Exploring the Possibilities of Year-Round Gardening in a Greenhouse

Interior - tropicals in the desert

Have you ever wondered what you can cultivate within the confines of a greenhouse? The answer is just about anything, although some plants will require a little more of an engineered environment and specialized care than others. 

Greenhouses vary greatly in their design, technological advancements and, consequently, their cost. Generally speaking, a greenhouse enables you to extend your growing season. However, if you’re prepared to invest more on the upfront costs of your structure, some greenhouse models, like Ceres’ designs, will allow you to grow anything, year-round, regardless of your local climate. 

In this blog we will share inspiring stories from real Ceres clients. These real-life experiences illustrate the diverse and abundant growing possibilities that a greenhouse offers. Join us as we delve into these success stories and explore the untapped potential of your green thumb!

Growing Tropical Plants in Non-Tropical Climates

Transforming a greenhouse into a lush, year-round sanctuary for plants that typically wouldn’t thrive in your local climate is not just rewarding; it’s an adventure into the exotic right in your own backyard. Chris Zsoldos, a dedicated grower, has created such an oasis using his Ceres greenhouse. Nestled in the Northwest corner of North Carolina, a region that experiences chilly winters, Chris’s greenhouse defies the seasons, nurturing a vibrant collection of tropical plants that would otherwise die in the cold. 

grow anything tropical greenhouse

Some of the things you might find in his tropical greenhouse are citrus trees, bananas, mangos, passion fruit, guavas, jack fruit and some more common varieties like tomatoes and peppers. His greenhouse is literally bursting with life and he occasionally has to seek pruning advice to keep his taller plants within the constraints of his structure. 

The viability behind this thriving ecosystem is not just the greenhouse’s design but also its innovative heating system. His geothermal heating system (GAHT®) plays a pivotal role, efficiently keeping the environment warm enough for tropical plants by leveraging the earth’s stable underground temperature. This system, combined with the greenhouse’s insulative properties, ensures that even during freezing Winter temperatures, the interior remains a comfortable sanctuary for Chris’s botanical collection.

inside tropical greenhouse

Maintaining such a lush tropical climate might sound costly, but Chris’s setup is proof that it’s surprisingly economical. The energy-efficient GAHT® system helps keep operational costs low, making this exotic escape a sustainable choice.

For those intrigued by Chris’s journey and wishing to dive deeper into the world of tropical gardening, you’re invited to follow his botanical adventures on Instagram at @blueridgetropicals

Year-Round Cut Flower Farming 

If your green thumb is more successful on the ornamental side of things, you might be inspired by these two growers who use their greenhouses to supplement their cut flower farms – especially during the colder months. 

Flowers of the Field- inside greenhouse

Brenda Visser, hailing from Ontario, has carved a niche in her community with her specialty in year-round tulips. With the aid of her Ceres greenhouse, Brenda is successful at forcing her tulips to bloom out of their natural season. This unique capability allows her to captivate the winter farmer’s market scene, bringing a splash of color and the joy of fresh, local tulips to many during the dreary winter months. Beyond this, her greenhouse serves as a starting ground for seed trays of different flower varieties destined for her outdoor garden come spring. Brenda is also keen on fostering a sense of community and sharing her vast knowledge by planning to host workshops within the greenhouse space. To delve deeper into Brenda’s journey and her farm, Flowers of the Field, we encourage you to read more on her story here

inside greenhouse- flowers

Another story of cut flower cultivation success comes from Mary Turner of Salt Farm Flowers, located in Trenton, Maine. Salt Farm Flowers is renowned not just for its exquisite full-service floral designs for local events, but also for offering DIY flower buckets and maintaining a flower stand for walk-up flower lovers. Although the majority of Mary’s floral beauties are grown across her expansive 3-acre farm, the greenhouse plays a pivotal role in extending the growing season, thereby enhancing the success of her business. This approach to cultivation within an energy-efficient greenhouse assists with Mary’s commitment to sustainable farming practices, reflecting a deep respect for the land. If you are interested in learning more about Mary’s farm, visit the Salt Farm Flowers website, or visit her farm in person if you live nearby! 

These stories of Brenda and Mary not only highlight the practical benefits of integrating greenhouses into cut flower farming but also illustrate the broader impact of such endeavors on local communities and the environment.

Growing Microgreens in a Passive Solar Greenhouse 

Microgreens have captured the attention of growers for their nutritional value, distinctive taste, and straightforward cultivation process. Among the many reasons for their popularity, these small yet mighty plants offer significant benefits to commercial cultivators, including a quick turnaround and efficient use of space and resources. Traditionally grown indoors under artificial lighting, a shift towards greenhouse cultivation has begun to emerge, revealing a sustainable alternative with considerable advantages.

Emerald Gardens, nestled in Bennett, Colorado, exemplifies this innovative approach. Founders Roberto Meza and David Demmerling initially embarked on their microgreen journey in an indoor setup. However, they soon transitioned to a greenhouse environment, driven by a commitment to sustainability and a desire to reduce reliance on artificial light.

microgreens in greenhouse

Their Ceres greenhouse, designed with passive solar principles, allows sunlight to be reflected off the north wall, ensuring that even stacked trays of microgreens receive ample light. This design overcomes a common limitation in traditional greenhouse setups, where only a single layer of crops can benefit from sunlight, allowing the potential for multi-level microgreen cultivation.

Roberto and David also faced the challenge of maintaining low utility costs, a crucial consideration given their rural setting. The integration of a GAHT® system in their greenhouse enabled them to achieve this goal, ensuring their operation remains both productive and energy-efficient.

grow microgreens greenhouse

Switching to sunlight not only brought about a noticeable improvement in the growth rate and flavor intensity of their microgreens but also positively impacted their profit margins. Beyond the cultivation success, Roberto and David are deeply engaged with their community, participating in initiatives that bridge the gap between underserved populations and access to healthy, organic greens. Their journey illustrates that the goals of commercial success, community service, and sustainable practices can indeed align harmoniously.

Growing Coffee in California 

If you pride yourself on being a coffee enthusiast and wish to elevate your daily ritual beyond merely brewing your own coffee, why not consider growing your own coffee beans? That’s exactly the path Justin Laird embarked on when he purchased a Ceres greenhouse, motivated by the dream of crafting the ultimate cup of coffee. Living in California, Justin recognized that the combination of our advanced climate control technology and the abundant West Coast sunshine would provide the perfect conditions for nurturing healthy coffee plants.

year round greenhouse- outside

Although Justin’s greenhouse venture is relatively new, and he’s currently in the exploratory phase of his coffee cultivation journey, the initial results are promising. His young coffee plants are thriving in their environment, adapting well to the conditions within his compact BackYard Kit greenhouse. While this project is a personal venture for now, Justin is open to the idea of expanding into a larger greenhouse and potentially growing coffee for others if his experiment proves successful.

inside greenhouse

In a world where traditional coffee-growing regions are facing challenges from climate change, Justin’s initiative represents a hopeful exploration into sustainable growing practices for one of the world’s most beloved plants. We’re keenly following Justin’s progress as he utilizes our greenhouse design to pioneer new methods of coffee cultivation.

To delve deeper into Justin’s innovative approach to coffee growing and his quest for the perfect brew, be sure to read our blog, “The Quest for the Perfect Cup of Coffee by Way of Greenhouse.”

Aquaponic Greenhouses for Energy-Efficient Closed-Loop Agriculture 

If your fascination leans more towards the innovative methods of cultivation rather than what specifically you’re growing, you might find our collaboration with The Aquaponics Source™ particularly interesting. This partnership opens up the opportunity to integrate an aquaponics system into your greenhouse, paving the way for a greener, more sustainable approach to farming. For those new to the concept, aquaponics is a farming technique that merges aquaculture (the raising of fish) with hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) to create a symbiotic environment. In this setup, nutrient-rich water from fish tanks is cycled to the plants, providing them with a rich source of nourishment. This method not only forms a self-sustaining loop that minimizes water usage but also produces an additional yield of fish, offering a supplementary source of food.

grow anything aquaponics lettuce greenhouse

Combining this sustainable growing method with our energy-efficient greenhouse designs results in an eco-friendly farming operation that significantly cuts down on operational costs. A prime example of success in this model is Alex Van Zandt, also known by her nickname “Gunnigal,” who operates an aquaponic leafy greens farm in the challenging climate of Gunnison, Colorado. In collaboration with The Aquaponics Source™, we designed an aquaponics greenhouse for Alex, enabling her to supply fresh produce to local grocery stores and restaurants throughout the Gunnison area. Despite the aquaponic setup’s increased reliance on water, the system recycles nearly all of it (with minimal loss through evaporation), resulting in a surprisingly low water footprint—less than that of an average family of four monthly.

Gunnison’s notably brief growing season and harsh winters make local, year-round produce a rarity, often leading to reliance on imported greens that lack taste and nutritional value. Alex’s aquaponic greenhouse breaks this cycle, offering the community access to premium, fresh greens year-round—greens that are in high demand for their superior quality and freshness. The combination of low operating expenses and the high value of her produce not only keeps Alex’s business thriving but also showcases the commercial viability of aquaponic farming.

To discover more about Alex’s journey and her aquaponic farm, visit the Gunnigal website.

We hope these grower stories have enlightened you, the reader, as to what can be grown in a greenhouse. And we hope that your takeaway is that the possibilities are endless. If you have a greenhouse dream, whether it be more traditional or a little more on the wild side, we would love to hear it and guide you in discovering the right design for your growing goals. Whether you’re a backyard gardener or a commercial farmer, contact us today to speak to a greenhouse expert who can start you on your own greenhouse journey. 

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