So this is our greenhouse. In it we have cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, cilantro, basil, parsley, and swiss chard. There’s a garden on the left with fava beans, peas, and more herbs. There’s a lot of greenhouses down here, probably at least 10 or so (it’s a lot in a town of 500), not counting the greenhouses owned by Don Fito, the amazing mostly-organic farmer who supplies us with most of our produce. The weather is pretty similar to Michigan from what I’ve seen so far (we’re on nearly the same latitude here). They’re far from fancy, either, since there’s not too much extra money down here. Mostly wood and some plastic tarp, and it gets the job done. Makes me think putting up a small greenhouse isn’t really that hard after all…
Today, Kate, Eitan, some other people without blogs and I went to Brines Farm. Shannon Brines has a passive solar greenhouse and has been growing organic greens and other produce through the winter for the last couple years. Lately I’ve been having lots of conversations with friends about local produce and what it would mean to eat seasonally in an area when it’s really really cold for about half the year.
I was surprised to learn that you could grow produce during the coldest winter months in Michigan. It seems that the biggest obstacle to eating local (our relatively short growing season) is really (mostly) an illusion. Brines’ greenhouse was big, since he started it as a commercial venture and is selling at the Farmers’ Market in Ann Arbor. But you can do this in your backyard, and even if your plants stop growing in January or February, you can still increase your personal growing season by 3-4 months at least. It really doesn’t have to do with the temperature so much as the daylight hours.
Another thing was that there was minimal energy input–heat and electricity. During the hottest part of the summer they use some fans for circulation but that’s about it. In other words, there’s no cost beyond maintenance once it’s set up. It’s really underwhelming once you realize how simple the model is–just build a structure and drape some plastic over it. If you want to make a solar greenhouse, there’s lots of links and resources at the Brines Farm website.
More of my pictures.