In late 2010, when Chris Holbrook was looking at greenhouses for his yard, Hartley Glasshouses impressed him for a number of reasons. He noticed the careful construction and wide selection of models with their many special options. As a regular visitor to England, he also appreciated the connection a Hartley house provides to English gardening and felt its architectural presence would fit well into his existing patio area, near a pergola and stone fireplace. As part of installing the Victorian Planthouse, he hired a local stonemason to build the foundation and create a fieldstone knee-wall that ties everything together beautifully.
Since this is one of Hartley’s smaller greenhouses – approximately 11’ x 9’– he’s concentrated on making the most of the space with integrated shelves and staging tables. With automated roof vents and manual lower vents, he runs the greenhouse year round without fans or supplemental heat, except for a break in January and February. He grows tomatoes, basil, carrots, spinach and lettuce, employing some clever concepts to maximize space and create micro-environments. He finds Reemay, or floating row covers, helpful. They help retain heat for seedlings when the greenhouse is cool, and create welcome shade over containers when it’s sweltering. He plants in grow bags as well as pots, and uses plastic trays and Stewart propagating boxes for starting seeds. A permeable paver floor allows excess water to drain efficiently, and he’s created an integrated system of closed rain barrels–mosquitoes are an issue with open barrels.
He now has seven rain barrels around his property, up from three last year, and two are connected to the greenhouse’s downspouts and gutters. Chris says he hasn’t used a drop of city water yet this year. And he likes to plant around the re-purposed olive barrels so they blend invisibly into the attractively planted landscape of his yard.
After a career in the corporate world, and more than thirty years of part-time gardening, he obtained Master Gardener certification. This spring Chris started 100 tomato plants from seed, a quarter of which went to the Southbridge Community Garden in Wilmington, Delaware, where he offers advice and guidance. The garden provides low-income residents of the Southbridge community an opportunity to grow some of their own food. Gardeners can rent raised beds to plant and maintain crops of their choice. Chris says working at the Community Garden helps him stay grounded in reality, and it’s evident that he enjoys engaging with people and sharing his enthusiasm for gardening.