Tinos Ecolodge Greenhouse
Within an agricultural production system a greenhouse plays the role of a sheltered area for early seed propagation, propagation of local plants and an intensive cultivation area with increased crop yield per area. It prolongs the vegetation period into the winter and gives the possibility of early spring production for the upcoming tourist season. This improves greatly the early availability of crops to customers, that would otherwise be only productive much later in the season. It also provides the opportunity to further diversify the income stream of ELT and complement the agricultural activities and the seminars.
Tinos Ecolodge greenhouse is quite different than the usual ones. Its a 60sq.m building out of poly-carbonate. It has windows opening from the top and from the side and two of its 4 walls are made out of stone. Its also inundated 60cm into the terrace so the whole building looks much lower from outside. The design was done by us in order to fit in the landscape. Being next to the small church of St Nicolas which is a local landmark and an important gathering place for religious reasons, we had to think of ways to minimize its volume compared to the size of the church. Digging it in to the ground as much as possible and building the church side wall out of stone immediately camouflaged the greenhouse, and actually made it look even nice!
The west side wall is actually the dry stone wall of the neighbors terrace which we had to rebuilt completely, making it very well sheltered from the strong north winds and at the same time it exhibits one east and one south facing high thermal mass walls that absorb heat in the winter and prevent fast temperature peaks throughout the year. The roof is stabilized on top of the dry stone wall and its also an opening window to the west. The south side leads to a new built terrace, very protected from the wind and the east side has a side window and also a 60cm stone wall inundated in the ground from the outside and supporting a high jardiniere from the inside.
The internal space should not only be an agricultural production area but also an inviting space for the customers to experience a diverse polyculture. We designed raised beds, build out of wood that are well accessible also for older people and provide a nice worm atmosphere. The space becomes clearly structured and people can orientate easily where to walk and where to pick vegetables. By experience we have learned that it is not easy for people with little to no experience in gardening to find their way around without being afraid of causing damage to a vegetable garden. For the gardener the raised beds are a relief while working because bending down to the ground becomes less and the general work height is more comfortable.
We planned a division of labor, so that ELT could prepare all heavy construction work like the excavation, the perimeter walls and the foundation. The Greenhouse manufacturer could then erect the structure and finish up the outside sheeting in around a week. The ELT team then started to install water tubes, channels for electricity and the carpentry work for the raised beds. Then the galvanized steel tubes where painted for extra corrosion protection especially within the raised beds. After that the raised beds where filled in with a special mixture of local soil improved with posidonia sea weed compost and vermi-compost. This was a time consuming task mainly consisting of hard manual labor. In the same time the sub surface and surface irrigation was installed and the rest of the water supply network prepared.
Planting the Greenhouse
A new challenge begins. We decided that we have to try many different veggies to see what is going well and what not. We started with the classic summer variety of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and also greens like kales, and fruits like pepinos. For shade we used the local pumpkins ‘kariki’ that covered completely part of the roof in combination with the natural sponge ‘loufa’ that covered the other half. We also constructed some curtain shades for the roof that can be rolled but were so much covered by the plants that we taken over completely.
Everything seemed to grow amazingly in size and pruning was always needed more that we expected. In winter we planted a lot of greens like Asian mustards Red Giant, Mizuna, Osaka, all kind of salads, roots, Swiss chard and kept the kales and pepinos. The loufas were mostly taken out but we kept three just to see if they regrow next year, and they did!!
We used the wall to build shelves were we store stuff and also make seedlings, however the seedling situation by the wall is not ideal as it lacks the evening sun.
The irrigation system is automated with an Open sprinkler device and its regulated by the smart phone. Windows are open-closed manually according to the weather, but in summer we keep it mainly open taking always care of the wind and in winter we close them down.
In total having a greenhouse is much fun and productive, but its a new micro climate alltogether, that we have to learn about plant diseases, light and irrigation needs quite different than the garden. This is our second year running the greenhouse, we have planted again a lot of salads, Asian mustards and Swiss chard but we still have the kales, Jalapenios and cucumbers from the summer, as well as cappuccino flowers regrowing, ginger roots, beetroots and radishes.