Greenhouse Herbs for Year-Round Gardening

In the depths of the dark side of the year, it may seem as if nothing will ever grow again. You can lift your herb production (and your spirits) with a greenhouse that allows for early seed starting or even year-round growing.

| December/January 1999

  • Illustrations by Gayle Ford

“Every home should be a greenhome—a space for living connected to or wrapped around a greenhouse, a space full of life. It harvests warmth, oxygen, humidity, ions, nice smells, fresh food, and a continuous panorama of vitality.”

—Amory Lovins, co-CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a resource efficiency consulting center near Aspen, Colorado

The gardens at Heartsong Farm in northern New Hampshire host snow well into March, and soil temperatures are too cold for most garden seed germination until early June. Nancy Phillips used to have a three-month season in which to grow more than eighty varieties of culinary and medicinal herbs on 1 acre to supply the town of Lost Nation. But everything changed when she installed a greenhouse ten years ago. “Now I can’t imagine living without one,” she says. “We wouldn’t be able to afford growing at our scale in this climate.”

Phillips’s 10-by-16-foot south-facing lean-to is made from reglazed cypress-framed glass windows salvaged from an 1860s schoolhouse covered with a layer of clear rigid plastic. It relies on its proximity to the house, a small woodstove surrounded by loose bricks and flanked by water containers that hold heat, and an electric space heater (when temperatures dip into or below the thirties) to create a “warming room” that extends the growing season by four months. Four-inch fiberglass batts fill the studded wall cavities, and 10-inch batts insulate the back ceiling. Heating the greenhouse costs Phillips about $15 during March and April, and she burns about a quarter cord of wood, most of it pruned from her apple trees.

The greenhouse nurtures more than just plants. “Going into the greenhouse in March is a balm for my soul,” Phillips says. “It helps me make it through until the crocuses and daffodils start poking up. One of the greatest pleasures is going in there when the rest of the world is covered with snow and my heart is yearning for some green.”

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