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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

- Page 40

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 19, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta 16 LETHBRIDGE HERALD Tuesday, March "The only thing I can't control is the sun I wish I says Harold Ross in his quonset shaped green houses in Barons. His cucumbers and tomatoes bask in a 75 to 80 degree temperature and the humidity is set between 60 to 80 per cent. Mr. Ross, owner of Genie Gardens, doesn't have to go to Hawaii in the winter because it's just as nice in his greenhouses and a lot cheaper. Mr. Ross's cucumbers and tomatoes receive the nutrients they would normally receive from soil from the water they drink. One pound of nutrients is mixed with every 10 gallons of water. The 80-degree temperature in the greenhouse is maintained by heated air that is circulated by two fans. The air is heated by two heaters and then the fans blow the air through two big polyethylene tubes which run the length of the buildings. Humidity is controlled by water jets that moisten the air before it's circulated by the fans. In the summer, because additional humidity is needed, two exhaust fans draw air through 17 by seven-foot moistened pads. Natural gas is burned in the two buildings which adds carbon dioxide to the air an excellent growth stimulant for plants. Everything at Genie Gardens is machine controlled so Mr. Ross only needs two part-time employees other than himself. Hydroponic gardening is widely practised in some areas of the U.S. where there is a shortage of good soil. Mr. Ross, 43, was born in Barons. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he worked in a machine shop for six years. Then, for the next 18 years, he began and ran a very successful swimming pool construction and servicing business. Then he got interested in hydroponics. A good friend of his had a hydroponic business so for three months he watched and observed bis friend at' work. About the same time he was getting tired of the swimming pool business. "You had to hassle people 24 hours a he says. Clients would phone him at any hour of the day or night to come and service their pools. He was also getting tired of his million neighbors in Los Angeles. So he got out of the swimming pool business, took out a loan and with the loan and money from his business in January of 1972 began constructing the first of two hydroponic greenhouses in Barons. The first one cost about because Mr. Ross was a little unsure of what he wanted and did some experimenting. The second Plants are rooted in gravel base. one cost about By October of 1972 be planted his first seeds and in January he was harvesting his first crop. Because he was experimenting he pulled the tomato plants after they had been producing for only one month. Once a tomato plant starts producing it will continue to produce for six months.. His first crop yielded about pounds of tomatoes. His second crop which he planted in April, 1973, and began harvesting in June, yielded pounds of tomatoes. He picked tomatoes from this crop up until last December. Mr. Ross sells his produce to Value Village in Lethbridge, the local store in Barons and to a few isolated stores in the surrounding area. The reason for the increase in production from the second crop is it -was grown during the summer when there is more sunlight. And tomatoes were picked from the second crop plants for a longer period of time than from the first crop plants. Mr. Ross didn't make any money on his first two crops. He attributes this to his experimenting' with different methods and his inexperience. He has never had any real experience with gardening other than doing his own yard work. He's also had a few major setbacks. An entire crop planted in November in the number two building was destroyed when there was an equipment failure during the night and the temperature in the hut plummeted to 34 degrees. This cost Mr. Ross about Since then he gets up every hour on the hour during the night andjchecks the huts to make sure everything is okay. Another time a fanner was spraying with a very volatile herbicide and the fans on one of the buildings sucked it in destroying three rows of tomatoes at a cost of Besides getting up every hour during the night Mr. Ross has to work seven days a week eight hours a day. He commutes to Pincher Creek on the weekends to spend time with his wife and daughter. He hopes that after he's harvested his next crop that will be ready in June he'll have enough money to hire someone full time so that he can spend the entire weekend in Pincher Creek. He works hard, he's quite heavily in debt and he's yet to make money but Mr. Ross seems quite happy. He's got an easy smile and doesn't seem to be worried about anything. He loves his new line of work. "It's great a real change." he says. When he's working with plants he doesn't see anvbodv all dav. Harold Ross inspects his cucumbers. Hothouse garden a test of energy r- by BilL GROENEN ;