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Solar Root System

Imagine growing vegetables all through the winter … in a garden in Iowa! It may seem far-fetched, but Prairiewoods and the Iowa Renewable Energy Association (I-Renew) are teaming up to make it happen. Through generous grants from Rockwell Collins, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and Alliant Energy, the Prairiewoods kitchen garden soon will have a hoop house and a root zone heating system to extend the growing season.

In this unique workshop at Prairiewoods (120 East Boyson Road in Hiawatha), Emy Sautter of Prairiewoods, R.J. Jordan of RJ Construction and representatives of I-Renew will teach you about solar thermal hot water systems and how to build your own hoop house and root zone heating system. Master Gardener Phil Pfister will lead a brief discussion about best crop choices for this type of gardening. There will be classroom time, as well as hands on installation work as the class helps to build the hoop house and to install the root zone heating system in the Prairiewoods garden.

Root Zone Heating is a great use for:
• Low-grade solar energy that is not useful for higher temperature applications.
• Heat off-loading when non-grid tied solar electric systems have too much capacity.
Root zone heating can be highly effective AND extend the early and late growing season and done well, it can make it possible to grow plants that would not otherwise grow in your zone.

Work Involved:
• Some excavation and trench digging for raised bed root zone heating area
• Construction of the raised bed frame
• 200 ft of 1” Pex Tube; coil layout and depth at approximately one foot below soil surface; attachment at supply and return ends and isolation/shut off valves.
• Tubes should be placed about 1 foot below the surface and below rototiller depth.
• Back fill with soil mixed with organic matter.
• Preparation of adjacent beds
• Install Cattle Panels; secure to ground with rebar stakes; ensure loose ends face inwards
• Plant extended season vegetables and herbs
• Cover with 6 mil. clear construction plastic/green house cover

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