News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 29, 2013

Getting a winter home: Greenhouse being built for Giving Garden

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A new passive solar greenhouse under construction at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds will enable a year-round Giving Garden by the Wabash Valley Master Gardeners Association.

So far this year, the Giving Garden has yielded about 23,000 pounds of fresh produce for donation to food banks, pantries and other groups that serve the needy.

On Tuesday, volunteers poured the footers and a cement pad for the new greenhouse, which will be 12 feet wide by 24 feet long. Once completed, “We can grow produce all winter long to give food to the food banks,” said Greg Fields, who is chairman of the Giving Garden.

Initially, the greenhouse is expected to grow Bibb lettuce.

Instead of using conventional heating sources, the greenhouse will let the sun heat up 55-gallon black barrels containing water that absorb the heat during the day and radiate it back at night.

There will be 24 barrels stacked two high on the south side of the greenhouse.

In constructing it, volunteers had to determine Terre Haute’s latitude (39.46 degrees) and the angle of the sun at the winter solstice (28 degrees). They used that information to determine the pitch of the roof, which will be 62 degrees.

“That way we get 100-percent penetration of the sun on the barrels,” Fields said.

The project is being funded with a Lilly Endowment grant through Indiana State University’s Institute for Community Sustainability.

Other partners are the Ivy Tech Community College agriculture program and Purdue Extension.

Fields hopes to have produce from the greenhouse in January.

Ivy Tech students will be involved in building the greenhouse, said John Rosene, chairman of the Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley agriculture program.

Also, “We’re trying to help the Master Gardeners come up with a system for growing plants during winter in such a way we can maximize production,” Rosene said.

Students will collect data including temperature, day length and solar angles and correlate those data with the number of pounds of lettuce produced, Rosene said.

The greenhouse will initially focus on Bibb lettuce because it has a fast life cycle, Rosene said. In the future, the Master Gardeners may try other types of produce.

This is the fourth year for the Giving Garden, planted and maintained by the Wabash Valley Master Gardeners Association Inc. Produce grown there has included tomatoes, corn, green beans, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and potatoes.

Jones and Sons donated cement for the greenhouse project, and Quality Fence will donate chainlink fencing for the entire garden, Fields said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or