A greenhouse is an incomparable little mini-world, a sanctuary in the worst of weather. But mostly it is a place to easily grow whatever you like from seeds, a place to foster cuttings, and a place to take your beer and hide from the politically impossible relatives who come to dinner….
The north side of my greenhouse today (May).
Greenhouses come in every size and shape: window-box ones, barely-turn-around-in-them ones, huge impress-the-neighbors ones, whatever. I say if you love gardening, get whatever one you can manage.
Somewhere there are people with those magnificent Lord and Burnham glass greenhouses, but those people are probably too busy at the stock exchange to actually garden. The greenhouse here is plastic, double-wall on the sides. There is some other name for the plastic but it’s plastic.
About five years ago I saved and saved and bought the kit to make this greenhouse. The brand is Riga and it cost a lot less then than it does now– thank my lucky stars, as my grandma used to say. Above is how the south side looked in July of last year, with new rock edges on the widened bed and a riot of bloom. (I always wanted to write “riot of bloom.”)
This picture, I just discovered, is on the Riga sales site, a business called Exaco. It’s okay, I shared the photo with them when I was ordering some stuff this spring. (A picture of the door end is there too, but there is someone else’s quote under it. ) Anyway, Exaco is a nicely responsive company with people there who care to take care of the customers, very helpful when you are building from a kit. (I have no affiliation with this company except as a buyer!)
The Riga is made in Germany, and it’s made pretty well. The one I got measures about 9.5 feet wide by 14 feet long, bigger than I really need. Mr. O and I assembled it; here’s the story on the project.
We bought locally the split-face block for the foundation and ten inch square concrete chunks (tiles? pavers?) for the floor, very heavy and it’s a wonder how we got them this far from the truck.
- Mr. O leveled everything–I can’t accomplish “level” even with a level.
- The end walls are assembled separately. Here they make me think of The Twilight Zone.
- One end and progressing side panels. The peak is about 7.5 feet so you need a ladder.
- It was pretty exciting to see the greenhouse become three dimensional. I don’t know why we had a vacuum there…
A light snow in February of this year. Little sprouted plants cozy inside.
In the night it becomes a space ship.
It does have an interior.
- This is the south bench of the greenhouse. Those are pots of cucumbers and squash on the floor, waiting, like me, for sun.
Along with water, Mr. O added electricity in a trench from the house, so there could be lights and power for a heater, cooling fan and mats to germinate seeds. There are many outlets for the heat mats– I cover two or three of them with flats of seeded pots at the major planting times.
- The metal wire shelves are sections of recycled refrigeration shelving I got from Cherry City Metals, a Salem, Oregon recyling place that I go to like other people go to Disneyland. Mr. O added the aluminum posts that hold the front edges. The back of the shelves are supported by the greenhouse frame.
- I just use a space heater from Ace Hardware in winter, plugged into a thermostat from a website called Charley’s Greenhouse.
I put a big plastic fan in the rear window in summer, not a special greenhouse fan, and I use a very inexpensive shelf fan to move air over the plants when not using the big window fan.
- Yes we made almost the entire north side a work space/sink area. Which you might consider a waste of the space but I love it. I guess you might get the same effect with a lean-to greenhouse against a potting shed, but sometimes I have filled this area with flats of plants too, and the spaces at the ends of the wall do accommodate pots.
We bought the stainless steel potting table from a used restaurant equipment place in Portland (OR) and we recycled the sink from one of Mr. O’s projects. The sink is just for rinsing dirt off of hands and pots and watering; the drain goes under the floor and drains out onto the grass outside. It also appears to serve as a tree frog freeway, and every summer a tree frog inevitably takes up residence in the sink, lurking in the drain, sunning himself on the porcelain…
The frog always puts an end to my sink use except to sprinkle the frog. Fortunately there is also a hose for watering plants.
This next image below shows how the concrete block foundation must be stepped over in order to go through the door. Not optimal, as someone I know would say, but I have gotten used to it. And it has its benefits…
The best benefit of the open block foundation occurs at the back of the greenhouse, on the north side, where little volunteer ferneries spontaneously occur inside a couple of the damp blocks, a gift from the big mama fern that grows outside on the other side of the wall. I have potted and then planted out many baby sword ferns from these ferneries. And, like the spaghetti from Strega Nona’s Pasta Pot, they just keep coming.
The southeast end of my greenhouse is shaded by a big maple tree. The maple grows leaves just in time to provide shade from the hot southern sun of early summer.
So the east end is pretty much under the shade of the maple tree, and that is where a collection of ferns thrives.
This Riga greenhouse came as a “kit” which makes it sound like fun, sort of like a Lego set, but not so easy. It did have a how-to DVD that we found just after we completed the construction.
We worked on the kit part for a couple of parts of days I think, then I put in the floor, no mortar just sand, and Mr. O did the sink and shelves and wiring.
Max helped with everything.
It made him tired.