Jul 22, 2010

Greenhouses, or, in some instances, ‘high tunnels’, which are the same basic thing without heat, are coming to Bristol Bay!!

In the last two or three years, a number of greenhouses of all sizes have gone up around Bristol Bay. You may have already heard about the new one Igiugig is installing after their last one traveled some distance, and in pieces, in a wind storm.

Egegik, a village between King Salmon and Pilot Point, installed one last year as a community project.

I understand still others are going up as private enterprises in other villages. All of us share the common goal of wanting to produce more of our own food supply for ourselves and others.

In 2009, Ugashik Traditional Village, our local tribal organization, received a grant from the Pebble Foundation to install a community greenhouse. This came as a surprise to me – you can read more about our village and the grants they receive here.

The greenhouse remains today just like it was delivered last summer: packaged up and waiting on the floor of the dock building for someone to assemble it.

Ugashik greenhouse one year later

After asking a number of questions about it in a meeting back in February, I agreed to take on the job of assembling it.

Unfortunately, the particular style purchased, with its hard-sided material, will require some additional reinforcement to help protect it from the high winds we get here several times a year. Currently, the budget doesn’t have enough in it to fly in the needed wood for reinforcement. The only remaining option is to await the arrival the lumber sometime this summer by barge.  Since that coincides with our fishing season, the assembly of this greenhouse will have to wait until the ‘fall’.

It is a shame the villagers must wait another year, making it two after the grant was awarded before the community greenhouse can even be assembled. The chances of it being used before NEXT spring are pretty low. A little preliminary consultation by the tribal office in Anchorage office with the local villagers might have prevented some of this.

What I get more excited about are the other greenhouses or high tunnels now going up in the area. We are working on getting one in Pilot Point. One is going up in Dillingham, and I have heard of another one in the general Bristol Bay area.

Here in Ugashik I will finally, after at least a five-year family discussion, get to have a couple installed. I am going for smaller structures versus one large one for a couple of reasons. Having less air under the structure that must be warmed up in the spring or kept warm in the fall should add some weeks to my growing time. Additionally, although the style and material we chose is supposed to hold up to constant winds of 90+ mph, I don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket with just a single structure when it comes to possible wind damage.

My hope is that we can increase our production of greens, some fruits, and even, in time, maybe some warmer temperature-loving plants to help feed us, our summer crews, and maybe even a few others.

Those of you who are fans of Eliot Coleman, the author of some great Four-Season Harvest books, will recognize my strategy of “a structure in a structure” to help add extra protection.The chances are pretty low that we will get everything done with the new high tunnels before fishing starts in a few short weeks.  Therefore, as in the past, I will continue to plant and hoop our summer garden as usual. If we can get these new tunnels up as soon as fishing season ends, we might be able to do some August planting with production that extends into the late fall.

As the summer progresses, hopefully, we will have the news that we are successful, and news of that success will spread to more villages! I love it when things grow :-)

~ Victoria Briggs


  1. inwoodgardeners Says:

    Here are some planters that might be a good fit on the side of a building if you have problems with the ground being too cold.

    We’ve been successfully growing tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, herbs and peppers. The cloth for the pouches are made from recycled plastic bottles from Create For Less and can be sewn on a home sewing machine with ultraviolet resistant thread brought from Rochford Supply. The small pouches can be made for about $6 each.


  2. elsie09 Says:

    Hey, there, Inwood Gardeners!

    Your link took me to your interesting operation with the community garden. However, I couldn’t immediately figure out where it is. So, with googling it, I see that your garden is part of Inwood Hill Park on upper Manhattan; is that right?

    “In the summer of 2007, the park’s Dyckman Marina was added to New York State’s Hudson River Greenway Water Trail, a project aimed at reacquainting city dwellers with natural bodies of water and encouraging citizen stewardship.”

    An urban garden, north of NYC, then, huh? Cool beans!

  3. jim Says:

    The Aleuts dug their homes underground so 100 mph “willawaw” winds wouldn’t blow them away. In the Canary Islands they have orchards where each grape plant is grown in a pit to protect it from wind (and to entrap and collect what little water they get from the ocean mist in their desert region).

    I wonder about digging trenches and growing plants inside, covered with sheets of anchored-polyurethane plastic. Or could you mound up soil rows, cover the space between the rows with polyurethane, and grow plants inside? You’d need to slope the plastic sheeting so water would not puddle and cause the plastic to collapse.

    I don’t know how easy it would be to shovel Ugashik ground, but if you could move soil, that might provide a ‘greenhouse’ structure. A backhoe could work wonders. Soil ‘frames’ probably couldn’t practically be more than a foot or two tall. Of course you’d need to drain the mounded rows.

    The Aleuts had little lumber– perhaps mostly driftwood, so instead they used the earth for wind shield.

  4. inwoodgardeners Says:

    Hi Elsie,

    Yes the garden is at the south end of Inwood Park on Dyckman Street next to the Hudson River. We feel fortunate that we are able to have such a beautiful location to have our Hanging Gardens. The Marina is still in the process of getting permits to go forward with establishing restaurants and a full service marina.


    These pouches are quite sturdy actually. They’ve withstood several heavy storms with wind and might be appropriate in a somewhat sheltered area. For example if you attached the pouches to a wall of some sort then built a glass or polyurethane covered frame around them, that might be perfect in ultra windy conditions.

  5. InJuneau Says:

    Woo Hoo! Those look like great additions to the communities. Looking forward to hearing how everyone’s growing is going.

  6. Man_from_Unk Says:

    A nice greenhouse with a little heater for those cold days can grow some nice veggies up here on the edge of the Arctic. Just got to know what you are doing and have a green thumb as well.

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