Sunday, October 08, 2006

Greenhouse 101

Erik has a questions about greenhouses:

Since you quite obviously have a very green thumb, I was wondering if you
could enlighten us on what is needed for a good greenhouse. From the pics I
think I can figure out the materials you used (tho I dont know what the "glass"
is called)What all is needed in there? What temp do you keep it at, if you heat
it at all? Humidity? etc.

I wish I could take credit for the beautiful orchids you see in my spider post but I'm not the one with the green thumb in the family. I can write, take nice pictures, and sew. But I have no natural ability with plants.

Larry is the green thumb in our family, and what I do know of plants I've learned from him, much of it through osmosis. He's a natural teacher and people love to just talk to him about plants because he's knowledgeable and very good at explaining things.

Our two greenhouses he built himself.We have a large one made of two layers of industrial grade plastic stretched over a wooden frame. The layers of plastic are inflated by air, which provides the insulation. That greenhouse is huge; I forget the dimensions and the heater I bought him as a gift a few years ago towers over my head. It keeps the greenhouse warm in the winter. There are also massive fans across the back that pull out the air in the summer months, to keep it from getting too hot. It's where we keep our big tropicals. It never gets below 60 degrees in there.

Our little greenhouse is my favorite. It's an enclosed patio off our bedroom. That's where we keep the spiders. It's not glass that covers it, but twinwall, a polycarbonate plastic that's thin, lightweight and provides great insulation. The temperature in there never drops below fifty degrees and is heated with a small gas heater.

We are in the process of preparing a site for a third greenhouse. It's a complete glass and aluminum greenhouse. They sell for about $3,000 but we got ours for free from a guy who said we could have the whole thing if we took it down. Larry and I are really good at finding bargains; he got the twinwall used from one of the area arboretums. I found the offer for the glass and aluminum greenhouse tucked in among the advertisments at the local health food co-op.

With greenhouses, you can be as elaborate and expensive or as simple and low-cost as you like. I'd suggest checking the want ads first; people who move onto property with an old greenhouse will often sell it for very little. Just about everything we got for our greenhouse - from lights to watering systems we found below cost.

Kits are available through gardening supply catalogs, and again they vary in price and can be from a basic frame to a turnkey system. What temperature and humidity you choose for your greenhouse depends on what you are going to grow. I'd suggest starting small with one from a kit or a small one you build yourself through plans you find online or in a book. Magazines like Countryside and Mother Earth News often offer greenhouse plans.

I love our greenhouses, even if the plants cringe when I walk by. I don't prefer them as much as I like the outdoor gardens in the spring and summer, but it is nice on a frosty morning to find a dozen blooming orchids peeping at you from their shelves.


Erik said...

Thanks much

I have seen greenhouses that are as simple as plastic sheeting tacked over a simple wooden frame and of course read of other super elaborate ones using hydroponics and such. The plastic sheeting one has been standing for well over a decade now so it must work fine.

One day I would like to have a greenhouse. For now I think the townhouse assoc would make me take it down so I wont bother.

Morgan said...

Homeowners associations. I couldn't deal with them.
I heard of one recently that fined an elderly woman $300 for mismatched mulch. Apparently the landscapers had run out of cypress mulch halfway through her yard work and had switched to pine bark.
Well, in the association bylaws was this obscure regulation stating that mulch must be uniform.
They fined her and she refused to pay, arguing that she hadn't even been home when the landscapers had done the work, and she couldn't afford the fine or the mulch replacement.
They sued her, and while she won it cost her thousands in legal fees.
Did you ever see the X-files episode about the homeowners association? It was one of my favorites.

Erik said...

I dont like HOAs either, but when we were looking the only townhomes in our price range had them.

I like the Xfiles but I dont ever watch TV so I didnt see that one. I did make an exception to the TV watching back in 2001 when I would watch Farscape, Millenium and Xfiles. Talk about an excellent lineup!

Morgan said...

I suppose HOA's do have good points. For instance, you don't have to worry about your neighbors putting their cars up on blocks or covering their lawns with plastic gnomes and flamingoes. But the dictatorial ones can be really scary.
The X-files episode I referenced was actually funny. These folks in a community were members of this draconian HOA and were all terrified. There were complaints of people missing so Scully and Mulder posed as a couple and moved in. They learned that if someone had violated a rule, that night the light bulb in their yard light went out, summoning a monster that would kill them. The HOA head controlled the monster, of course.
I may be a bit hazy on the details, but that's the jist of it.