I am known in my circle for having a list or spreadsheet for everything! I have a spreadsheet checklist for my bulk pantry items, a spreadsheet with recipes and ingredients for making freezer meals, a shopping list, house cleaning lists, garden lists, a project list… I even have an app on my phone specifically for lists that I want always with me! One of my favorite lists is the list of things we “need” for The Country Gardens – such a great one to just look at over a cup of coffee.
Late last summer, Bonnie and I started to prioritize that list and the number one priority was a permanent growing structure in the Hazelton garden! YEAH! WOOHOO! SWEET!
I have lusted over Bonnie’s front porch where she starts our seedlings and her big greenhouse that grew our amazing tomatoes last year. My temporary hoop house worked in the spring to get us some great early veggies but I spent hours repairing wind damage and sleepless nights peering out my window wondering if it would survive the night. A sturdy structure – a dream come true!
Why did a physical structure beat out dripline irrigation, better tillage equipment, permanent washing stations and automated harvesting equipment? All of these items would make our labors in the garden significantly easier – A permanent structure minimizes our risk and gives us more flexibility in providing our CSA members with diversity early in the season and late in the season. That is something that no amount of extra work can accomplish without the unique environment that season extension structures can provide.
The first zucchinis, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, peppers and tomatoes in our CSA shares all come out of some sort of season extension system. The same is true of the diversity that we protect from cool and freezing temperatures on the other end of the season. This can be as simple as row cover that lets sun through but keeps temperatures about 4 degrees warmer than outside temperature. The difference seems small but a big deal when nighttime temperatures dip to the 30’s. Simple plastic row covers using PVC structures heat up the growing climate in the spring to push early growth allowing plants to be flowering by early May and in fruit production by June. The true greenhouse with full ability to heat and cool and with lights to hit optimum day length is the Holy Grail of controlling climate to produce food.
We aren’t in need of the Holy Grail. We just need a place that we can walk into in the spring and be greeted by calm winds and 80 degree temps. This gives us all we need to extend the Idaho growing season while exploring new ways to expand our production and push the limits. Right before Christmas, we toured a structure where carrots and spinach were still in full production. No artificial heat, no grow lights and fresh homegrown veggies on the table at Christmas dinner!
So, we went to the catalogs and internet to pick out the perfect structure. Quickly over-whelmed by all of the options we gave up and sought help from a local couple who have been perfecting a structure that can withstand our spring windstorms but not break the bank. Right now they are working on designing us a custom base structure that our men can install and complete!!!
It will not be fancy but a simple design that we can upgrade if/when our needs change. Here is a look at how the 2015 temporary structure and 2016 permanent structure stack up:
PVC spans Steel spans
Greenhouse plastic anchored with dirt Greenhouse plastic anchored with wiggle wire system
Climb in access Real doors
Rope and digger link anchors Steel anchors
Less than 5’ high at center 7’+ high at center
No base walls Pressurized wood base walls
Greenhouses are one of my favorite places to spend an hour or five. A favorite drink and freedom to walk in a warm green place is good for my soul. Stay tuned for picture and updates of our progress.
Goal: Planting ready by March 1!!!