Organic, Healthy, and Beautiful: The Patagonia Park Greenhouses and Gardens

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The flowers along the green houses are planted to draw a variety of insects to the garden. Photo: Alison Kelman

The plates of fresh greens and vegetables served regularly at Patagonia Park’s Restaurant El Rincón Gaucho are often a pleasant surprise to visitors. A seven-hour drive from the regional capital and surrounded by dry Patagonian steppe, the park’s remote location and rugged landscape seems an unlikely place for cherry tomatoes, kale, and fresh mint. Just a five-minute walk north of the lodge, the greenhouses at Patagonia Park supply staff and visitors with an array of tasty fresh fruits and vegetables. Our dedicated gardeners and volunteers are responsible for the dozens of vegetables, fruits, and herb species available at the restaurant austral spring through fall. The goals for the Patagonia Park gardens, as well as all of our garden projects in South America, are simple—grow food that is organic, healthy, and beautiful.

Beyond supplying organic fruits and veggies, we hope to inspire appreciation and action for organic gardening in each visitor who walks through the rows. Purposeful thought, care, and design have been put into every aspect of the greenhouses and gardens, with as much of an emphasis on beauty as function. We believe the art of producing beautiful, healthy food and the art of creating a beautiful garden, when taken together, speak a hundred times stronger than either one by itself. Similar to the entire Patagonia Park project, we see our gardens as an opportunity to inspire visitors and gardeners alike and to serve an as example of what is possible. Made from simple wood frames and plastic coverings, these greenhouses can be easily re-constructed in a variety of environments and settings.

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Photo: María Jesús May

With guidance from a similar farm in Argentina, our head gardener Francisco Vio has a detailed schedule for planting and harvesting. Throughout the season the greenhouse team carefully plants a variety of species at specific intervals, timing harvests to ensure the restaurant receives a steady stream of fresh produce. The greenhouses and gardens are home to approximately 50 garden beds, which play host to over 35 varieties. The variety of vegetables serves a larger purpose than expanding the menu—soil can build up resistance to certain plants, so species are rotated in and out of the beds to prevent the growth of resistant bacteria.

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Francisco keeps track of the planting and harvesting of each species and bed using a detailed chart. Photo: Alison Kelman

Inside the greenhouse the garden beds are double dug, meaning beds are dug twice as deep as normal so that roots can grow deep into the soil. Supported by loose dirt and extra oxygen, roots can easily grow further down into the ground rather than out to the sides, allowing us to plant plants closer together—an ideal situation for a greenhouse with limited space. Kale that usually must be planted 40cm apart can now be planted 20cm apart, allowing us to use the allotted space more efficiently. These beds are dug 60cm deep, all by hand. Though the initial work is quite labor intensive, these beds can be used for several years before they need to be redone.

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Deeply-dug beds allow us to plant more plants in a smaller area. Photo: Alison Kelman

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Compost for the gardens come from restaurant waste as well as guanaco and horse manure. Photo: Alison Kelman

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The greenhouses and surrounding gardens contain 50 beds. Photo: Alison Kelman

Visitors are encouraged to visit the greenhouses in action! Tucked away at the base of the La Vega trail, a stone’s throw from the lodge and a short walk from the restaurant, the gardens and greenhouses are an oasis of color at the base of our grassland covered mountains. The outside of the garden will eventually be lined with tall trees, which will block the wind and prevent the plants from drying out. We invite you to walk its rows, smell the flowers, and taste the crunchy, fresh, and sometimes sweet fruits straight from the source.

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A baby zucchini starts to take shape. Photo: Alison Kelman

Popular crops:

Vegetables: Lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, arugula, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, carrots, beets, miniature native corn, cucumber, zucchini, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and chives

Fruits: Sarsaparilla, red currents

Herbs: Basil, fennel, dill, mint, thyme, rosemary, lemon verbena, sage, plantain, and chive

Flowers: Roses, hydrangeas, sunflowers, amaranth, peonies, and poppies

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Lilies provide fragrant decoration in the Lodge at Valle Chacabuco. Photo: Alison Kelman

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Sophie, a volunteer from Argentina, helps out by watering some baby lettuce. Photo: Alison Kelman

7 thoughts on “Organic, Healthy, and Beautiful: The Patagonia Park Greenhouses and Gardens

  1. Thursday January 15th, 2015 at 05:33 PM

    Fantastic work guys!!! This is truly inspiring on many levels and I hope to see these efforts influence other national parks worldwide. Being from the USA, I have always found it a bit frustrating to often be able to only access fast food/fried or carnival food at parks rather than being able to have wholesome, local and organic options available. This design and idea not only provides guests with a nourishing, delicious food option (and helps the restaurant source produce that might be challenging otherwise due to the remoteness), but it also inspires with its beauty and educates with its message. Bravo Conservacion Patagonica and your whole crew! I cannot wait to make my way down for some exploring in the park as well as a stroll through the greenhouses.

    Cheers! Greta

  2. evaristo
    Monday January 19th, 2015 at 11:52 PM

    Excelente; muy bien por nuestra PATAGONIA,libre y sin REPRESAS…….

  3. Darren Jones
    Wednesday February 4th, 2015 at 08:40 PM

    Looking to construct my own greenhouses for subsistance market gardenning in the near future in El Blanco, so I will certainly try to visit your site for inspiration.
    Darren and Monica

  4. Monday November 23rd, 2015 at 06:13 PM

    Yo me llamo Andre9s, me ha encantado el jardedn bote1nico, y me guatsreda volver con mi familia, para ensef1arles las madrigueras, cabras, gallinas, tortugas,peces y ranas. Hay muchas plantas como cactus, plantas carnedvoras y un arbusto antiguo que se usa como almohada. Tengo 8 af1os

  5. Marcos Felipe Cortes Gaete
    Sunday April 10th, 2016 at 04:03 AM

    Hola, me gustaría realizar trabajos voluntarios en este huerto durante mis vacaciones, si es posible por favor. Estudio agronomía en la PUCV y quiero conocer el sur de nuestro país y su agricultura, pudiendo aportar de alguna manera. Espero su respuesta, Saludos.

    1. Conservacion Patagonica
      Wednesday May 4th, 2016 at 08:09 PM

      Hola Marcos, por favor, visitas nuestro página aqui: http://www.conservacionpatagonica.org/sp/makeadifference_ogvp.htm

  6. Andrea
    Wednesday November 23rd, 2016 at 10:55 PM

    Hi, I just arrived in Patagonia and am thinking of how to plant my home garden. Can I get the list with times to plant stuff, and what should be indoors and what she be outside? Do you have it online somewhere?
    Thanks!

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