New Bench-top Heating System ‘Greens’ the Greenhouse

Bench Heating 1

Times are -or rather, have been- changing here at EarthDance. The last few years have been transformative as we’ve experienced immense growth. The most significant addition to the farm’s infrastructure so far is our onsite greenhouse. Greenhouses provide a controlled climate for seed germination and seedling care.  To keep greenhouse temps warm enough for tender seedlings through the coldest nights of winter, a source of supplemental heat is a must.  EarthDance’s greenhouse was initially heated by propane gas.  As this is a non-renewable resource and a contributor carbon emissions, we planned to investigate alternative heating strategies for “greening” our greenhouse.

Our commitment to increase environmental sustainability (and our hope of cutting our heating costs over time) lead us to adopt a bench-top heating system.  A bench-top system consists of a series of rubber tubes that circulate hot water under seedling trays.  This saves energy because it is more efficient to heat the soil than to keep the entire structure cozy.  The new system was fully functional by February this year.  So how is it working out?  Farm Manager Monica Pless reports that she has been pleased with the results.  According to Monica, “We’ve seen faster-than-usual germination among some of the seedlings that are typically slow to sprout, such as parsley, spinach, and beets.”  The system may also result in hardier plants with more resistance to transplant shock.  Because the ambient temperatures are cooler, the seedlings could potentially “toughen-up” even before heading outdoors.

We were supported in our goal of greening our greenhouse by a grant from NCR-SARE.   SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) is a program of the US Department of Agriculture.  The SARE Farmer/Rancher grant provided funds to purchase the bench-top system, as well as program support for EarthDance to educate our apprentices and tour attendees about advantages and best practices for use of this type of system.

Thank you NCR-SARE for your support of this project!

Bench Heating 3

Bench Heating 2