MARQUETTE - With a long, cold Upper Peninsula winter just beginning, thoughts of gardening are typically forgotten in favor of musings on snow shoveling or gift buying.
But one U.P. man is doing his best to change that perception.
"I wanted to prove to anyone above the 40th parallel that they can grow deep into winter," said Earl Senchuk, inventor of the Boomer Bloomer, a handicap-accessible growing system, as well as the Yoopertopia Growing System, a greenhouse that can provide prime growing space well into a cold U.P. winter.
Local inventor Earl Senchuk believes the Boomer Bloomer, a year-round greenhouse, seen left, is a viable option for local residents wanting to grow their own vegetables, even in cold-weather months. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The Boomer Bloomer is designed to help people with physical disabilities garden at home.
The waist-high four-foot by eight-foot bed is easily accessible from a wheelchair, and allows most people to reach every spot in the bed, with a maximum reach of 24 inches.
It can be used inside or outside, or can also be housed inside a Yoopertopia greenhouse. Senchuk has been using a Boomer Bloomer prototype to grow plants at his home for four years.
"I have, on average, been able to grow outdoors for nine-and-a-half months out of the year for the past four years," Senchuk said. "You can grow anything you want really. The way I do it, some plants that are transplantable, like tomatoes, you can get those started extra early."
The Boomer Bloomer is seasonally heated and insulated and boasts bilateral venting and a removable greenhouse canopy that can resist hail and is designed to shed snow. The cover material lasts five to eight years.
Ventilation can be adjusted at the user's discretion and soil heating cables are controlled automatically by means of a sensor and thermostat controller - which can control up to four of the Boomer Bloomers at once - so soil stays a constant warm temperature no matter the time of year.
Watering is even handled by the Boomer Bloomer. Instead of watering the top of the soil, a trough is located on the side of the structure, which can be filled with water that is then dispensed evenly in a layer under the soil, to be absorbed by roots. An overflow system is also built in to prevent over-watering.
Senchuk's hope with his inventions, however, is not to simply extend the growing season in the U.P., but to eventually build a network of manufacturing jobs.
"You hear them all the time talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. Well I'm an inventor ... and I came up with a system of employment where products like these are designed specifically to create employment anywhere in the United States by that fact that the framing elements for the boxes that make up the Boomer Bloomer and the framing of the Yoopertopia greenhouse can be done anywhere in the United States," Senchuk said. "What I propose to do is teach others how to make these and sell them locally and create employment for themselves."
Senchuck said he would like to sell the materials for the products to be constructed by people at their homes, who can then sell the fully built structures.
People wishing to view a Yoopertopia greenhouse as well as a Boomer Bloomer can contact John Hust, owner of Shelter Bay Tomato Company, at 362-1573, where a Yoopertopia greenhouse will be on display Saturday and Sunday.
The deal to house a Yoopertopia greenhouse at Shelter Bay Tomato Company, in Christmas, was struck in the hope that a more public setting for the growing system would garner more public interest in the products.
"I hope to start producing them in the spring, using this as a test market," Senchuk said. "I've had this thing in my backyard for a long time. It's just not a very good venue, in my backyard. I needed a venue that was going to allow the public to see how these (products) would work."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.