a multi-functional community greenhouse for year-round growing
Aim: a multi-functional greenhouse
The greenhouse is designed to meet the needs of community members who have expressed multiple preferences for its use:
- overwintering plants
- raising seedlings
- propagating plants
- growing plants.
Each element performs many functions:
- plants with multiple functions: food, fertility, attracting beneficial insects, good humidity levels
- staging offers growing space in winter and summer sun, storage and a potting area
- raised beds offer year-round growing, deeper rooted plants, opportunities for polycultures and perennial plants, mulching, water and heat storage
- watering cans for watering and storing heat
Aim: year-round growing
In order to best fulfill these functions, the greenhouse is designed to be a dynamic system offering the most natural environment for plants as well as year-round growing.
Each important function is supported by many elements:
soil: community compost mixed for different purposes and plants / liquid feeds / fertility plants / mulching green manure
light: location of greenhouse / clean glass / placement of staging, shelving, beds, pots
air: ventilation / doors
water: water butts / tap water (left in watering cans inside greenhouse) / stored in soil and plants / watering techniques: watering from below and uniformly using trays; morning watering in all seasons, at midday on hot days so that plant foliage is dry at duck; morning misting of staging and paths on hot days
heat: capturing solar energy through clean glass / in water / in soil /in plants / using cloches / insulation / perhaps heating with small oil burners
Aim: a dynamic ecosystem
- initial renovation: replacing broken glass, replacing wood in the door and walls, removing asbestos staging boards and replacing with wood treated with oil, clearing out items people were storing in the space, weeding, cleaning path, topping up gravel, clearing door of grass, creating a gravel border around the outside of the greenhouse to protect the structure
- deep clean to remove mould on glass and frames
- using natural materials for structure
- organic and biodynamic growing
- year-round polyculture raised beds to mimic the nature
- plants to attract beneficial insects
- hygiene to optimise plant and soil health ( clean glass, removing unhealthy, decaying and dead plants)
- good air circulation
- daily watering and care
- creating beneficial connections with outside environment: people, herb garden, Sculpture Studio, compost area
The space is designed to be used in different ways throughout the year.
In spring the staging will provide space for propagation as will the removable shelving. The raised beds will allow an early start to veg, herb and flower growing. The ground level space will allow for overwintering plants and spring veg and herb pots to be taken outside in late spring/early summer.
In summer and autumn, the ground floor space will be given over to summer climbing veg such as tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers, which will be planted in pots with mulch and other herbs, flowers and veg. The raised beds will go over to summer veg polycultures. The staging will be used for propagation and herb and veg pots.
In winter the shelving comes back in to take advantage of the low winter sun for herb pots. Underneath the ground level space is used for overwintering plants. The staging also provides space for both of these as well as winter cuttings. The raised beds will contain winter greens.
The aim is to create a living soil as far as is possible in containers. The raised beds and large pots can approach a living soil.
I will use a mulching technique for the raised beds which are built upon gravel, aiming for a nitrogen rich soil for good leaf growth:
- a layer of biodegradable membrane to hold water and protect the wood
- a thin layer of manure for the animal element
- a thick layer of our community compost mixed with soil improver (GroChar)
- a thin layer of potting compost
Depending on the plants grown:
- a layer of gravel
- community compost and soil improver (GroChar)
- potting compost
- liquid feeds
- seed compost (GroChar)
There is a tap outside the greenhouse and a half-barrel tub, which captures rain water and is kept full at all times by adding tap water. The structure of the greenhouse means low guttering, so a water butt can only be small. There are however several buildings nearby with possibilities for water butts.
- storing water in the soil and plants with a continuously green greenhouse, also regulating the temperature and humidity in the greenhouse
- storing water in watering cans to add to storage capacity for water and also to regulate the temperature in the greenhouse
- terracotta pots in the raised beds in summer, also good for insects