When The Green House Restaurant opened more than a year ago, there were already plans in place to include a real greenhouse on the property. Now, that vision is a reality.
In an area to the side of their space at 1427 Military Cutoff Road, diners can now see a series of white cylindrical towers that grow 11 varieties of lettuce, 35 different herbs, as well as spinach, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant for the restaurant.
The Green House also has a lead horticulturist in Michelle Lyon-Heatherly, who tends to the plants and harvests them when they’re ready.
“I’ve been growing things for almost 25 years,” she said. “There are so many farm-to-table restaurants, but that’s very literal here.”
And, as more people are interested in local food and plant-based eating, she thinks that restaurants with onsite gardens will be a trend that grows, too. As it is, there are now only four other restaurants in the country that use the same tower-gardening system. Lyon-Heatherly, and her husband trained at one of them, Hamilton Farms in St. Louis.
At The Green House, she helps choose what to plant, along with chef Parker Lewin and other staff. Then she uses organic seeds from quality sources.
“Because really, it all starts there,” she said.
Then these vertical gardens cycle water and nutrients through the center is a system that need less space and water to grow plants.
There is a little more work to do at the restaurant’s green house, specifically adding more light source for the plants, but it’s going well. So well that Lyon-Heatherly is planning to teaching a couple of courses about tower gardening, and learning where your food comes from, in the next few months. (Chef Lewin is also has classes on the Green House schedule.)
Lyon-Heatherly said she is also planning to add retail sale of some of the vegetables at the restaurant soon, too, with pick-up days scheduled twice a week or so.
During her gardening career, Lyon-Heatherly said she’s worked with a lot of systems, including hydroponics. But she’s become a believer in the tower system. She and her husband also have a separate local business, Cape Fear Tower Gardens, in the Scotts Hill area.
“Growing food in this way is going to be important,” Lyon-Heatherly said. “And I do think this system is a sustainable way to grow. We can’t create more farmland, but we can add these just about anywhere.”
Allison Ballard is the food and dining reporter at the StarNews. You can reach her at [email protected]