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Saturday, May 25, 2019

My Senior Research Paper on GMOs

This is a research paper I wrote for a Social Issues class in college. GMOs are a highly controversial subject this is just one side of the argument.

Hawaiian papayas, American Chestnuts, and Florida oranges.  What do each of these have in common?They were all saved from extinction by genetic modification.  Genetically modified organisms, also referred to as GMOs, are an interesting topic of discussion because there is so much they can do, but also so much we don’t yet know about their potential affects.  However, the potential benefits of genetically modified organisms far outweigh the uncertainty about them. I strongly believe that GMOs are necessary for the wellbeing of our population.
What exactly are GMOs?  According to Perdue Agriculture, Genetically Modified Organisms are “living beings that have had their genetic code tweaked in some way” (Perdue).  These organisms can be plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, or viruses.Twelve percent of all crops grown in the United States are genetically modified (Meise).  Eighty eight percent of corn, ninety three percent of soy, and ninety four percent of cotton grown in the US has been modified genetically for one reason or another (Kelly).  Scientists create these genetically altered life forms in order to solve problems regarding pest and disease problems, nutritional value, or crop yields.
One of the greatest achievements made using GMO crops is the resistance to certain diseases.  Papayas in Hawaii were saved from extinction by genetic modification.The Papaya Ringspot Viruscaused production to drop by fifty percent in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  The disease causes distortion and lesions on fruits and on the trunk of the tree, and drastically reduces fruit quality.Now, GMO papayas account for 90% of United States papaya production (Smyth).  
In a similar situation, Florida’s orange trees were once threatened with disease as well.  The $9 billion Floridian orange industry is being threatened by a sort of citrus blight called greening, which prevents fruit from ripening evenly (Voosen).  The disease is one hundred percent fatal to infected trees. It is transmitted by the Asian Citrus Psyllid.Scientists are developing a coating for the trees that will control the insect.  Alternatively, genetic engineering could be used to render the Asian Citrus Psyllids incapable of transmitting the disease (Voosen).
The American Chestnut tree is yet another example. Nearly all of the American Chestnut trees in the eastern US were wiped out by a blight accidentally  brought from Asia on ships. Although crossing the American variety with a blight-resistant Asian variety is helping, research is still being done to investigate other ways of bringing back the valuable lumber and nut producing tree.
“Researchers will plant four types of chestnut
trees: the transgenic, blight-resistant variety;
trees bred through conventional backcross
methods; hybrids that cross the American chestnut
with an Asian variety; and the wild chestnut,
which has been devastated by a pathogen inadvertently
introduced from Asia more than a century ago” (Conrow).
The transgenic variety uses a gene found in wheat to increase its blight resistance (ESF).
Genetic modification can assist in pest resistance for humans as well as plants. Mosquitoes are being genetically engineered to reduce the transmission of malaria.  The mosquitoes’ genes are being spliced with mouse genes which “blind” the disease and prevent it from reaching the insects’ salivary glands.The trait is passed on to more than ninety nine percent of the altered parent’s offspring.
“Bt” crops are another method of reducing pest pressure in certain crops.  Genes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, when spliced with those from food crops such as corn and soy, produce a protein toxic to many pests (University of California San Diego).  This sounds like a great thing.The bacterial genes should allow farmers to raise these crops with fewer pesticides.Unfortunately, many pests are developing tolerances to the protein.  It’s taking more and more of the protein to keep the pests at bay. This can be combated by planting “refuge” plantings. A refuge planting is a field of one crop which is a mixture of Bt and non-Bt crops. This increases the chances of Bt resistant pests mating with non resistant pests, creating offspring which are likely to be vulnerable to the toxin (University of California San Diego). Another argument against Bt crops is that the pesticide can’t be washed off the crops, since it’s systemic. However, Bt crops, especially corn, are almost entirely used as animal feed or to make ethanol. Rarely, do humans eat Bt treated crops.
Along the same lines as Bt crops is “Roundup Ready” crops.  Most often when thinking about “Roundup Ready” crops, we think of corn and soy which have been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. Glyphosate is a chemical herbicide which acts systemically. The fear is that making these crops resistant to the herbicide will allow farmers to spray heavier amounts.  Glyphosate has been tested on rodents in laboratories for toxicity and fear of its possible carcinogenic effects, but it was found that it only poses risks if ingested in high amounts or if applying large doses often (National Pesticide Information Center).
Many people believe that all GMOs pose health risks to humans when ingested. However, a research study in San Diego published a paper in 2016 which states otherwise:
“Work on the 388-page report began two years ago
and was conducted by a committee of more than
50 scientists, researchers and agricultural and industry
experts convened by the National Academies of
Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. It reviewed more
than 900 studies and data covering the 20 years since
genetically modified crops were first introduced.” (Meise)
This study found that 57% of Americans are concerned that consuming genetically modified foods will lead to health problems.  However, when this committee assessed health records from the US and Canada and compared them to those from western Europe where GMOs are banned,  no correlations were found between eating GMOs and having more health issues. The diseases studied were cancer, Type II diabetes, obesity, Celiac disease, allergies, kidney disease, and autism (Meise).
Other health risk studies have focused on the risks of feeding livestock GMOs.  A study by the University of California at Davis assessed the records of nearly one hundred billion animals.  It was found there were no changes in  the health of the animals when switched from non-GMO feed to feed containing GMOs.  Today’s beef cattle are fed almost exclusively GMO corn, and there have been no studies concluding this has any ill effects on their health (Haspel).  
Despite all of the great things GMOs have allowed us to achieve, several countries have banned them outright due to the lack of research. Russia has banned GMO production and importation, but allows scientific research. Other countries ban production but allow GMOs to be imported.
“Although many EU countries do not grow GMOs, Europe
is one of the world’s biggest consumers of them. Every
EU nation imports them. More than 30 million tons of
biotech corn and soy for livestock feed are imported
each year, making Europe the largest regional consumer
of GMOs in the world” (Genetic Literacy Project).
Banning GMOs outright only slows the progress that could be made by researching them. It’s clear from the numerous studies done on livestock that GMOs are not the problem. If there is any risk from GMOs, it is indirect and stems from the excessive use of herbicide sprays on “Roundup Ready” crops.
Rather than focusing on genetically modifying crops for herbicide tolerance, however, science should be focusing on modifying them to be more drought tolerant, and stronger than the weeds so that they can outcompete them naturally. Some plant species have already developed their own natural herbicide, such as Black Walnut which has evolved to create a chemical that inhibits growth of other plants near the tree. When a plant is able to do this, it is called allelopathy. If scientists can figure out how to harness that and insert that trait into other plants, it may help reduce the need for synthetic chemical herbicide sprays.
In conclusion, Genetically Modified Organisms are not as bad as many people make them out to be.  There are many beneficial applications for GMOs and I strongly believe they are necessary in order to feed our growing populations.  Unfortunately, there are still countless groups and individuals opposing the cultivation of GMO crops. It will likely take many more years of positive scientific research to disprove the theories that GMOs are dangerous.

Sources Cited
Can Genetic Engineering Save the Florida Orange? (2014, September 14). Retrieved April 25, 2018Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops? #GMOFAQ. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2018Conrow, J. (2017, March 15). Restoration forest project will showcase GMO chestnut trees. Retrieved April 25, 2018Glyphosate. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2018, from http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.htmlGMO Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/Gonsalves, D., Tripathi, S., Carr, J. B., & Suzuki, J. Y. (2010). Papaya Ringspot virus. Retrieved April 25, 2018Haspel, T. (2014, October 27). The GMO debate: 5 things to stop arguing. Retrieved April 20, 2018Kelly, M. (2012, December 30). Top 7 Genetically Modified Crops. Retrieved April 20, 2018Main, D. (2016, May 04). Researchers Genetically Modify Mosquitoes to Be Malaria-Resistant. Retrieved April 25, 2018Restoring a Species. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2018Smyth, S. (2017, July 21). GM Papaya, Hawaii, Ringspot. Retrieved April 25, 2018The Science of GMOs. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2018Weise, E. (2016, May 17). Academies of Science finds GMOs not harmful to human health. Retrieved April 20, 2018Where are GMOs grown and banned? (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2018

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Building a DIY hoop house for under $1,000

Two winters ago, my dad and I built a 12'x24' hoop style greenhouse in our backyard. I was trying to make a little extra money selling vegetable seedlings (read about it here). We were looking for something that would be fairly simple and inexpensive to set up, and came up with a design modified from others we found online.

DIY Hoop House Plans

1. First, we leveled the ground in the area and dug trenches around it. We installed pressure treated boards in the dimensions of the greenhouse. These would become support for the rebar later in the build.
2. Next, we installed landscape fabric as a weed barrier and backfilled on the outside of the pressure treated boards. 
3. In the top right, you can see rebar on the inside of the boards. Three foot pieces of rebar were buried two feet into the ground, leaving 12 inches above ground at two foot intervals.
4. I believe the PVC we used in this step was 1" schedule 40 in twenty-one foot lengths. With two people, it was fairly easy to bend and put the ends over the rebar. It looked a little "off" in places at first, but once the weather warmed in the spring everything evened itself out nicely. 
5. We also used the same PVC to make a midridge down the middle which would help in keeping the arches evenly spaced at the top. It was just zip tied to the arches at this point, but later in the build we secured it to the endwalls as well.

6. We built the endwall frames with 2x4s. At this point, make sure you figure out where the door and potentially windows will be. 
7. We screwed the midridge down to the top of the endwall frames but left it zip tied to the arches. 

Here's a picture of the inside of the door just to show how we framed it.

7. The endwalls were made of 4'x8' panels of a material called SmartSide Panels. It's more resistant to fungus and termites, so we chose it as a better option than plywood for a greenhouse that gets wet often. 
8. We added some extra support boards along the sides when we installed the endwalls. This would also allow us to make an air bubble between two layers of poly film covering for better insulation. We could double the covering, then sandwich it between two boards and leave some loose at the bottom. The end result would be a well insulated double layer covering with roll-up sides for good air-flow.

9. Before covering the greenhouse, we put pipe insulation over the tops of the endwalls to prevent tearing and prolong the life of the covering. 
10. Flexible plastic tubing laid along the outside and screwed down holds the covering in place. 

11. For the roll-up sides, we connected several lengths of one inch PVC and made a T at each end. We capped the sides of the T, leaving one uncovered, and filled it with play sand, shaking as much of the sand as we could into the whole pipe. This made it heavier to weigh down the sides in case of cold and wind. Duct tape held the pipe onto the end of the plastic covering. When rolled up, there are nails attached to the side boards which it can be rested on. We had problems with it trying to spring back and unroll, and the only solution we came up with was to wedge a board so it would prevent the T from spinning.
12. We installed a blower inflator to keep air between the layers of the plastic covering. This goes a long way in insulating the greenhouse. 
During the early spring months, we did heat with a small propane heater. I don't think I have pictures unfortunately. 

The entire project cost us somewhere around $800. We built some greenhouse benches and a potting bench, but this year my dad build some raised beds inside it and he's growing a gorgeous tomato crop. It would work well for just about any gardening application I can think of. You could even forego the landscape fabric and grow directly in the ground, as long as your tiller and other tools can fit through the door. The size of the greenhouse could be altered as well. There are plenty of calculators online to figure out blower size, covering size, and heater size, and the calculations for the length of PVC needed are fairly simple as well.

If you're considering building a simple, functional greenhouse on a budget, this setup was super straightforward. If you have any questions about the process, don't hesitate to contact me via email or in the comments below.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Crop Rotation and its importance to organic farming

I took a Fruit and Vegetable Production class in college and wrote this paper on crop rotation. If you've read my other posts, you'll know I'm not too fond of the organic industry, but this is one practice that I believe should be used by all organic farmers.

Crop Rotation
Soil health is one of the most important aspects to organic food production. In monoculture operations, soil health can be very poor due to insect and disease pathogens incubating in the soil as part of their lifecycle and repeatedly re-infecting the crop. In order to avoid this problem and keep soil nutrients from being completely used up, crop rotation can be used. Crop rotation is the practice of growing a different crop on each section of a growing area each year in order to starve the pathogens of a host. This is a very valuable method to increase yields and prevent use of pesticides in low-spray operations.
It seems that the consensus is that a four year rotation protocol is the best method to follow. This four year cycle consists of consecutive plantings of (1) plants with high nitrogen requirements such as fruiting plants including tomatoes and squashes , (2) brassicas which require rich soil, (3) plants with light nutrient requirements such as carrots and onions, and (4) legumes which fix nitrogen in the soil. Manure or compost are then added and the cycle is repeated. This can also be seen as “fruit crop, leaf crop, root crop, legume”. This is a general rule of thumb which will allow you to get the most out of your soil.
When crop rotation is used, it reduces the prevalence of pests and disease. Many of these pathogens live in the soil and are specific to a host crop or family of crops. By changing the crop planted on each plot of land every year, the pathogens present in the soil are starved of a host. For example, corn rootworm requires corn as a host. If corn is grown one year in an area, corn rootworm may be present in the soil. If no corn is planted there in subsequent years, the corn rootworm will not become a problem due to the fact that it has no host to inoculate. This drops pest and disease numbers to a manageable level and reduces the number of pesticide sprays needed.
Crop rotation also creates a healthier soil than conventional farming practices. The nutrients in the soil are replenished often by adding more organic matter. This encourages a healthy biological presence in the soil as well as creating a fertile, rich soil. In addition, by using these practices, synthetic fertilizer use can be reduced. Planting vegetables with high nutrient needs first and working down to the plants with the lowest nutrient requirements allows the farmer to only add organic matter once every four years. This can also save money for the farmer if they do not produce their own compost.
In monoculture operations, farming one crop can be risky, because if a disease breaks out with that specific commodity, you will lose your whole crop. This is avoided with crop rotation by growing many different products, so that if one fails, the others can still bring in a fairly secure profit. This also provides some security against poor weather conditions. If the weather is too cool for tomatoes, it might be just perfect for leafy greens such as lettuce and kale. Additionally, having multiple crops will allow the farmer to bring multiple products to market throughout the year, extending the season during which their crops are bringing in a profit.
In conclusion, crop rotation should be used in all organic farming operations. Organic monoculture would not be profitable due to such high occurrences of pests and disease, as well as necessity to fertilize and amend the soil every growing season. Crop rotation increases soil health, reduces pest and disease problems, and reduces fertilizer needs. Healthier soil will ultimately produce a healthier crop with higher yield. If planned properly and mapped out, a crop rotation protocol is a worthwhile part of any organic farming business plan.

Sources Cited

Crop Rotation. N.p.: Integrated Water Resources Management, n.d. PDF.
"Healthy Farm Practices: Crop Rotation and Diversity." Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d. Web.

Reza, Shamim. "Crop Rotation - A Vital Component of Organic Farming." Www,permaculturenews.org. The Permaculture Research Institute, 15 June 2016. Web.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Square Foot Gardening

As the weather officially begins to warm in the northern US, many of us are eager to start planting our flower and vegetable gardens. We've spent all winter fantasizing about the perfect set up, picking out plant varieties, and mapping out a garden plot, and it's finally safe to start planting without the fear of frost.

When I was in college, I had a project that required us to map a 1/4 acre garden that would supply enough produce to sustain a family of four for a year. During that project, I came across a concept known as Square Foot gardening. This is a method that was developed by Mel Bartholomew in 1981. Supposedly, it is more cost effective, saves water and time, and far less weeding is needed. It's being used worldwide by both beginner and experienced gardeners. Like other raised bed gardening methods, it can be applied in spaces where a conventional garden would not be suitable, like in rooftop gardening, or if there just isn't enough space in your backyard to dedicate to a larger garden.

How it Works
First, lay down weed barrier in a four by four foot square on level ground. Then, build a frame out of untreated wood, bricks, concrete blocks, vinyl, or any other durable, food safe material. Again, this is just a four foot by four foot square. Next, fill the box with this formula of soilless media provided by Square Foot Gardening Foundation:
1/3 coarse vermiculite
1/3 peat moss or coir
1/3 compost
Finally, you can mark out a grid using any material you prefer; yarn, wood slats, or I imagine masking tape would work just fine. The material will need to hold up all growing season.

Now, you could make this setup much larger. However, it's suggested that a four foot width be kept in order to make reaching the plants in the middle easier. The depth should be 12 inches or deeper to allow roots plenty of room to grow.

There are several guides online like this one by Bonnie Seeds as to how many of each plant can be grown in one grid square. For example, 16 radishes could be grown in one square, or four lettuce plants, or one cabbage. Plants like cucumbers can be trellised, and varieties of tomatoes that stay small and bushy could work in this setup.

If a highly organized garden is your thing, or if you'd just like to grow vegetables in a simple raised bed setup, Square Foot Gardening may be just the solution you've been looking for.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Which rototiller is right for you?

Whether its for incorporating amendments or loosening packed soil, a rototiller is one of the most important tools to a home gardener. We just moved to our new house over the winter, and though the growing season has already started here in zone 7b, I have yet to actually get my vegetable plants in the ground because we don't know anyone with a tiller and hadn't had the extra money to buy our own until now. I have a place picked out which has been grazed by horses for several years and seems to be less clay-rich than the soil elsewhere on the property. Before I go shopping for a tiller that will hopefully last me several years (potentially decades), I'd like to know more about the difference between front tine and rear tine tillers.

Rear tine tillers are the best choice for starting new plots. Unfortunately, these tillers are heavy and large, requiring some strength to use them, but they make up for it in their ability to work dense, rocky soils. They are more expensive than front tine tillers. The engine drives the wheels, moving the tiller at a steady slow speed for easy control.

Front tine tillers are typically harder to use on previously unworked ground because they require some leverage to dig the tines into the soil. Though it's smaller, simpler, and more maneuverable, it may scare some gardeners with its tendency to jump forward when hitting obstacles. They come in a variety of widths that make them a good option for weed control between rows.

A quick note on mini-cultivators: Mini-cultivators are even smaller than front tine tillers and are a great option for raised beds or on already tilled soils between plantings. Johnny Seeds sells this mini-cultivator called a Tilther that uses a 18v drill for power. I have used it in the past for breaking down the remains of a crop of baby greens into the soil after several harvests. I highly recommend it for applications such as this, or for incorporating amendments into the top few inches of a soft soil. It's inexpensive, relatively small, and simple to use.

For my application, I plan to purchase a used rear tine tiller. The area I need to prepare for my garden is fairly large (about 30 feet by 50 feet) and the soil is too dense for a front tine tiller.

Regardless of which type of tiller you choose, there are plenty of options across brands in a wide range of prices, and they are pretty easy to find used on Facebook or Craigslist.

I can't wait to finally get my plants in the ground! Updates to come :)


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Bone, Blood, and Feather Meals: What they are and why they're used

I was specifically asked by a woman on Facebook to write a post about bone meal as a soil additive. I figure I'll include blood meal and feather meal as well, since they all kind of fall under the same category. I'm going to be honest, I have very little experience with any of these. However, I would love to learn more about them, so that maybe I can use them in the future. Here's some information I've gathered about each of them. Sources are linked in each section.

Bone Meal

  • What is it?
    • Bone meal is powdered bone, typically from cattle, that has been steamed to release some of the fat and make it easier to work with. The Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium content (N-P-K) of bone meal is between 3-15-0 and 2-22-0, making it a phosphorus-rich fertilizer.
  • Why is it used?
    • Bone meal is phosphorus- and calcium-rich. Phosphorus is essential to the flowering of plants as well as strong root development, and calcium aids in fruit development, combatting Blossom End Rot. Bone Meal is a readily available organic soil amendment.
  • How do I use it?
    • The soil pH must be acidic (below 7.0) in order for bone meal to be effective. Ten pounds of bone meal per one hundred square feet incorporated into the soil will give a continuous release of phosphorus for up to four months. Alternatively, a few tablespoons can be added to each hole before planting, or about half a cup sprinkled around the plant and watered in just before buds begin to open. Bone meal can also be used to balance out a compost that is too high in Nitrogen. Incorporating bone meal into manure will yield a rich, quality fertilizer.

Blood Meal

  • What is it?
    • Blood meal in gardening terms is a slow-release soil amendment made from (usually) cattle blood. Its N-P-K is 12-0-0. 
  • Why is it used?
    • Blood meal provides Nitrogen which is essential in the production of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in leaves which allows the plant to photosynthesize. Although it is considered organic, the blood it is made from does not necessarily come from organically raised animals. Be careful about the origin of the blood meal you purchase, and know that it can contain pathogens such as Mad Cow Disease, though it is highly unlikely. 
  • How do I use it? 
    • Blood meal is not intended to be used as an immediate fix for a problem. It can take up to a month to begin working in the soil, so small amounts applied often are more effective. One cup per twenty square feet is plenty. It is not recommended to apply blood meal directly to the hole as it can burn the roots or discourage fruit and flower production.

Feather Meal

  • What is it?
    • Feather meal is similar to blood meal in its NPK value and its slow-release nature, but is made from hydrolyzed poultry feathers. It is made by steaming the feathers, then dehydrating and grinding them.
  • Why is it used?
    • Feather meal is used in a very similar manner to blood meal. However, since the cell bonds within this source of nitrogen are tighter than those in blood meal, it breaks down even slower.
  • How do I use it?
    • For large applications, three to six pounds per one hundred square feet, incorporated into the top three inches of soil. For individual plants, two teaspoons per hole. Like other highly concentrated amendments, be careful of root burn.

I hope that you were able to learn a thing or two about these three natural soil amendments. If there's any information I left out, feel free to leave me a comment and I will do my best to find the answers to your questions.


My attempt at starting a home business selling organic seedlings

When I lived in New England, I struggled with the short growing season. As a student and a mom, it was difficult to make time for anything other than school or my daughter anyway. Money was tight and I was living with my [extremely supportive] parents. I worked at a greenhouse during the summer months and made some money, but once that ended in the fall and I went back to college classes, I needed to find some other way to make money.

I noticed that in my area, more and more people were looking for organic options when it came to food. However, there were no greenhouses within a large radius focused on providing organic herb and vegetable starts.

Personally, I prefer to garden and eat crops grown conventionally. I'm sure I'll lose a few of you on this topic, because those who care about it really care about it. Here's my stance; organic growing methods are often equally or more harmful to humans than conventional methods. Sure, organic practices can be better for the soil, but I am a firm believer that they have little to no effect on human health, and that they produce far less food for a higher cost economically and environmentally.

But that's a topic for another post.

So, seeing that there was a demand for organically grown vegetable seedlings in the area, I decided to start my little "business". I set up a Facebook page and started taking early orders and upfront payments for seedlings in order to cover the startup costs. I bought my [untreated, non GMO] seeds, my organic seed starting mix, pots, and labels. At this point, it was still February and there was no way I could start this huge quantity of seedlings in my parents' living room. I needed a greenhouse.

I started looking online for the cheapest greenhouses I could find. Eventually, I decided that in order to get the space I was needing, I'd have to build one. My dad and I found these plans and slightly modified them for our needs. The end result was a 12x24 foot hoop house with solid end walls, roll-up sides, heated with this heater. It worked incredibly well for its purpose, as long as I remembered to shut off the heater during the day (it did hit close to 100 degrees in there during sunny days, even in February if the heater was on). My gramps built me some simple greenhouse benches and a potting bench. The total cost came out to somewhere around $800, with the most expensive pieces being the PVC and the covering. I'll post pictures of our build in another post if you guys want.

By mid May (I think last frost date for my area was May 15th) I had seedlings big enough to sell. Unfortunately, many of them hadn't germinated. I mostly had problems with my herbs. I think I ended up with something ridiculously low, like ten percent germination across all my herbs. I had even planned ahead and planted 25% extra of everything, just in case. I ended up having to reimburse a lot of people who had paid back in February. Fortunately, many of them were family and generously refused the refund, which helped to cover the reimbursement for other customers.

Through this experience, I did learn a lot.
1. I learned to advertise a product using social media.
2. I learned to be honest and communicate with customers.
3. Don't count your seedlings before they germinate.
4. I came to the conclusion that I am much happier growing for myself, rather than growing what/how others want me to grow.

If you want to check out what I had and see a few pictures of the setup, here is the Facebook page I made for my little endeavor. Now that I've moved out, my dad is using the greenhouse to grow tomatoes. He replaced the benches with raised beds. I haven't seen them in person yet, but they look great in pictures and I can't wait to see how it turns out!