Mini Raised Bed Greenhouses for Sale

Look at these great greenhouses Eric Denice has built. We are offering four of them for sale this spring.  And can deliver them to you, too. We have used the same materials that go into our production greenhouses...6 mil plastic, hoops bent at just the right angle to shed water and snow, polycarbonate end walls, wiggle wire and extruded metal track for securing the plastic closed, and pipes that act as a "brake" for keeping the sides just where you want them. We are happy to give you a demo....or come and peek at ours that is all planted and growing along nicely.

You can roll up the sides, you can close it securely and easily, or even take the plastic all the way off once the weather warms up. The frame can act as part of a trellis system for tomatoes giving them a warm and dry environment as they size up, and then you can take the plastic all the way off and let them grow through the top of the frame. Just add a few horizontal lines of twine and, voila, instant tomato trellis!

Plants are nicely tucked in and cozy warm, no matter what the weather! You can easily get a 2 to 3 week jump on the season with this kind of season extension. The raised bed means that the soil is dry and warm long before garden beds, and the tight, plastic cover gives you warmth on cold nights. You can keep the sides rolled down on chilly, cloudy days, but it is best to roll them up a bit in the morning. It can get quite warm in there when the sun pops out. This type of greenhouse will allow you to harvest greens almost year round. It can also be used as a spot to start seeds, harden off plants, and gives you an extra zone of warmth if you would like to grow a perennial that is not usually hardy here.

We can deliver, bring you soil, plants, and have your instant garden ready in just an hour or so! Just add water.

Dimensions: 4' by 10' 

Base boards are made of 2" by 10" hemlock

Price $425

Celebrate Spring with us at our Cocktail Party and Greenhouse Tour Friday April 18th, 5pm to 7pm

Please join us April 18th, our opening day, for an evening tour of the greenhouses and a cocktail party with our friends from Caledonia Spirits. We will start at 5:00, take a walk around the greenhouses at 6:00, and get to see old and new friends to kick off our season with a spring celebration. Heidi Mahoney will be serving up some delicious herb-themed snacks, Caledonia Spirits will be serving sample tastes of their award winning vodka and gin, and we will have a cash bar featuring a special cocktail made with our herbs and more of that special gin and vodka.

I first met Todd Hardie, owner of Caledonia Spirits, in 2001. At the time, he had another very special business called Honey Garden Apiaries. Todd and his staff kept bee yards throughout the Champlain Valley and the St Lawrence Valley and they would extract the honey and bottle it raw and unfiltered. It was the most powerful food, full of the bees' adventures and vitality. His operation was based right next to where Red Wagon Plants is currently located. When I needed a little something extra to do that winter 15 years ago, a friend suggested I talk to Todd about helping him with extracting honey. I fell in love with honey and made a life long friend. As Todd would say, it was a fruit example of cross-pollination as our conversations were instantly filled with all of the possibilities of plants, honey, bees, and all of the various ways these things can interplay. Todd's creativity, energy and brilliance have no bounds. He went on to make incredible plant and honey based medicines as part of his business, which was part apiary and part apothecary. While he has moved on to the world of finely distilled spirits, one thing has not changed: Todd is always making products that vibrate with the powerful energy of bees, plants and people. There is an inspired quality in all he makes that can be tasted and felt, and that sets it apart from all the others. 

Please let us know you are coming so that we can plan accordingly. RSVP.

Please join us for a special evening and help kick off the 2014 garden season with a wonderful celebration. 

- Julie and the crew

Red Wagon Herbs

What's a greenhouse grower to do when the spring season winds down and there is still plenty of great weather for summer growing and the greenhouses are empty? Well, start a new business, that is what. We are so happy to introduce to you our new sister business, Red Wagon Herbs. We are growing Certified Organic herbs for year round harvest and selling to local stores, restaurants, and food hubs. Our focus is on the popular culinary herbs for now, but we are likely to branch out into the more unusual once we have had a chance to explore our markets and have gotten familiar with our new growing practices. This is a perfectly natural extension of our plant business since we already partner with fantastic stores and we love to grow herbs more than anything else. As a matter of fact, the plant business, in its earliest days, was just a potted herb business. In a way, we are going to back to those days and loving the continuity, evolution, and expansion.

Our herbs are grown using three different methods: in the ground for summer and fall harvest, in a new, unheated greenhouse (paid for in part by a grant from NRCS EQIP) for fall, winter and spring harvest, and in our existing, heated houses for those coldest months. We are excited to be the only Vermont farm offering organic herbs year round and hope you enjoy cooking with them as much as we enjoy growing them.

Please be on the look out for an Open House this fall so we can show you what we have been up to and give you a chance to smell, touch, taste, and see it all.

Our current line up consists of :

  • Basil (March through November only)
  • Chives
  • Cilantro 
  • Dill
  • Curly and Flat Parsley
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon
  • Rosemary
  • Savory
  • Marjoram
  • Spearmint
  • Bouquet Garni ( a mixture of aromatic herbs for roasting, stocks, and more)

Open House

Sunday, April 1, 2012 9 am to noon

Red Wagon Plants Open House

We welcome you to visit our greenhouses on Sunday, April 1st, from 9 am to noon.

We will have coffee, tea, and snacks for you as you peek around the greenhouses and see what it looks like when we are in full swing. Feel free to bring children, see the calves next door, and come armed with garden stories and questions!

We will have some plants for sale as well as Johnny's Selected Seeds. Come by for cold hardy flowers, herbs and veggies. Bagged compost will be available for feeding your garden beds and, best of all, our staff will be on hand to meet you and talk shop!

We look forward to seeing you,

-Julie and the Crew

This Week in Photos - April 16, 2011

Each year I am amazed by the incredible variety of new plants that are available. This is the work of plant breeders, who painstakingly cross-pollinate particular varieties until they achieve the results we want or who carefully scan their crop for particular traits they want to select. It is a time-consuming process, but gardeners are always grateful - this year, as with every other, we are treated to an array of extraordinary new plants. We hope you enjoy this week's photos!

Each plant has a unique texture, and each has its special place in the garden...

And then there are also wondrous colors and shapes...

Allison on Seeds

Allison Lea, our incredible seeder,  eagle-eyed pest finder, and all around special person wrote this beautiful piece on seeds. We love her writing, and hope you enjoy these thoughtful words.

I've had seeds on my mind lately. Not surprising, given the time of year, and the fact that I've been planting seeds for a living for the better part of a decade. It's easy to forget about seeds, during the long months of a Vermont winter. But then that first warm day comes, and with it the scent of damp earth, and suddenly I am visualizing thousands of seeds lying dormant in the ground, waiting and working. I consider myself lucky, because I get to experience an early spring in the greenhouses. While the outdoor seeds are still mired in mud, ice, snow and more unpleasant bits of thawing matter, I am opening crisp white packets and distributing their contents into the warm fluffy soil from Vermont Compost: onions, lettuce, kale, various greens, annual flowers, tomatoes, peppers. I love my job for its ability to provide me with an invaluable set of simple lessons for life. First: start small. Some of the seeds I plant are truly no bigger than a pinprick. Yet even the smallest one contains all the knowledge it needs to become a complete plant. Inevitably, I have moments when I feel as though I'm flailing around in my life, looking for answers outside myself, or feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information literally right at my fingertips. And then I find myself standing at my seeding bench inside the greenhouse, holding a handful of seeds in my hand and realizing I have all the answers I need. I've always had them. Second: calm down a little and be still. While there are many seeds which travel for miles and miles on the wind or hitched to the back of some animal (mainly my dogs, it seems), all the seeds I've handled germinate best when they are left in peace. They're not going to be thrilled if I keep jostling the tray around, or picking them up, examining them for signs of life, and putting them back down. Likewise, when I allow myself to slow down and breathe a little, I start to get more of a grasp on the person I am becoming. Stillness is the key to sprouting, so when I feel myself flitting here and there, reluctant to make a commitment or put down roots, I go back to my seeds, peer at them thoughtfully, and then step back and let them be. Third: not all seeds are going to germinate. Some seed packets will say 60% germination rate. These seeds I sow a little thicker, in order to compensate. If all of them sprouted, I would have a very crowded plug tray, and unhappy plants. I have lots of great ideas, but they're not all going to come to fruition, so letting go of my attachments seems like a good plan. And finally (although the lessons continue indefinitely) cracking open is a good thing. I've seen thousands of little seedlings, and that first green shoot pushing up through the hull never ceases to delight and amaze me, whether it happens in the greenhouse, or out in the garden. So as I strive to make sense of a world which appears to be literally cracking apart under our collective feet, I will keep coming back to the modest little seed, looking for signs of something new and amazing coming through.

Hat Knitting and Creature Crochet Classes at Red Wagon Plants

Our friends at Lincoln Peak Vineyard have been holding knitting nights at their winery all winter long and have told us what a fun event it has been for them. I have been thinking about this all winter and imagining a group of people sitting around the cozy wood stove, sipping wine, and eating the famous flour-less chocolate cake. We often have customers, friends, and neighbors who want to come by the greenhouse and just hang out in the warmth and the greenery while winter still blows outside, so when I heard about Lincoln Peak's knitting nights, I thought wouldn't it be nice to offer people a chance to do something they love in a setting that is so special during these end-of winter days. I told my friend Meghan O'rourke about this and she very kindly offered to teach two classes in the greenhouses. Meghan is a very talented artist and craft person who will teach you to make something completely unique and full of your own personal touches. And you'll get to do it in the beauty of a greenhouse full of green, green life. Here is a description of the two classes:

Sunday, March 20th. 10 am to noon at Red Wagon Plants

Design and start a vertical ribbed cap

Knowledge of basic knit and purl stiches needed and a willingness to finish up the hat on your own. Learn how to size and pattern this classic, stylish and fitting cap for the cool spring days.  You need to bring 5 size 7 double pointed needles and at least two colors of the yarn of your choice, preferably a worsted weight.

Please call 482-4060 to register. $15 fee per participant. We will provide coffee, tea, and snacks. Space is limited, so please be sure to register

Meghan will be teaching a second class - a really exciting one. Check out what you will learn to make:

Saturday, March 26th, 10 am to noon at Red Wagon Plants

Crochet Your Own Creature

Learn the art of amigirumi, the Japanese art of creating cute crocheted creatures.  A basic knowledge of simple chain stitching is helpful (many tutorials are available online!!) Bring your own crochet hook and a favorite color of cotton yarn.  I will supply the eyes and stuffing!  Bonus: if you took the hat making class feel free to bring your project along for some finishing tips after we bring our cute creatures to life. Again, you will have a chance to relax in the Red Wagon Plants greenhouses.

Please call 482-4060 to register. $15 fee per participant. We will provide coffee, tea, and snacks. Space is limited, please preregister.

First Days in the Greenhouse

Beautiful bacopa cuttings ready for potting up
Beautiful bacopa cuttings ready for potting up

It is finally that glorious time of year when work in the greenhouses begins. Our first cuttings have arrived and we have started potting them up, giving each plant new room to grow in wonderful Vermont Compost Company potting mix. (See note below) We can imagine that they feel the same way we do upon first entering the greenhouse, as they shed their cardboard boxes and we our many winter layers. At first the sunshine pouring down dazzles us, and we squint in the brightness. But soon we are all reveling in the lovely feeling of the rich soil, the moist, 85 degree air on our skin, and the intoxicating scent of rosemary. Within a few days this greenhouse will be filled to bursting with vigorously growing young plants.

'Gorizia' Rosemary cuttings before repotting
'Gorizia' Rosemary cuttings before repotting
Bronze-leaf begonia cuttings, awaiting potting
Bronze-leaf begonia cuttings, awaiting potting
Golden sage and rosemary
Golden sage and rosemary
Buddy dibbling the pots for planting
Buddy dibbling the pots for planting
Allison, our seed master, seeding the first trays
Allison, our seed master, seeding the first trays
Allison seeding trays
Allison seeding trays
Kate potting up rosemary
Kate potting up rosemary

By Sophia

Note: "Cuttings" are plants that can only be started from rooted stems. Instead of the plant producing seed and being propagated from a seed, plants that are 'vegetatively propagated'  (as it is called) are only true to type from the stem cuttings. In some cases, this means that they are cloned hybrids - a cross between two plants and they would revert back to looking like one of their parents if you planted the seed.  Another reason plants are propagated this way is because they are too slow to germinate and in our climate, they would be hard to establish. We buy in our rooted cuttings because making them ourselves would require heating a greenhouse all winter long and for now it is more efficient to buy in these beautiful cuttings from growers in Quebec and Massachusetts who specialize in this kind of greenhouse production. And just to be clear, this is old-fashioned plant breeding and propagating - these are not test tube babies or genetically modified organisms.

More New Plastic....

It might be 5 below, but we've got plants to grow! We put new plastic on our third greenhouse last Wednesday, a cold, but beautifully sunny morning.

Eric and Buddy unrolling the plastic
Eric and Buddy unrolling the plastic
Unrolling the plastic
Unrolling the plastic
Plastic unrolled
Plastic unrolled
Allison marking the center with permanent marker
Allison marking the center with permanent marker
Attaching ropes to pull the plastic over the frame
Attaching ropes to pull the plastic over the frame
Eric tying a tennis ball into the plastic (to hold the rope without tearing).
Eric tying a tennis ball into the plastic (to hold the rope without tearing).
Pulling the plastic over the frame
Pulling the plastic over the frame
Allison and Julie getting ready to pull the plastic over
Allison and Julie getting ready to pull the plastic over
Buddy tacking the plastic down with wiggle wire
Buddy tacking the plastic down with wiggle wire
Tacking down the plastic with wiggle wire
Tacking down the plastic with wiggle wire

The Year to Come

by Julie One of my favorite aspects of running a greenhouse business is the ability to create. Not only is the act of growing plants very creative - we get to choose what we grow, how we grow it, how we market it, and how to make it all look beautiful and inspiring (we hope!); but in addition to that is the fact that this is a business like any other.  Ever since I was a little girl, my favorite toys have been my graph paper and my schedules; so a greenhouse business that gives me about 6 months of planning time is really fun for someone like me. I get to think it all through, improve systems, find ways to do more in the community, and create a nice work environment for all of the amazing people at Red Wagon Plants.

Here are some projects and improvements we are hatching (germinating?) at Red Wagon Plants this winter. Our mission is to increase the bounty in our community and this year, we plan to focus on the community part of that mission. We have built up such a wonderful group of customers, both wholesale and retail, and it feels like the right time to get to know everyone a little better!

Our 2011 Goals

  • Promote our community partners. Every year, we donate thousands of plants to schools, non-profits, community gardens, and civic gardening projects. We want to share information about all of these wonderful organizations with our customers.
  • Create a "Grower Station" at our retail store where people can learn about some simple growing techniques that are appropriate for the home scale, back yard garden.  Many of the staff at Red Wagon have worked on commercial scale vegetable farms and there are so many time-saving and crop-improving methods applied on those farms that easily cross over to the home garden.  This can really help increase the bounty in our customers' backyards and make gardening affordable from a money and time perspective.
  • Have an end of year harvest dinner with the bounty from our gardens. We can sit at the table together, share our love of gardening and enjoy the food and spirit of our efforts.
  • Invite people to come relax in the greenhouses in the winter. There is no place like a warm greenhouse in winter when the snow is falling and the wind is howling and inside feels like a tropical wonderland of green. How about sharing this with the community? Sunday morning coffee and bagels? Bring your knitting! Hang out with the plants and breath in the smell of dirt and fresh green growth. It seems like every time I tell someone what I do for a living, they say "oh it must be so nice in there on a snowy day!" Well, it is. It's really nice and it takes about 1 month off of winter's length for all of us who have the honor to work here, so we want to share that opportunity and invite others to join in the pleasure!
  • Visit customer gardens. We really do love hearing from our customers and want to make more of an effort to see the gardens they tell us about. It would be so fun to roam around in the van and visit all these lovely places where people grow their own food and make their homes beautiful and colorful. What more inspiration does a person need?

So those are a few thoughts, and as always, we love to hear your suggestions, so please feel free to comment.

Fresh Start

We are busy preparing for the 2011 season and this includes counting everything in sight such as seeds, pots, trays, tags, and signs as well as ordering seeds, cutttings, pots, trays, tags, soil, and anything else we may need to make everything tick. But the most exciting preparation is the new grading and gravel in the greenhouses. When we first built the greenhouses 6 years ago, we had to cut some corners (that money thing, you know) and it meant that we did not spread and compact gravel before building the greenhouses. Well, over time, the native clay sunk and became a wet, weedy mess which unfortunately can harbor pathogens and pests. This fall, Linda Gionti of Gionti Stone Works, and Parker Excavation have been working together to bring us brand new, beautiful gravel floors which we are covering with brand new landscape fabric. This will keep weeds down and create a clean surface that can be swept and kept clean. It feels just great to have such team work (thanks to Eric, Jonathan, Allison and Buddy) hauling everything out of the houses and then setting it all back up again. Here are a few photos to give you a taste of the job.

It's kind of like getting a spa treatment for the buildings.

What's Happening This Week in the Greenhouses

I have been spending more time in the retail greenhouse this week and I am just awed by the beauty of some of the flowers. Here are a few photos to get you in the mood too. Delicate folds and perfect gradations of pigment make for some intricate and dazzling begonias: Here is a dahlia that I am in love with:

These orange miniature roses are incredibly sweet near a stone wall or in patio conatiners:

And we have a full array of hot peppers now including:


These Vanilla Marigolds are pretty special as well - very tall, upright and a creamy delicious....

First Week in the Greenhouse

Last week was the first week back in the greenhouse and all the work went so smoothly it didn't even feel like work. It would take more poetry than what is in me to describe the joy I feel from being back at work and playing with plants. I am also so grateful for our amazing team of kind and hard working people - Allison Lea, Eric Denise, Dana Ozimek and Buddy Koerner. It makes a huge difference to have such an all star team of Red Wagon Plants allumni, and the plants feel the love and experience too. Here are a few shots of the week's progress.

Can you find Sandy peeking at everything in the photo above?

And here are a few of the 2010 geraniums.....

Hens and Chicks waiting for a warm spot in a rock garden or along a stone path.....

Some Sweet Allysum poking through...

Any signs of life stirring in your garden?


Eric and Lindsay moving the bit of soil left over from last year into a greenhouse.

Charley's stone walls for the workshops he teaches. Red Wagon Plants and Queen City Soil and Stone own a greenhouse together so that he can use it in the winter for workshops and we use it in the spring and summer for retail sales.

Eric just finished installing a new heater. Our old heaters have been destroyed, one by one, by mud wasps that make their mud homes in the delicate workings of the motors or heat exchangers. We are replacing them with heaters that do not have nooks and crannies in which the wasps can hide.

Our booth at the NOFA conference this past weekend. It was great to meet customers and see friends, old and new.

Field Trip

Every winter, I try to have a field trip to at least one greenhouse business to see how other people do things. This time, I am heading off to Peace Tree Farm, Candy and Lloyd Tavern's very impressive and large operation in Buck's County, PA. I hope to get a chance to see their  very efficient systems at work. They are growing organic herb plants along  as part of their operation, and I can't wait to see it all and ask lots of questions. I first met Lloyd at a conference a couple of years ago and was really impressed with his vast knowledge of all things mechanical when it comes to greenhouse production. Our operation at Red Wagon Plants is not at all mechanized. .... everything we do is by hand, from filling the pots, to watering, to seeding, and carrying trays to the truck. Larger operations use machines for many of these tasks, and I avoid these machines because we are too small to warrant the cost, and I am a first class techno-phobe. Things just break if I come near them. So in an effort to get over some of my fear of machinery, I'll visit Lloyd and Candy and will be grateful for their kind exposure to greenhouse robotics.  Photos to come!

Snow and greenhouses

Snow removal is a big part of greenhouse maintenance in the winter. Our greenhouses are really strong, made from tubular steel, engineered by Harnois, up in Quebec, and can handle a big snow load. The problem though, is once the snow slides off, it has to be cleared away from the sides so that more snow can slide off. If it builds up too much on the sides, it can put uneven pressure on the frame, and when another heavy snow falls, the uneven pressure combined with the added weight of the snow load can cause a problem. We have a snow blower to do this, but when it gets to be too much, we call in Roger Parker, a neighbor and all around helpful person who has an excavation business and owns every great piece of large equipment a person could want. His tractor and huge rear-mounted snowblower fits in between the greenhouses just fine and they can clear away the big snow piles in a few passes. It sure beats shoveling!

From the Valentine's Day blizzard of 2007

Don't Fear Frost! Extending Your Growing Season

Here in Vermont, we can count on just a few frost-free months. But with a little bit of planning, strategic planting, and getting the right tools, you can harvest through a bit of frost and snow. But by planning out crop planting so that crops are mature before the short days and cold weather hits, you can then protect them and harvest them well into winter.

Row covers such as reemay are usually used with hoops made of #9 gauge wire so that the fabric does not rest right on the plants. These covers breath and come in various weights. They allow light and water in, but raise the temperature of the soil and air inside the cover.

Cold frames are simple boxes that are filled with good quality soil and are covered with windows (called "lights") or clear plexiglass or sometimes plastic. They are used for season extension, plant protection, as mini-greenhouses, and as a place to overwinter tender perennials. The covers are closed at night and opened on sunny days. Lettuce, spinach, hardy greens, and herbs can be grown most of the winter in a hot bed with a south facing light. "Hot beds" are deep cold frames that hold a thick layer of manure below the soil. As the manure decomposes, it lets out a tremendous amount of heat which keeps the frame very warm at night even in the winter. Cold frames can be made out of wood, straw, stone, concrete with old storm windows on hinges. The windows must be small enough that they can be opened and closed easily by raising them up and propping them with a stick.

Straw mulch is a great way to extend the season for vegetables such as kale, spinach, carrots, beets and other root crops. Once the crops are matured, a very thick layer of straw around the base of the plants will keep the ground from freezing so that the roots may still be harvested. The straw also keeps the top of the crops from freezing in extreme temperatures. Spinach can be overwintered under straw so that an early spring crop can be eaten. Kale lasts well into winter and is also helped by a deep straw layer so that the cold wind does not completely dessicate the leaves.

Every home garden has microclimates. It is a good idea to take advantage of these when planning the fall garden. A south-facing foundation wall is a great place to prep a small area for greens and herbs that will be well sheltered from cold, northern winds. It's a good place to situate a cold frame as well and to plant it with radishes, greens, and other crops that will benefit from the micro climate.

Containers are another great way to extend the season. Herbs, greens and lettuces can be planted in pots, apple crates, milk crates, or window boxes and moved inside when the weather gets too cold. While they might not last all winter long, they will certainly give you some fresh eating for a few months longer...all you need is a sunny spot or some simple grow lights. Thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage all do well in containers in the home and will last all winter. Kale and lettuce will last up to 5 or 6 weeks longer than they would outdoors.

Photograph by One Green Generation . Creative Commons license.