Heating Your Greenhouse in Europe This Winter

Started by Bern, September 03, 2022, 09:59:17 AM

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How bad is the energy situation in Europe now?  There are all kinds of dire predictions being published in the news in the USA about an impending disaster in Europe this winter due to energy shortages and prices, particularly for natural gas.  The only believable story I've read is from a letter published by the President of the International Euphorbia Society in their most recent journal.  He said that he has had discussions with members, presumably in the Netherlands, who have stated that they are concerned that they will not be able to afford to heat their greenhouses this winter and beyond. Is the situation really this bad for plant hobbyists with greenhouses?  What's really going on in Europe now with this situation?


Bern in Williamsburg, Virginia 

David Pilling

Europe made itself highly dependent on Russia for gas and then decided to fight a war with Russia. Guess what happens next. Rationing and super high prices.
In the UK which produces 50% of its gas from its own area of the North sea and buys the remainder from Norway, prices are predicted to rise by five times.

Something has to be done or else a lot of people will freeze/become insolvent. We're waiting to see what happens - various sorts of government intervention are in the offing.

At the moment it does not look too clever because Germany has given its people money to buy the same limited amount of gas that France has given people money to buy and that we assume the UK will shortly give people money for.

I'd not thought about plants - it will depend how the government intervention works - making gas cheaper but not so cheap people waste it.

Business is another game - they can be told to reduce their usage, or paid to reduce it, or just be rationed.

In summary there is a reason why the dollar is shooting up in value at the moment - fracking.

PS the MSM are hysterical about the situation and since I read the news every five minutes...


So it looks like the news is truthful about the cost increases and energy shortages this winter in Europe.  If natural gas goes up 5X in the UK and an equivalent or greater amount in the EU, then people with hobby greenhouses might get squeezed quite a bit this winter.  I imagine that the large bulb and plant production operations in the Netherlands might have their operations seriously impacted if they maintain extensive greenhouses.  If they have to cut back on energy costs by not heating all of their facilities this winter, then most likely there will be fewer plants and bulbs to export next year.  Also, there are a lot of rare and interesting plants residing in hobby greenhouses.  I hope that they can be preserved in cultivation through the coming winter if the energy situation in Europe is going to be as bad as predicted. 

David Pilling

It is an interesting question. For example food is produced in heated greenhouses in the North of Europe. Will that vanish.
I am not a typical example but in most Winters these days I can get away without heating my greenhouse for frost protection.
Right now, we don't know what the costs will be and what will be available. We actually don't know who will be the leader of the UK on Monday afternoon.

Martin Bohnet

Quote from: David Pilling on September 03, 2022, 10:47:12 AMEurope made itself highly dependent on Russia for gas and then decided to fight a war with Russia. Guess what happens next. Rationing and super high prices.
Just to make that  clear: Europe has not decided to fight a war with Russia. The only thing we decided was that we can't just follow Starfleet's prime directive of non-involvement, as we don't follow Putin's history distortion styling this as an internal Russian affair.

That said, I'm in the lucky position that I only need frost protection in the Greenhouse-ish sidebuilding (more massive than a greenhouse and thus less thermal variance) for about 4 weeks per winter, and my financial resources  can deal with a massive increase in price, at least for one or two winters. What I'm afraid of is actually some kind of decree to force me into not heating - but I'm also afraid of water rationing in the summer. Future will be not funny for plant growers.
Martin (pronouns: he/his/him)

David Pilling

The great dictators get their taste for power from horticulture. It's funny to go around the garden pointing out "that was Napoleon's favorite" etc.

"Putin Has Instituted A Four-Day 'Gardening Holiday' "

"Russians Turn to Their Gardens to Offset Sanctions"

"What Does a Putin Garden Gnome Tell Us About Contemporary Politics?"

"Gardening Australia - A day with Putin - YouTube"


I hadn't as yet considered the impact on vegetable production in greenhouses in Europe during the winter.  It follows that if energy costs for these greenhouses increases, then the costs of the crops they grow will be passed on to the people who purchase what they produce. This will be another and very immediate barometer for increased energy prices.  Have you noticed an increase in food prices in the UK and Europe?  Food prices have escalated substantially in the US recently, mostly as result of the inflation caused by the massive stimulus funding enabled by the Federal Reserve Bank and Congress as a response to the covid pandemic.  And also as a result of the increased costs of gasoline and diesel used in transporting food from farm to market.  Much of the increased costs of gasoline and diesel apparently can be attributed to government sanctions against Russia.

Bern in Williamsburg, Virginia

David Pilling

Prices have gone up, the headline inflation numbers don't lie. A noticeable example was cooking oil (rapeseed for example) which doubled in price overnight - an obvious link to Ukraine which produces a lot of sunflower oil. Most food has gone up by a less noticeable 10-15%. It's very easy to pick an item of food and it will be more expensive than a year ago.

Petrol got to within pennies of £2 per litre, but has come down since to maybe £1.65 now.

Comparisons are complex, the pound is down 20% against the dollar this year, and there is a lot of tax on petrol.

Looking on the bright side, I am currently pricing flower bulbs, and prices seem around the same as a year ago, they'd gone up quite a bit in the previous year. Not everyone sees them as essentials.

Good time to be buying Dutch bulbs from the USA - dollar/euro parity.


So David, it looks like you are paying about 2X what I'm paying for gasoline factoring in the exchange rate and the liter to gallon conversion.  And I also pay a lot of taxes on gasoline.  Amazingly, even when gasoline was at a high of about $4.50 per gallon, I could not detect any noticeable reduction here in road traffic.  I wonder how high the price of gasoline would have to be in the USA before it noticeably affected the amount of traffic on the roads.  I don't really want to find out.  Anyway, there is a lot going on with energy and the GBP and USD are now almost at parity.  I am still hoping that plant hobbyists and plant businesses will have enough resources to pay to heat their greenhouses this winter.  We will shortly know the answer to this. 


And today's news in the USA about European natural gas supplies from Russia is that they have indefinitely halted gas supplies to Europe through the main pipeline.  Furthermore, the Russian Government has stated that it will not supply any energy products to any European government that introduces price caps on Russian energy. Apparently energy prices in Europe are skyrocketing in price on this news. I'm no longer just concerned about hobby greenhouses and commercial greenhouses, but it now appears that even the prime public European botanical conservatories will be adversely affected.

David Pilling

When I was a child the coin I was given for my weekly pocket money was referred to as "half a dollar". This terminology must have come from the sunny days between the wars, because there were eight of them to the pound. At the same time (1960s) one could get four gallons of petrol for a pound, and those were Imperial gallons (bigger than US gallons).

A year ago, the average cost of gas and electricity for a UK household was around £1000, the government will now use its cheque book to limit the cost going forward to £2500. That's an average, there are small households, and ones where people spend most of the day at work, others pay a lot more. There will be a similar subsidy for business.

Some people who have large illuminated Christmas displays outside their houses have announced they won't this time.

Ornamental plants survived the war, despite a ban on growing them.

Lee Poulsen

I just checked and the pound is only $1.15, which is what the euro used to be. Has it gotten that low before? (When I was a little boy and collected stamps I think the pound was something like $2.40. I always thought it made British stamps so expensive.)

And speaking of losing plant collections because of not having enough energy to bring them through the winter, I think a similar kind of problem is going to happen more and more often to those living in warm climates and having mega droughts such that one can't water their plants during the hottest days. Luckily I wasn't in the area of the Los Angeles metropolitan area that is supposed to not water anything outside for all of this week and next week right when we are in the midst of the longest September heatwave since records began. It has basically been hitting around 40°C/104°F plus or minus everywhere except in those areas closest to the beach for more than a week now and continuing till this Saturday when it will finally cool down. Plus, the nighttime lows have been unusually high for this area during that entire time, never dropping below about 24°C/75°F with one morning only getting down to 27°C/81°F (instead of normally dropping into the 60s F/<20°C at night), and unusually humid. It has felt like the southeastern US summer weather. I don't now how non-dormant plants could survive no water at all if it had been in the 100s for two entire weeks, especially those in pots.
Pasadena, California, USA - USDA Zone 10a
Latitude 34°N, Altitude 1150 ft/350 m

David Pilling

I recall the pound toying with US dollar parity, probably in the 70s. The headlines say it was the 80s when it was last at the current level.

Buying stuff in the UK, a common observation has been that prices in dollars are turned into prices in pounds, despite the pound (in the past) being worth substantially more than a dollar.

Plant collections will have to move to more suitable climes.

Now how to turn my stamp collection into heat... sell or burn. Oddly enough the problem has been keeping it dry.


I remember purchasing pounds in London for about 2 dollars a pound.  I was surprised then to find that the pound only had the purchasing power of 1 dollar.  An easier way to say this is that prices in England were twice as much as in the US.  This was during the 1990s if I remember correctly.  It sounds like that trend has continued.

California and much of the rest of the western USA have been hammered by record heat for the last week or so.  You know it's hot out West when the temps in Tucson, Arizona at the same time are milder by comparison.

Here in the southeast USA we are watching the beginning of the hurricane season.  It seems to have started earlier this year and it could be a very sporty season if they continue to form at the current rate and some of them make landfall.  I had a conversation recently with a realtor in northwest Florida and she told me that they don't have hurricanes in that part of the state.  It's like saying that there aren't any earthquakes in certain parts of Los Angeles.  Really?

Where would there be a more suitable clime for a plant collection today?

Robin Hansen

My son was recently posted to Tyndall AFB in the (northwest) panhandle. I do hear there is not the vulnerability to hurricanes compared to other parts of Florida, but if the panhandle doesn't get them, how is it those hurricanes land in Louisiana and Mississippi right next door???

Am I crazy to go there for Thanksgiving???

Robin Hansen
Robin Hansen
President, PBS