Monday, 15 November 2010

The New Greenhouse

It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, partly whimsical and partly needed; a greenhouse, to produce plants, a place to potter around and just pass time when it’s raining outside. I’ve often thought about building one but have delayed doing so for various reasons. So when Wes, the new farm worker and excellent handy man arrived in August it seemed the ideal time to start the greenhouse project.

The piece of land before the greenhouse was built

I actually came to Spain (almost thirty years ago) as a specialist in protected cropping so I knew the design and features I wanted for my greenhouse in Asturias, but I have to admit I’m not much of a handyman! So when Wes came along with his excellent knowledge of carpentry, things got moving.

The land cleared and preparing the foundation

At times the Asturian weather can be quite extreme; strong winds, heavy rain and hail, hot sun etc. so I wanted a sturdy greenhouse with good ventilation for the summer and with some thermal mass to help buffer both the hot and cold temperatures. I wasn’t sure on the covering material; whether to use polycarbonate or glass. As the greenhouse was to be built next to our house Joe had it clear, she wanted something that would look nice, so we decided on glass, wood and brick.

The foundation layed and starting the main structure

Building the back brick wall

The basic structure finished

Putting in the glass

The result is an amazing space which has been beautifully built with a lot of care and thought. In some ways it’s more like a conservatory than a greenhouse and it’s certainly become my favourite place to have afternoon tea in the winter months.

Basically it’s like a “lean-to” with the back north wall 2 ½ meters high, built of solid brick but with ventilation (4 windows) at the top of the wall. For additional ventilation we also incorporated two ventilation “boxes” on the lower south side which helps create a good air flow by way of a chimney effect. Finally to avoid excess heat in the summer we are just finishing installing a shading system which is a type of netting which can be “rolled” over the roof when temperatures get too hot.

Back view showing the large ventilation area.

We tried to incorporate a lot of flexibility in the growing area of the greenhouse as experience has taught me that requirements generally evolve and change with time. Over half of the floor space is fitted with shelving but there is also a large growing “trough” for tomatoes, lettuce etc. All the shelves are removable and the trough can be covered with shelving too.

Inside the greenhouse with shelving and growing trough

One of the objectives of the vegetable garden is to produce as much of the fruit and vegetable we consume in the restaurant as possible. Many of the crops we grow can’t be planted out till late April because the soil hasn’t warmed up enough. Hence the idea is to produce larger plants in the greenhouse which when planted out will come into cropping sooner.

I also hope that by producing our own plants we will be able to keep a better control on the best crop varieties, planting dates and subsequent harvest dates. With a higher technical input hopefully we will be able to generally produce more. We will see!

In the meantime we now have a really lovely greenhouse to enjoy, a dream come true. Thanks Wes.


Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.