by Hazel Homer-Wambeam
While the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted many families’ summers, Amy Parker Williams and her family are taking advantage of the change by building a greenhouse in their Laramie backyard. Wanting to build a greenhouse since her twenties, Amy says, “I built a couple of homemade [greenhouses] before, but they weren’t very good. So, when we weren’t able to go to fiddle camps and go on vacations this summer, and we got the stimulus check, the whole family put our money together.”
The greenhouse measures 9’8” by 14’ and was ordered online as a kit ready to assemble. It took around two weeks for the family to complete, Amy says. “It was actually really fun to work on it as a family… We are hard workers but not super skilled builders, so it was hard, but we did it.” In order to build a structure able to withstand the Wyoming climate, Amy researched in-depth into the type of kit to order. Laramie has experienced two freezes since the greenhouse was built and everything inside lasted through the night.
The difference is apparent between outdoor plants and the plants inside the greenhouse in terms of durability. “We have plenty of sun, but we just have this unpredictable back and forth weather which is really hard on plants,” Amy says. “With a little protection, they just go crazy.” Plants growing inside the Greenhouse include peppers, tomatillos, cucumbers, Thai basil, lavender, rosemary, garlic, chard, kale, poc choi, spinach, chives, tatsoi, cantaloupe, sage, watermelon, lemon cucumbers, and tomatoes as well as a small lemon tree.
When asked how frequently the family eats from the garden, Amy says, “Every day. We eat a lot of big salads and stir-fries… We are a family of five and I have a large harvesting bowl that I fill every single day.” Beyond the greenhouse, the family has also been growing a multitude of outdoor plants including asparagus, raspberries, potatoes, sorral, snow peas and sugar snap peas, carrots, beans, beets, cilantro, mint, artichokes, echinacea, and lovage as well as cherry trees and four apple trees.
“There has been a surge in interest in gardening because of the pandemic but then if people get off to a rocky start they get discouraged.” Amy gives advice to anyone wanting to start their own greenhouse or garden saying that soil and light are the most important aspects to successful gardening. “The soil is a complex microbiome with all kinds of living things like bacteria and fungi that support healthy plant life… If you don’t start with healthy soil, it’s a lot more work and you often have problems.”
“People get turned off to growing here,” Amy says, “but every climate has it’s challenges. You could be living somewhere really warm but then you have a hundred different pests to deal with. We actually have a pretty easy gardening climate. You can grow any kind of green outside, you can pick varieties that are short seasoned… Yes, maybe some years you get a hailstorm or something and it’s a little disappointing, but you just replant and try again.”
Photography by Hazel Homer-Wambeam