Location: Chino Valley, AZ (Home of Mother Nature's Menopause)
posted 3 years ago
I have inherited a beautiful mess. Or, rather, I should say, I've inherited the management of a beautiful mess. The beautiful mess is my family farm in northern Arizona. Part of this mess is an old glasshouse built onto the bottom level of a massive 3-story workshop/warehouse. This glasshouse exists off of the foundation of the main building and is divided into two rooms: one with a sandstone patio floor, and one with no floor that is open to the ground below. Inside this second room the previous management accidentally grew a little food forest. It was cute, but horribly overgrown and haphazard. The previous manger, my mother, had become physically incapable of maintaining it several years before that, and had made numerous level-1 errors throughout the property, including in this glasshouse. For the past 5 years I've been addressing those level-1 errors and have now gotten to a point where I can begin moving forward to some degree.
My husband and I removed the elm trees and rebuilt the walls where they had broken through. I have staged out the over-abundance of alliums and cabbages that were keeping the grapes from fruiting. And tweaked the growth of various clovers, the ground cherry tree, and the rosemary bush. I removed the lavender (which grows just fine outside) to make room for the jasmine (which won't grow outside here) to do it's thing. This year I am taking out the spanish dagger (because I'm tired of getting stabbed by it) and replacing it with a lemon tree. But, the big project in there is year is....
Yes, there are grapes in there, which isn't a bad thing, even though they will grow outside here just fine (we have some down on the eastern fence). The grape roots in this glasshouse are about 35-years-old and were never taken care of. They were never trained, or even propped up. Until last week they were an overgrown hedge of bug-harboring brambles. Except one. 3 years ago I cut one all the way back to it's crotch and regrew its arms, training them up the a metal lattice anchored to the sils of the glass panels. This year that one grape vine produced happy, massive red wine grapes. I've decided to do the same with the other 5 grapevines, using them as a the canopy layer on that side of the room.
Now, the question I have right now is what people recommend for the accompanying guild? Things I grew with the experimental vine that did really well were: parsley, chocolate mint, sweet mint, and bush beans. I have, in the past on other properties, had great success growing grapes with strawberries (between the vines, not below), and oddly, cucumbers (they grew right up the grapevines using them as a trellis). I've also been told by others in this area to grow flattop buckweat at their feet to use as a much plant and weed suppressant. We do get weeds in the glasshouse since there are "Bee Doors" between the roof and glass panels that remain open in spring and early summer.
I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations for other plants? We just ran the chickens through right after cutting the grapes back and plan to do so every year around this time from now on.
I will round up some photos too. I have some from when we first moved in, then a few years later, and I'm taking more as I go along with the changes. There is only so much I can do with this glasshouse, as I am simply the manager/head gardener and have to live by the will of the extended family. But, eventually we plan to tear down the existing glasshouse (which was just added as a sort of afterthought), and rebuild it to twice the width, 4 additional feet in height and... properly. That won't be for at least 4-5 years, however, as we have to build a new house and address more important things on other parts of the property first.
So, any advice or recommendations would be welcome. Feel free to ask questions too. Oh, it's worth it to mention that it gets almost down to freezing in the glasshouse in the winter, but never actually does. If we don't mind the airflow in the summer it can get up to 130f in there. Yes, venting was the very first thing we addressed... after the elm trees that had been growing there that had taken out two walls and 4 glass panels.