully will eat more of the grasshoppers, but it's almost like the grasshoppers have an endless supply of lives to give for the cause of destroying my garden!

Molds or fungus might be a problem, but I would be able to address that with dish soap and baking soda and watering adjustments. The cloth is supposed to be quite breathable and water permeable although it does cut both by approximately 20% according to the man I spoke with. Light isn't a problem as, this is Central Tx and the trees I have planted for shade around the garden are only about 6 feet tall right now. The ones that are still alive after the hoppers, that is. 2 out of 5 have been done in by them I believe, but I am leaving the sticks in the ground to see if they will come back next spring.

I have considered pollination as being the biggest detractor to this possible solution for hoppers....I thought if I purchased quite a few lady bugs and some praying mantis' that I should be able to get things pollinated by them. I have also considered that if the hoppers are not in noticeable attendence I would leave both ends open for all manner of bugs to enter.

I have a good population of bumbles here and I have considered putting a bumble bee house in there for pollinators. I am not too sure about that, what do you think? I don't think a hive of honey bees would be too good. They need a bit more room, methinks.

Does anyone know if lady bugs are any help in pollinating?

-- Doreen (, September 21, 2000.

Doreen, Would butterflies work? They would be good at polinating; wouldn't they? And just think how PURDY that would be!I don't know. What do you think?

-- Bonnie (, September 21, 2000.

Butterflies would be beautiful, but don't their larvae eat a lot of stuff, too? Maybe I could let some loose and handpick the larvae when it got to be too much.

Why is it I always end up trying to do things people haven't done before? Or at least if they have they aren't willing to talk about it!!

Here's the URL for the company I am thinking I would buy from. They are the least expensive for strongish structures that I have been able to find. I have decided that the 22' wide one will do...less cost!

-- Doreen (, September 22, 2000.

I don't think ladybugs and praying mantis would do much for pollination. They have voracious appetites for bug on the hoof. Will they have enough food in your screen house?

The butterflies sound like a good idea. Painted Ladies are quite inexspensive. You can plant marshmallow and other host plants to feed the larvae.

I really like bumblebees, but how would you get them to move in?

-- Laura (, September 23, 2000.

I just came back from talking two employees of an organic nursery about this. Seems I am not the only person in the area that has thought of this! Another lady did the same thing last fall and they said she told them it was going pretty well.

The largest problem seems to be that the lowered light causes nightshades to get pretty leggy and the pollination thing is a bit of a problem, but they said that with the things I intend to grow, it shouldn't be too problematic. Somewhat time consuming, but at this point, I honestly don't think I have a choice unless we get a solid month freeze here. They also said that cool weather crops seem to do really well in a screen house.

They said that the mantis' and ladies would not be the best pollinators, but that if I left the ends open until the hoppers came on and put in some flowers near the entrance and a bumble house I might be able to cut the hand pollination. Also thought the butterflies might end up being more of a problem than a blessing if the population got out of control. I will ponder that, the idea of butterflies fluttering all about really makes me smile!

The guy also gave me some other greenhouse manufacturers to check into. If I find anything really cheap, I will post it here. Thanks for your thoughts!

-- Doreen (, September 23, 2000.

Hi Doreen, You could cut a couple of small openings (about 1"in diameter) in the screen up toward the top, say,one on each side, put fresh flowers around the hole to attract bees and a flowering plant or sugarwater just inside. Once they find the holes, the bees will continue to use the entrances you made for them but the grasshoppers will never find the openings.

-- Peg (NW WI) (, September 24, 2000.

Doreen: As Bill Clinton is prone to say, "I feel your pain." Here in cental Florida, the big problem is freeze. Just when your garden is about to produce a bumper crop, you get one night of 19 degrees followed by days of 80+ degrees. If you are going to go the greenhouse route (not a bad choice if you are dependent upon your own crops) I would try putting one hive of bees at the unused end with two entries. One would face the world, the other would face your greenhouse. Trust me. the hummers will figure out if there is anything worth pollinating inside your greenhouse. Go for it!

-- John and Pat James (, September 27, 2000.

Just checking something

-- Doreen (, September 30, 2000.

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