Growing Sub-Tropical Fruit in Canada
Our 6,000 square foot greenhouse houses an orchard of 35 varieties of cold-hardy citrus, 4 varieties of avocado, passion fruit and other subtropical fruit. Thermal mass, energy curtains and a wood gasifier furnace keep the greenhouse temperature above 1°C throughout the winter.
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, we began the transition from hydroponic lettuce and basil production to soil-grown subtropical trees. The first challenge was to transform the subsoil, which had been covered with plastic for 20 years, into a healthy living soil. It's an ongoing process! On-farm waste is turned into microbially diverse and fungal-dominant composts using Johnson-Su bioreactors.
We apply the principles of regenerative agriculture and monitor our progress using off-farm soil and leaf sap analysis and on-farm techniques including SFW microscopy.
Anaerobic Digestion, Methane and Digeponics
The Garden strives to close its nutrient loop. One of the tools we use is an automated Anaerobic Digester which processes kitchen waste into biogas and fertilizer. The biogas (methane) is used to distill essential oil from citrus peels. In winter, the biogas provides CO2 enhancement in the greenhouse. The digestate is used in composts, teas and in experiments with digeponic (Nutrient Film Technique) production of vegetables.
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.
An Alembic still is used for processing essential oils and hydrosols from citrus peels. Click here to see more...
Farm produce is sold to 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!
Sustainable Energy Systems
The greenhouse (6,000 square feet) is heated hydronically with a high efficiency wood gasifier furnace. Heat is stored in two insulated rainwater tanks (4,500 & 10,500 gallons) inside the greenhouse. Fans using horizontal airflow pick up heat from the surface of the tanks and circulate it throughout the greenhouse. Extensive biomass, in the form of hyperadobe walls, moderates the temperature and humidity. Energy curtains are used to reduce heat loss and to assist in minimizing firewood use which averages less than 2.5 cords/year. 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.