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Greenhouses and sustainable living hot trend.

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There are many luxuries that come with life on a large estate; one is having the option to grow some of your own food for consumption. an on-staff horticulturist is definitely the way to go for many families interested in healthy living and eating. Well-known horticulturist, radio personality, and author Neil Sperry notes, however, "I would find it difficult to feed my family from a greenhouse. While I could easily produce certain crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, herbs and, perhaps, peppers, it would be impractical and impossible to produce fruit, okra, corn, melons, et cetera--the big plants--in a greenhouse, at least in an unfavorable climate."

Despite these limitations, sustainable technology continues to improve, and greenhouses are becoming more sophisticated in an effort to match the needs of the public. "The only sustainable technology in a residential greenhouse is the greenhouse itself," says Tom Benua of Texas Greenhouse Co. "It is a perfect solar collector. The sun heats the greenhouse during winter days, and the foundation and flooring materials help hold the heat through the night. Colder climates will need a backup heater for chilly nights. Thus plants and vegetables can be grown in the wintertime by the solar energy and greenhouse effect of the structure."

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No matter where you live, one thing is certain: Greenhouse vegetable production is a very intense undertaking, with a need for extensive labor input and a large capital investment. Benua notes too that "greenhouses still use relatively old technology such as evaporative coolers for summer cooling. They are cheap to run and won't dry out the greenhouse environment like an AC system."

Kathy Acker, a horticulturist in Texas, says that she uses greenhouses with many of her clients. "Solar radiation involves electromagnetic waves received directly from the sun," she explains. "The plants in the greenhouse do not send them back out into the atmosphere, so the plants get the full benefit from the sun. This allows growers to increase the volume of plants more quickly than without a greenhouse."

Horticulturists will normally plant directly into the soil, use a container system, or use what is known as a hydroponics system. Each method has its own challenges, but planting directly into the soil is the least labor-intensive initially. Sperry, who is in his early 60s, has had a greenhouse since he was 13 years old. "It's hard for a real gardener to imagine life without a greenhouse," he says. "It's your year-round contact with nature. It can be cold and blustery outdoors, yet you're tending to the orchids, bromeliads, succulents, herbs, and vegetables at any time, night or day. Greenhouses give you the opportunity to grow plants you might otherwise never find. It's a place to teach children and grandchildren how to start seeds and tiny cuttings, and watch them grow to maturity."

Sperry says that the cost of hiring and maintaining such a facility will definitely vary. "You go from a laborer making $30,000 a year to a grower of exotic or eclectic plants making $100,000 or more," he says. "However, few of us are in greenhouse work strictly because of the financial rewards. It's the personal satisfaction of being in and around the earth that empowers us." Indeed, while celebrities often have their own gardeners, many are also hobbyists in the greenhouse or with gardening in general.

When deciding to turn a portion of your estate into a greenhouse, remember that the goal should be diversity and not excess. That said, you will also want to find a horticulturist who can work with you on your particular needs and goals for the endeavor.

ACCORDING TO SPERRY, HERE ARE SOME DOS AND DON'TS FOR YOUR OWN GREENHOUSE:

DO: Build your greenhouse large enough. I've never seen a home hobby greenhouse, no matter what size, that wasn't jammed every winter.

DO: Have a backup heat source (that doesn't require electricity) for cold winter nights, should the power go out.

DON'T: Crowd your plants so tightly that they ruin one another.

DON'T: Waste greenhouse space for plants that can easily and affordably be replaced the following spring.

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BEFORE STARTING YOUR OWN GREENHOUSE, ASK YOURSELF A FEW IMPORTANT qUESTIONS:

* What do you want to grow, and do you have the time to take care of it?

* Is this for business or pleasure, and how much space will you need for your greenhouse?

* How many plants are you interested in growing?

* What will be the initial cost and the cost going forward?
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Author:Cook, Rita
Publication:Celeb Staff Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:756
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