Just over two years ago, Henry the Husband and a couple friends framed and covered our 30′ x 96′ semi-gable greenhouse. He put in four raised beds that run the length of the tunnel with two foot aisles between them. Trees are planted in the beds at five-foot intervals. We have nectarines, peaches, guavas, pomegranates, a loquat, apricots, and goji berries but mostly citrus including relatively cold-hardy satsuma mandarins and a pomelo, a meyer lemon, a limequat, kumquats, a few valencias, and a kishu mandarin. Among the trees, Henry has grown an abundance of seasonal greens and veggies: radishes, turnips, broccoli, cilantro, carrots, green onions, tomatoes, melons, cauliflower, peppers, and a variety of leafy salad ingredients. Each bed has two rows of strawberries that are beginning to bear fruit for the third year now. Occasional pollinator attractors like calendula, Tithonia, California poppies, and clover are interspersed among the edibles. Plants like cilantro and parsley are left to go to seed so that they also attract beneficial insects and pollinators.
Last November, Henry hauled in about eight yards of fresh horse manure mixed with sawdust. He packed it up to two feet deep in the center aisle between raised beds, added red worms and lime, and watered it in. As the manure composted over the winter, it stayed about 70°, boosting the temperature of the entire greenhouse a little bit. The warm compost was used to root cuttings of redwood, cedar, and other species. He also moved some of our chickens into a fenced aisle of the greenhouse to accumulate straw and chicken manure. At 120° in it’s core, this chicken waste was used propagation platform for starting early squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and peppers. A similar hot-bed technique was popular during the Victorian Period in England where adventurous gardeners raised pineapples in temperate climates. Last weekend, all the composted manure was dug up and spread around citrus trees and other plants for fertility and water-retentive mulching.