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
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.”
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.
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.