Un­happy with re­tail­ers, gar­dener cre­ates his own green­houses

Ar­chi­tect and mas­ter gar­dener aims to build a bet­ter green­house, and he’s tak­ing his time to get it right

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact Bruce Kras­now at brucek@ sfnewmex­i­can.com. By Bruce Kras­now

Al­though trained as an ar­chi­tect, Rod Gesten never liked the big projects that went along with liv­ing in an ur­ban cen­ter. In­stead, the founder of Mud Hub En­chanted Green­houses is in­trigued by the way build­ings are put to­gether and how they fit in with the sur­round­ing rock slopes and to­pog­ra­phy of New Mex­ico.

Af­ter mov­ing to Santa Fe from Bos­ton in 1990, Gesten did some of that work for pri­vate clients, in­clud­ing Ali McGraw and Randy Travis, as an ar­chi­tect and then a con­trac­tor with a larger firm.

“I was al­ways in­trigued by build­ings,” he said, “how did they take the shape they did, how did they come about?”

But Gesten also loves work­ing in the rocks and dirt and has been cer­ti­fied as a mas­ter gar­dener from New Mex­ico State Univer­sity. In Santa Fe, that can be even more of a chal­lenge than ar­chi­tec­ture, with wa­ter and soil is­sues as well as in­tru­sions from rab­bits, birds, deer and ro­dents.

Gesten has grown beets, radishes, cel­ery, spinach, toma­toes, cu­cum­bers, basil and pars­ley.

There also are phys­i­cal con­straints for gar­den­ers, the bend­ing and reach­ing and the trips back and forth to fetch needed items. “I kept look­ing at all the things that kept me from be­ing a gar­dener,” he said.

And he looked for a so­lu­tion, an out­door green­house-type build­ing that specif­i­cally was de­signed for se­ri­ous home gar­den­ers like him­self or food­ies and restau­rants that need a de­pend­able year-round sup­ply of fresh herbs and veg­eta­bles. He wanted to pro­tect the veg­eta­bles from ro­dents and an­i­mals, but keep them ex­posed to the rain and mois­ture.

“If some­thing I was look­ing for was avail­able, I would have bought it,” Gesten said. On­line re­tail­ers are ba­si­cally “selling a tent,” he said. “They didn’t ad­dress all the needs gar­den­ers have.”

In­stead, he de­signed what has be­come Mud Hub, a one-per­son startup busi­ness that aims to sell and as­sem­ble some 80 green­house struc­tures by 2020. The busi­ness idea re­cently was hon­ored by BizMIX, the Santa Fe startup com­pe­ti­tion, with a cash award, and he has

patented the build­ing de­sign.

Though Gesten is tak­ing or­ders for in­stal­la­tion in the spring, he is the first to say he wants to ramp up slowly and get the prod­uct right. The first green­house he sold and as­sem­bled in Al­bu­querque took about six days of work, but he can now do that in four. Ide­ally, he wants to sell a sys­tem so pur­chasers can as­sem­ble the 10-by-12-foot or the larger 12-by20-foot size Mud Hub them­selves.

To do that, he needs to find the right brack­ets that can fit the wood beds to­gether with­out a lot of drilling and tools, much like the model used by on­line fur­ni­ture sellers Way­fair or Ikea.

For now, the process is time-con­sum­ing. In­stal­la­tion in­cludes: Lev­el­ing a site and lay­ing it out; Putting in the foot­ings for the raised beds; Adding a weed bar­rier and bench sup­ports; Build­ing bench-top work coun­ters;

In­stalling a drip sys­tem; Seal­ing the wood; Cov­er­ing the green­house with steel hoops, struts and purlins to pro­tect from heavy wind and snow;

Fin­ish­ing with a screen door and wire mesh cover.

So far, Gesten has been able to find all the parts he needs with some mod­i­fi­ca­tions — the steel, for in­stance, has to be bent at a cal­cu­lated ra­dius — but he is think­ing of mov­ing ahead with a man­u­fac­turer for some of the ma­te­ri­als so he gets bet­ter spe­cial­iza­tion.

The goal is to make gar­den­ing more com­fort­able, some­thing that can be done stand­ing up as well as squat­ting and in all sea­sons. He called it “a new kind of hoop house with more ameni­ties.”

LUIS SÁNCHEZ SATURNO/THE NEW MEX­I­CAN

Rod Gesten, owner Mud Hub En­chanted Green­houses, in front of his green­house at his home Mon­day. Mud Hub, his one-per­son startup busi­ness, aims to sell and as­sem­ble some 80 green­house struc­tures by 2020.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

With Mud Hub En­chanted Green­houses, Gesten de­signed an out­door green­house-type build­ing that is aimed at se­ri­ous home gar­den­ers like him­self or food­ies and restau­rants that need a de­pend­able year­round sup­ply of fresh herbs and veg­eta­bles.

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