The first vegetarium was made almost a century ago by Alexander Vasilievich Ivanov, and this invention was patented in the sixties. The effectiveness of vegetarian was proven and even published a book, which describes in detail the design and all the advantages of its use. However, in our country, this, no doubt, successful project, alas, has not been widely spread.
So what is a vegetarium, what are its advantages, does it have disadvantages and what does a vegetarium differ from a greenhouse - we will try to tell about all this as comprehensibly as possible in this article.
Problems in greenhouses that a vegetarian doesn't have
Let's start by taking apart the cons and problems of a standard greenhouse and talk about how these problems are solved in a vegetarian. So, what is a standard greenhouse? That's right, it's an arched or gabled structure, covered with glass, film or polycarbonate with soil in the base. Usually this is all, although there are some greenhouses with heating.
What are the disadvantages of greenhouses: the most important disadvantage is the great loss of solar energy, especially in those seasons when the sun is low - this is spring, autumn, winter, and in the morning and evening hours. During this time a hothouse can reflect up to 70 % (!) of solar energy and pass inside only 20 or 30 %.
The second big problem, and along with it the second difference of a vegetarium from a hothouse is simply monstrous losses of heat through its covering and practically full absence of possibility to store it (heat). What does this lead to? Certainly to considerable temperature changes during day and night hours, or when a hot sunny day is suddenly replaced by cloudy and rainy one.
The third problem of greenhouse is direct flow ventilation, which is just necessary in summer to "dump" excess temperature and enrich the structure inside with fresh air. So, in addition to heat such ventilation also throws out carbon dioxide, necessary for plant nutrition, as well as a significant proportion of nitrogen and moisture that the leaf plates had time to evaporate at that time, why the greenhouse and needs constant watering of the plants growing in it.
How is all this solved in a vegetarium?
The first problem the vegetarium solves because of its unique design. The vegetarium is usually placed on the slope with steepness from 14-16 to 18-19 degrees and the slope can be both of natural origin and made artificially. The result should get a slope oriented to the south or southeast.
Next - the roof, it makes a flat, but not declined or arched, like a greenhouse, and cover the polycarbonate, because it retains heat better than other materials. As a result the sunlight almost always falls perpendicularly and their reflection is minimal.
If one compares a vegetarium and a common greenhouse it is found that the absorption of energy by a vegetarium is at least three times higher than by a greenhouse during daytime hours in summer and at least 15 times higher during morning and evening hours in fall, spring and winter.
In addition, in a vegetarium one wall must be made solid, although you can use as it, say, the wall of a house, the other walls must also be made of polycarbonate. It is desirable to paint the capital wall, a part of which is situated inside the vegetarium, white or whitewash it, and better to paste a reflective, mirror film.
This film (paint, whitewash) will act as a reflector and it will be especially effective when the sun is low in the sky, that is in the morning, evening and in winter. It seems a trifle, but this trifle can almost double the amount of sunlight directed to the soil at this time.
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And how are the second and third problems solved? They are solved by a closed cycle of air and heat exchange. To do this, under the surface of the soil in the vegetarium at a depth of thirty centimeters, about half a meter apart, plastic tubes must be laid along the vegetarium (from the north to the south side of the vegetarium). The lower ends of these tubes must be brought to the surface and covered with a plastic or metal mesh to prevent debris from getting into the tubes.
The upper ends of the tubes (north side) must be connected into one collector, located transversely. From the collector there must be a vertical pipe, i.e. a riser, which can be laid in the capital wall of the vegetarium. This pipe, i.e. the riser, should exit to the roof, but not directly, but first passing through a regulation chamber. This chamber must open into the greenhouse at a height of approximately one and a half meters. This chamber is bounded by flaps at the top and bottom, and the outlet to the greenhouse itself ends with a fan.
In summer, using ordinary chalk, which can shade the roof, and an ordinary household exhaust fan of two dozen watts, two pipes up to ten centimeters in diameter can be serviced. If there are more pipes in a vegetarium, it is necessary to make additional risers and also equip them with fans or to make one big regulating chamber where all these pipes are entered, but one common one is taken out above.
Such vegetarium arrangement should provide high temperature inside the room, even if there is frost outside it. For example, when the outside temperature is -10 degrees, the vegetarium should be warm inside and the temperature should reach 17-19 degrees above zero. Herewith the upper flap of chamber must be closed, fan will take air in pipes and push it upwards and air will give the heat to the soil, passing through it. During day time period due to such air circulation the soil should be heated up to 25 degrees and more, and in fact, it is the soil that will play a role of heat accumulator, which (by idea) should be enough for the whole night. At night time a fan will rotate and blow heat from soil to vegetarium air space heating air in a greenhouse.
Construction of vegetarium
In words it may seem confusing and complicated, but in fact everything is quite primitive, let's try to put everything in a nutshell and talk about the vegetarium structure in order.
So, let's start with the appearance. In fact, it resembles an ordinary walled greenhouse, of which there are many, and they are often found in garden plots. The difference between a greenhouse and a vegetarian begins inside. Thanks to the special design of the vegetarium, combined with the special air circulation, which we told you about, it does not need additional heating when the temperature outside the window falls to ten degrees of frost, that is closer to spring.
With such a temperature outside the vegetarium inside, the temperature, by design, should be about two dozen degrees above zero. Accordingly, when the temperature outside decreases, the temperature inside the vegetarium will also decrease.
Further, there is a special system of air circulation, which allows not to ventilate in the way we are used to. So, as we have already mentioned vegetarium will not lose moisture, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, which are necessary for plants growth and development, and you can water plants in vegetarium less often because of it.
With this it is clear, let's go to the beds in vegetarium. In this structure, unlike in the greenhouse, they are located on steps, gradually rising from the south side to the north side. The beds can be constructed of bricks, wooden boards or metal sheets. It is this arrangement of beds will not allow the plants to shade each other. It looks similar to the arrangement of seats in a cinema, where each successive row is higher than the previous one, therefore, the viewers do not disturb each other, and in a vegetarium the plants (receive solar energy and light) do not.
All this design of beds in a vegetarium allows to minimize the reflection of sun rays, hence, losses will be minimal. It is better to make the beds themselves narrow, but the aisles between them to leave wide. If you grow tall plants, say, tomatoes, cucumbers and the like, then do not forget about the design of the trellis. In this case it will be necessary to provide a larger distance between beds so that the trellis will not create shade, then the length of vegetarium itself should be longer or steeper slope.
Certainly, if it starts to get very cold, frost outside, vegetarium will not be able to maintain sufficient heat, it simply will have nowhere to get, so the vegetarium ventilation system will need to be built a simple heater, or to provide heating possibility, so you can use vegetarium all year round.
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We mentioned the irrigation system: the vegetarium needs little water. In order for the plants in the vegetarium to get a sufficient amount of moisture, it is necessary to provide an opportunity to use soil moisture and air moisture. A specially designed system, which is just for this purpose, will help to collect moisture. It is a system of ventilation pipes, about which we spoke above.
Pipes have holes in their bottom made at a distance of about 18-22 cm one from another. The air that passes through these pipes, being initially warm, leads to the formation of condensate on the walls of these pipes. Condensation through the holes enters the soil and is then absorbed by the plant roots. To get the moisture as evenly distributed over the soil under the pipes as possible, it is necessary to lay initially a layer of expanded clay.
Thus, if the circulation of warm air is constant, then, as the inventor says, additional watering for plants in the vegetarium will be needed to a minimum extent, and it will consist of a system of drips. In addition to the rather significant savings on moisture and on the time normally spent on watering, the moisture which is formed in this way is also of very high quality. Water from the condensate is devoid of salts, devoid of lime, that is soft and, in addition, saturated with ammonia, which is formed from the decomposition of organic compounds.
When using drip irrigation for additional soil moisture and moisture supply to plants in the growing room you need to turn on the drip only in periods when ventilation works. This trick will prevent excessive moisture in the air.
For example, with traditional watering by sprinkling or under-root watering, when water reaches the soil surface, its part, usually a lot of it evaporates very actively, which leads sometimes to an excessive increase in humidity in the greenhouse and simultaneously water starvation of the root system of plants.
In a vegetarium, moisture comes to the roots mainly from the depth of the soil, it stimulates the development of the root system (and, consequently, the above-ground mass, fruits), does not allow it to evaporate, and drip irrigation is a kind of supplement, supplying moisture to the soil in small amounts and not leading to increased humidity in the vegetarium.
Summarizing, we can say that, in essence, a vegetarium is the same greenhouse, but of a closed type, of a particular design, which allows collecting the maximum amount of solar energy, with a ventilation system that does not allow water and substances needed by plants to be thrown from the greenhouse into the external environment, and with a soil moisture system, which is essentially built into the ventilation system, which also allows saving water and not contributing to over-humidifying the air.
Of course not everyone can construct such a thing on his plot, and on the Internet does not cease to argue about the expediency of such a construction, but it is worth checking to see for yourself all the pros and cons of vegetarium, and maybe find some disadvantages. It would be very much desirable to hear in your comments what gardeners think about it.
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