Grass walls, not glass walls



Though I’ve often whined about the 9-5 life that stops me from spending nearly as much time in my garden as I’d like, once in a while I do benefit from my job. Like now, as we complete our first GREEN issue (yeah, not exactly first out of the gate on that one). In spite of the depressing realization that our house will never be passive solar, geothermal, or sustainably insulated, I’ve enjoyed finding out about the many ways others are finding sustainable living and working possible.

For example, there are several straw bale structures in the Buffalo area, including a house and a greenhouse. That seems kind of amazing when you think of it. Buffalo. Straw house. The two concepts don’t seem quite compatible, but apparently they are. And of course I thought of Michele’s greenhouse yearnings.

A straw bale greenhouse has been built on the West Side as part of a youth agriculture training project. The top and front of the greenhouse are polycarbonate, bringing in the sun, while the straw bale walls keep the heat in. (Oh, yes, I’m sure it’s all way more complicated than that, but you can google the rest for yourself.)

What attracts me is that it’s an earthy, steadfast way of defying the vicissitudes of nature and making things grow as the icy blasts rage outside. I love our 1905 Lord & Burnham glasshouse complex, but I also know how much grant money and reconstruction is necessary to keep the thing in one piece. One of the houses always seems to be out of commission. This, on the other hand, seems much less of a lift financially (130 bales at $4 each is all it took). I do wonder if clear walls as well as a clear roof are necessary for the crops, but I guess we’ll all know when the new greenhouse is put to work this spring.

Photo at top by Meg Knowles, who also has produced a documentary about the Growing Green youth agriculture program and its greenhouse.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I love the idea of a strawbale greenhouse. One of our Local Heroes, Amy Klippenstein and her husband of Sidehill Farm in Ashfield, MA are experts on strawbale construction. Their strawbale house looks like a magical mushroom with its Green Roof set in a woodland. Another friend and her husband built a strawbale stable/studio – comfortable for all kinds of life.

  2. I recently saw an article where a table was decorated with wheatgrass and a green theme. I love natural looking things rather than modern man made.

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