At Brook End we have inherited 7 greenhouses and a pollytunnel. As a designer I have been inspired to ask and explore:
- How can we maximise the use of these spaces, both in livelihood creation and increased self- reliance?
- How can we minimise the amount of daily energy spent in the growing season visiting the different greenhouses, watering and feeding plants and cleaning them in the winter?
- How can we manage potential pests and diseases organically?
- How can we apply the design principles of permaculture to these spaces?
To find answers to these questions I did the following:
- This led me to the book Bioshelter Marked Garden about the Three Sisters Farm in the US and how solar greenhouses can be managed as indoor ecosystems.
- The Buckminster-Fuller, Geodisic dome greenhouse at La Loma Viva, an experimental farm in Southern Spain.
- Chris Marron's Perpetual Harvest Greenhouse System (PHGS)5, which provides an indoor ecosystem capable of growing equal yields of organic produce 52 weeks per year. It is designed to optimise growing techniques and energy management.
- I also visited local grower at Torganics who have 4 pollytunnels to hear their tricks and tips.
Applied permaculture & ecological principes
These examples led me to explore the concept of indoor spaces being ecosystems in and of themselves, applying the following ecological concepts:
- Resource cycles: The building 'takes in' nutrients, gasses and energy from the surrounding environment and it produces food and waste.
- Structure and Glazing: act like a cell membrane, controlling gas exchanges and energy absorption.
- Plants & animals: plants, soil fauna, insects or other animals living in greenhouse structures act as energy processors and nutrient recyclers.
Through this analysis I highlighted design factors such as diversity, gas exchange, fertility, watering, functions, light , energy and maintenance and deliberated on how I can reduce inputs and maximise the work of nature in these often high maintenance systems. Read my full findings here (link).