GLENS FALLS — Good things are growing on Maple Street in Glens Falls, and they’ll continue to year-round.
A new high tunnel, a greenhouse-looking structure that uses only sunlight to keep the interior warm and grows plants directly into the ground, is ready to house some veggies at the East Side Center Urban Garden, part of the Warren-Washington Association for Mental Health.
The East Side Center is a psychiatric rehabilitation center for adults, said the association’s CEO, Andrea Deepe, and has incorporated gardening therapy at its space on 230 Maple St.
While flowers and vegetables have proliferated there since 2006, the association celebrated the opening of its new winter gardening capabilities on Thursday.
“It’s really just blossomed beautifully,” Deepe said.
The high tunnel, also called a hoop house, was paid in part through a $6,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and was constructed with the help of association staff, Warren County Cornell Cooperative Extension master gardeners, the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District and many community members, including area resident Vince Sporrer. Cliff Green, a dual recovery coordinator for the association, has been one of the leads on the project and said Sporrer donated time, tools and materials to get the structure up.
It wasn’t an easy process either, he said.
“It’s hard to believe there’s one right in the middle of Glens Falls,” Green added, looking up at months of work and over a year of planning.
It’s perhaps an unexpected structure to see among the many houses on Maple Street. The plastic encased dome is 20 feet wide by 60 feet long and 10 feet tall. It looks empty now, with the exception of two hearty kale plants that had grown in the lot prior to its new house.
But this winter, Green said, leafy greens will be sprouting up in the front half of the high tunnel. Cover crops will be planted in the back half, which Green said will be a mixture of different grasses. The association hopes to hold meditation classes for its members in the back of the tunnel, which Green said should be in the 60s on a sunny day mid-winter.
Besides serving up its produce to members of the East Side Center, it sells flowers and vegetables to keep the gardens growing and donates thousands of pounds of veggies a year to the Open Door Mission and the food pantry at the Warren-Hamilton Counties Community Action Agency.
Green said the community has rallied around their gardens, too, helping protect them from potential vandals in exchange for a couple of cucumbers or tomatoes.
Eventually, the association hopes to open up an urban garden cafe, said Joshua Gray, director of support services. The cafe would be completely run by the East Side Center’s members and utilize everything the gardens grow. Gray added that the gardens have become a symbol of passion and pride for the group’s members.
They’ve held pesto and marinara parties, Deepe added, using the garlic, basil and tomatoes grown. “The Pesto Project” is painted along with a mural on the outside of the Maple Street building in homage to the bountiful basil produced every year, Deepe said.
“This is a great project,” said Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall. “They’ve done a great job here. ... This is an upgrade of what they have. They’ve done a great job with this piece of property.”