2012-04-05 / News

Is a greenhouse in your future?

The Island Garden
BY ROGER MARSHALL

In recent years there has been a trend toward growing your own food. A survey by the Garden Writers Association says that people having a lawn or having a garden is around 69 percent of the population, and 61 percent believe that sustainability is important.

Almost 60 percent of the people who responded to the survey say they have reduced the use of chemicals in their yard and garden and about half use compost or natural nutrients. More than half have reduced watering their lawns or eliminated it altogether.

This is in line with a trend seen in garden centers and across the country. Fortunately, it is the younger generation that is leading this trend with the 18-34 age group making up 10 percent of the total, and a quarter of the people who buy organic or grow their own food fall in the 35-44 age group. (As you might expect, these are the people who are more likely to have a home and young children and to worry about the chemicals sprayed on their lawns and yards.)

This trend toward growing your own vegetables has come about after several botulism and bacteria scares have descended on the food chain. Along with that is the trend to cut down on how far food is shipped. These two items have driven a vast expansion in the home gardening market. In fact, a number of surveys by garden centers and garden writers point to the fact that food growing has become an essential part of the gardening experience. However, food growing, north of the Mason- Dixon Line, begins around May or June and ends when the first frost strikes.

In Maine, a program has been underway to help people build their own simple greenhouses in which they can grow food all winter long. The greenhouses are made of regular lumber – in many cases rough sawn lumber is used to keep costs down. The greenhouses are framed up like a building, often by volunteers, and clad with polycarbonate bought at a bulk price from the manufacturer.

The program began with a single experimental greenhouse and has now evolved into more than 100 greenhouses in schools, colleges, homes and even next to some municipal buildings. The people who build the greenhouses are volunteers who help each other. The people who own the greenhouses get them on the condition that they use what they need and donate any excess to their local food bank.

The owners of these greenhouses have grown tomatoes until December, grow greens all year round and in summer grow and preserve a ton of food. Imagine what 100 greenhouses in Jamestown could do? The island might become self-sufficient in vegetables. All it needs is a little time and effort. Having written a book on greenhouse design and construction, putting a design together is easy. Getting people together to build and use these greenhouses in a whole other problem.

As many of you know I have grown vegetables for many years in my two 300-square-foot purpose built greenhouses. I am aware of how little effort it takes to grow enough vegetables during the summer, preserve them for the winter and grow vegetables year round in Jamestown. It is not diffi- cult, especially in winters like the one we have just had. An hour or two a night during summer spent in the garden and maybe an hour or two a week in winter is all the time it takes for you to have your own pesticide-free, organic produce grown in your greenhouse or garden.

If you are interested in growing organic produce with a greenhouse built by volunteer labor at an extremely low price instead of an expensive manufactured greenhouse, let me know at 423-1400. If there are enough people I will arrange a meeting of like-minded souls.

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