MAY 2011

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….

north side of Riga greenhouse

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.

Riga greenhouse July

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.

blocks for foundation and floor of greenhouse

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.

concrete block greenhouse foundation

Mr. O leveled everything–I can’t accomplish “level” even with a level.

Riga greenhouse end walls

The end walls are assembled separately. Here they make me think of The Twilight Zone.

Riga greenhouse assembly, side panels

One end and progressing side panels. The peak is about 7.5 feet so you need a ladder.

Riga greenhouse assembly

It was pretty exciting to see the greenhouse become three dimensional. I don’t know why we had a vacuum there…

Riga greenhouse complete


greenhouse in the snow

A light snow in February of this year. Little sprouted plants cozy inside.

Riga greenhouse at night

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.

greenhouse bench and sink
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…

greenhouse sink tree frog

The frog always puts an end to my sink use except to sprinkle the frog. Fortunately there is also a hose for watering plants.

tree frog living in greenhouse sink

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…

Riga greenhouse interior

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.

fernery in foundation block

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.

maple tree shades the Riga greenhouse

So the east end is pretty much under the shade of the maple tree, and that is where a collection of ferns thrives.

fern bed

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.

Westie in greenhouse

Max helped with everything.

tired Westie

It made him tired.

25 Responses to Greenhouse

  1. Lee May says:

    Seeing your greenhouse aborning is a fine delight. You make me want one. Thank you.

    • linniew says:

      Happy to share the story, Lee.
      You and your gardener’s heart would have a good time with a greenhouse too.

      • Spectra says:

        You make me want to cry with desire – I so want a green house! Sadly, I haven’t the room. But, as I just began growing micro-grens, I am considering one of those very small adjacent green houses that fit up nice and smug against your house.

        You have done an incredible, beautiful job here. Your story is amazing. Your posting is intelligent, smart, alluring and invective…plus, I love that little tree frog. We dont have those here on the northeast coast – but if I get my place ready – could you send me one???

        • linniew says:

          Dear Spectra
          Thank you for all your kind words– I know you will love your lean-to style greenhouse and it will warm your house too.

          Looking online for tree frog crates. No luck yet– will keep searching!


  2. David says:

    I agree with Lee May. What a wonderful project! Thanks for documenting it so nicely. We get serious snow in our zone, so I’m not sure this type of kit would be strong enough, but thanks for the info. I built a funky greenhouse about 4 years ago and now we can’t imagine not having one. So I imagine instead how I’d build the next one …

    Here are links to some old posts with photos of this project. It took about a month to build the main structure and then winter set in. The final wall with door had to wait until April. Then it was usable, and the first use was to put a beach chair inside and sunbathe while reading magazines on sunny weekend afternoons. It’s a great way to beat the cabin fever/winter blues.

    Continued …

    • linniew says:

      I just read the posts about how you built your greenhouse in fourteen degree weather with a brace and bit! You must have some serious pioneer blood David. It looks like a totally workable space too, beyond being a great beach chair locale in winter. But that warm sanctuary part is huge. I usually end up starting seeds earlier than I should just because I love being out there on winter days. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Tammy Tucker says:

    I just read this amazing post – and it inspired me more than I can put into words !!! Thank you so VERY much for the detailed pictures and description of materials and where you purchased them ..
    Your greenhouse is so very beautiful !!
    High 5 – to Mr. O for all of his hard work – both you of did an amazing job !
    Yes – thank you so much for sharing !!
    Tammy T . S.C.

    • linniew says:

      Oh Tammy, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about our project– Thanks for the very kind comments, they are much appreciated. Clearly you are a Garden Person too– I hope a greenhouse comes your way!

  4. kininvie says:

    Hi Linnie,
    Another wonderful post. I tried to make your blog my favourite on Blotanical, but all I got was “Fatal error: Call to a member function getTitle() on a non-object.” I hate to think of you as a non-object. But it’s a obviously a useful gardening term. I shall use it for things in pots that have died and gone brown.


  5. Angie Case says:

    Beautiful Greenhouse project. I live in the cascade mountain range in northern california and we too get the deep snows. If the winds wouldn’t blow me away, I think I’d give a try at sunbathing in the greenhouse. My husband built mine in 97, a 10×10 structure that I absolutely couldn’t live without. Every year we end up replacing the plastic and my family always manages to make it into a mother’s day present (I’d far rather have it for Christmas or New Year’s!) because by the time May rolls around I have cabin fever so bad I’m gnawing the ends off seed packets! Happy Gardening and thanks for the wonderful gardening humor!

    • linniew says:

      Boy it’s just lucky we HAVE greenhouses Angie! Little gardens in boxes truly help us get through the dark weathers of winter and, some years, spring too. If you want I can send your family an anonymous letter about what time of year to replace the plastic, just let me know.

  6. Nell Jean says:

    One of my favorite things to look for on blogs is a peek into a personal greenhouse interior. Every one is different. Yours is grand. I look forward to seeing more of what goes on there.

    • linniew says:

      And when you figure out what goes on in my greenhouse I hope you will immediately let me know because most of the time I am pretty baffled by the events there. A hearty welcome to you– I look forward to your future visits!

  7. Janet says:

    It looks great, especially at night. Well worth all the effort.

  8. jeanne says:

    Great Post! My husband and I have temporary greenhouse at this time but hopefully by the end of the year we will have a proper one. Thanks for sharing your pics . It is an amazing space!

  9. hillions says:

    sitting here killing time waiting for a call back from someone that should WANT to call me back…and so trolling through your past blog bits because they are so enjoyable…. meaning they sound awfully like mine (is that a bad thing to say? Probably). Anyway — love your greenhouse and the plantings around the edges and the light at night…I make do with my second floor aerie, stepping over the parakeet droppings. (Do frogs have droppings? I’d like one anyway. How nice and friendly in the bathroom sink). And I’m recalling a greenhouse I saw a ridiculous number of years ago in House & Garden, I think it was that was owned by a couple of guys that had a house in Connecticut (?) with a greenhouse about 20 feet from the back door with a swimming pool in the center and palms and whatnots and the photos were at night, in the snow, and …oh…I need to do something with greenhouses when my brain airs and crosspost this…

    • linniew says:

      Hi Stephanie
      Great stream-of-consciousness comment! I have never come across frog droppings so maybe frogs go outside and then come back in. (I suppose that is personifying frogs but what else is new for me?) Truly a tree frog by the bathroom sink would be a lovely thing.

      That Connecticut greenhouse with the swimming pool arrangement sounds amazing. I could maybe fit a foot-bath in my greenhouse…

  10. hillions says:

    clawfoot tub? (with gilded feet and covered with seashells). That’s what I’m imagining for my little garden….

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  13. A House and A Garden says:

    Oh no. The envy is spreading. Fast.

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