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Come up with the most energy-efficient way to grow food crops in winter

Image credit: https://savvygardening.com/garden-with-a-cold-frame/

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Povilas S
Povilas S Nov 21, 2022
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Come up with an energy-efficient way for growing your own food (plant-based) in the cold season. Preferably with using only renewable energy sources, no or as little as possible artificial lightning and electricity.
Apart from being useful for self-sufficiency in normal circumstances, this is an important issue concerning various unfortunate scenarios such as war, energy and economic crises, etc.
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Creative contributions

Greenhouse that retracts into a hillside tunnel on cold days/nights

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 28, 2022
Homes inside large greenhouses that retract into insulated sarcophagi during harsh environmental conditions. Bring the entire plot outside when the weather is fine. Retract it back into the sarcophagus when the temperatures drop.

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Povilas S
Povilas S11 days ago
The only disadvantage of this is the requirement of artificial lighting once inside the tunnel.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic11 days ago
Povilas S only during extreme days though
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 hours ago
Darko Savic Yes, but in latitudes with long cold winters this would be almost half a year.
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Improved underground greenhouse

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Povilas S
Povilas S Nov 21, 2022
Thermally insulated deep pit greenhouse having an intersection with a geothermal heating system. The idea is described in detail here.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni11 days ago
I went through the idea and it is great. An alternative to the idea could be placing the greenhouse on the roof. The heated air from the chimney or cooking stove could be filtered and directed to the greenhouse. Since, in the winter, the house is always heated, there would be heated air that would need to be released from the house, which could be directed to the greenhouse.
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Povilas S
Povilas S11 days ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni Yes, I will probably add this as a creative contribution since I was also thinking about that before:)
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Roof greenhouse

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Povilas S
Povilas S Nov 28, 2022
The opposite option to the underground greenhouse is placing the greenhouse on the roof of the house or rather making it on the attic level and making the part of the roof over the greenhouse transparent.
Why?
Warm air rises up so whatever heating system to warm the house you have, good thermal insulation of the roof is very important. But it's also economical to somehow use the heat gathering at the top of the house. Making a greenhouse there would do exactly that - its floor would warm up from the warm air rising from below. Just like in the case of the underground greenhouse, you can insulate the transparent roof of the greenhouse by making it from a couple or a few sheets of plexiglass with air gaps between them. You'd probably lose some heat from the living spaces due to the heating of the greenhouse, but have some fresh vegetables in winter.
Another, maybe more economical way to use the heat atop the house is to harvest it from the chimney, as Shubhankar Kulkarni suggested in his comment. Especially the part of the chimney which is above the roof, cause that heat is totally wasted to the atmosphere. One could make a small greenhouse around the chimney where the roof inclination is not too steep and make a ladder or a floor to reach it. Alternatively, one could make a specialized, horizontal platform to support the greenhouse even on steep roofs.
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General comments

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni9 hours ago
One indirect way to make growing crops energy-efficient is by selecting crops that have multiple edible parts. Growing a crop only for its fruit is less energy-efficient. Are there any examples of herbs/ shrubs that have multiple edible parts?
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Povilas S
Povilas San hour ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni Yes, there are many. Examples: Typha spp., Urtica dioica, Beta vulgaris, Allium cepa, Chenopodium album. Many root vegetables also have edible aerial parts and many leaf vegetables also have edible stems, just eating other parts may be not popular due to them being less tasty, culturally not accepted, or simply not known.
Perhaps most edible wild herbs have multiple edible parts, when the plant starts being cultivated as a vegetable the focus is placed on the "best" part, which is usually enlarged through the breeding process.
But we also need to have in mind that for cold season growing it's best to select hardy species that can withstand harsher conditions, that way we'd need to invest less energy into maintaining a suitable microclimate. It might be more worth it to grow a species that produce just a single edible part that is large and can be used as a good staple food and that can withstand harsher conditions than to grow those of universal edibility but higher growing requirements.
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