The Winter Garden
To commemorate the longest nights of the year, I’m writing about one woman’s winter gardening success. It’s so impressive that I have included information here that will help you get this going at your own place.
Clair Gardner’s experiments and successes are tucked away against some cliffs in Lamy, NM. Her home is off the grid and full of cobbled-together nooks and crannies filled with delightfully wild productivity.
Clair’s garden beds were not obvious at first. I had walked by several in my search to find Clair in her goat pen. With full pails of fresh milk in her hands, she showed me how her chickens get a good amount of the protein they need from the bugs in the goat manure. This adventurous and intelligent woman has a whole lot to share.
These straw bale greenhouse beds have two layers of double walled greenhouse plastic purchased at Plastic Supply Inc. in Albuquerque for $130 per 12 x 6 foot sheet. Clair had the company cut them there. One of these sheets supplies both layers for the bed. They are cut to fit into a wooden frame on top of the straw bales The frame allows space between the ultraviolet resistant plastic sheets. In the winter Clair has seen a thermometer report temperatures down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. But she has never seen the plants themselves frozen. In the summer she just props open the greenhouse lids, and the greens are very happy. Somehow this design that Clair has developed creates a growing environment that doesn’t change all that much throughout the seasons of the year. She thinks it is because of the lack of evaporation and keeping the plant roots cool.
My own greenhouse is now thriving. There are giant tomatoes filling out a plant that volunteered a year ago. The leeks are monstrous and ready to harvest. The kale trees are still trying to grow out of the greenhouse. It’s best for me to keep a good supply of older plants in the grey water bed. I know their roots have found the subsurface irrigation. I’ll build one of Clair’s designs specifically for year round tender greens. It’s perfect.
Now a few photos of Ampersand’s greenhouse during Winter Solstice.