Growing Sub-Tropical Fruit in Canada!
Over 35 varieties of cold-hardy citrus, 4 varieties of avocado and other subtropical fruit are produced year-round in the 6,000 square foot greenhouse. Thermal mass, energy curtains and a wood gasifier furnace keep the greenhouse temperature above 2°C throughout the winter.
Plant sap analysis is used to design nutrient management plans using regenerative agriculture techniques. Learning how to grow healthy, nutrient dense fruit in our cold northerly climate with low energy inputs is the challenge and sharing useful information a goal.
In 2014, the transition from hydroponic production to soil-grown subtropical trees began. The scraped ground had been covered with plastic for 20 years. A 'custom' amendment rich in organic matter was added to the subsoil. Learning about soil biology has become a priority and one of the strategies for building our soil's health is the use of Johnson-Su bioreactors. This highly effective method of composting is well researched and farms all over the planet are benefitting from its use.
Anaerobic Digestion, Methane and Digeponics
The Garden strives to close its nutrient loop by using an automated Anaerobic Digester to process kitchen and greenhouse waste into biogas and fertilizer. The biogas (methane) is used for cooking and for processing essential oil and hydrosols from greenhouse fruit. In winter, the biogas provides CO2 enhancement in the greenhouse. The digestate is used as a soil amendment and in experiments with digeponic (Nutrient Film Technique) production of vegetables.
Sustainable Energy Systems
The greenhouse (6,000 square feet) is heated hydronically with a high efficiency wood gasifier furnace. The system is designed to maintain 4C in the coldest weather using forced air. Two insulated rainwater tanks (15,000 gallons) store heat and increase the efficiency of the furnace. Extensive biomass, in the form of hyperadobe walls, moderates the temperature and humidity. Energy curtains are used to assist in minimizing firewood use. Solar PV provides backup energy and Solar Evacuated Tubes help in heating the water tanks.
Over 70,000 Imp. gallons (318,000 litres) of rainwater is collected and stored annually. Rainwater provides 100% of the farm's horticultural requirements. An effort has been made to use practical, accessible and inexpensive methods to collect and store water.
Preserving & Processing
Fruit, nuts, vegetables and herbs ripen year round at the Garden. Much of what isn't sold or eaten fresh, is preserved through canning, dehydrating, freezing and cold storage. The addition of sub-tropical fruit over the last few years has inspired many culinary experiments with fabulous results!
A recent addition to the farm is an Alembic still for processing Essential Oils and Hydrosols from fruit and leaves.
Farm produce is sold to local chefs and is advertised locally when available.
Commercial Hydroponic Production no more...
In 2019 the remaining hydroponic lettuce and basil system was removed and the transition to a subtropical orchard was completed. For 35 years we produced high quality lettuce for the wholesale market using Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) in recirculating nutrified rainwater. It was a highly efficient production system for both labour and inputs and provided our family with a healthy income, and no need to work off-farm!