Geothermal energy keeps plants toasty at Ward's Greenhouses

It didn't take a genius to grow flowers in a place called Garden Valley, but the late Jack Ward, a logger by trade, did have a vision. He realized that he could use nearby geothermal springs to heat greenhouses.

The nearly-free resource could provide an advantage over other Idaho flower growers who must spend money to keep their products blooming year-round.

Ward's Greenhouses started with gladiolas 43 years ago in three greenhouses Ward built using 2-by-4s he milled himself.

"Dad had the body of a logger and the spirit of an engineer," said Doug Ward, 59, now the owner and operations manager. "We started digging the ditch from the hot spring when I was 6."

The operation has grown to 63 greenhouses on the property 16 miles east of Banks on the Banks -Lowman Road.

The company's growth has been steady but not without hiccups. A mudslide destroyed three greenhouses in 2002 and killed thousands of bedding plants. And there have been killer cold snaps that the geothermal heating system couldn't overcome.

"The downside to geothermal is it only gets so hot," Ward said. "You can't turn it up past a certain point like you can a propane system. If it gets to minus 20 we'll lose some poinsettias."

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