A trio of greenhouse gardeners share their secrets for a bountiful backyard.
There is a deep-rooted satisfaction in food production for both commercial and personal use. On the outside, the greenhouse may seem like four simple walls, but within them a sacred place exists for many. May the growers below motivate you to plan your own winter abundance.
SYLVAN VALE NURSERY
Sylvan Vale translates to “wooded valley”. It’s an apt description for the Black Creek nursery, as they produce seven million reforestation seedlings per year. Started in 1980, the operation spans three generations. Using 46 greenhouses, the seedlings are produced in one-third the time it takes to reach the equivalent size naturally. A variety of indigenous species are grown, but the main focus remains on Coastal Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. Each seedling is individually graded and many are actively planted in the Comox Valley. Interestingly, every 50 years each seedling grown at Sylvan Vale has the potential to be harvested and turned into wood product. Advances in technology have allowed for increased production and more efficient monitoring of the greenhouses; controls for heat, water and fertilization are all computerized. When the fall harvest is complete, the empty greenhouses get replanted and the process begins anew. The cycle of forest life is celebrated once again by a cheerful, down-to-earth staff.
It’s all about location. Greenhouse placement is about maximizing sunlight. Avoid heavily-treed and shady areas. From there, the possibilities are endless depending on how deep your pockets are. Access to water and good drainage are paramount. Consider collaborating with a neighbor or a friend to help split the workload and the bounty.
— Iola Elder, Owner of Sylvan Vale Nursery
EATMORE SPROUTS & GREENS
Started in a backyard shed in 1975, Eatmore Sprouts & Greens Ltd. has grown into one of the major sprout producers in western Canada, producing 9,000 pounds of certified organic sprouts and greens a week. This company has gone from labour of love to profitable icon. A few part time staff in 1975 has evolved to 40 full-time, dedicated employees. Owned and operated by Glenn and Carmen Wakeling, the Eatmore greenhouses produce three of nine sprout varieties grown on site. Unlike many greenhouse operations, which often rely on natural gas or propane, Eatmore Sprouts uses a wood-gasification boiler that converts timber into gas, providing an environmentally friendly heating source. The premises are also home to two un-heated greenhouses that produce fresh organic produce.
Asian greens grow great in the winter, and carrots planted in the fall make a lovely early spring snack. It is so important to rotate crops and to have occasional cover crops. This helps eliminate build-up of disease and pests. It is important to periodically check the soil for build-up in salts which can cause crop mortality. Be sure to periodically incorporate outdoor materials such as soil and compost. Most importantly, have fun and experiment. Learn from others by talking to your friends, neighbours and the pros at the farmers market.
— Carmen Wakeling
Who knew loving cacti could lead to a career? In 2008 a lack of access to succulent and cacti varieties in Western Canada gave carpenter Jamey Lauinger the idea to pursue his passion for all things prickly with the creation of Valley Succulents. A visit to his operation is a treat, with thousands of species on display. A stroll into the backyard reveals an array of beautiful plants, and the hand-crafted wooden greenhouse is magical. It’s also crucial to succulent growth. Many of the varieties are not cold hardy and need protection from low temperatures to propagate. Valley Succulents has become a go-to spot for local gardeners. As summer droughts continue, green thumbs are looking at xeric landscaping (using plants that thrive in extremely dry habitats) as an alternative.
Shop around for materials and tradespersons. Get multiple quotes. It is amazing how much prices can vary from person to person. Do your research and talk to other greenhouse operators for what you really need to grow. Many retailers will say you require more than what is actually necessary.
— Jamey Lauinger