June 14, 2018
Spring came late this year and as a result we were quite behind schedule. We planned to put up a greenhouse this year, and hoped to have it up and running before we left for our vacation. However, the snow decided to stay on till almost May, and we left on holiday with barely a start in the foundation for the greenhouse. We returned May 20, in a hurry to get the greenhouse up and the garden in. Lucky for us, our Workaway Lucas, who housesat for us while we were away, stayed on to help out.
We built the greenhouse from the Ana White Barn Greenhouse plans available on the internet. We had to alter the plan a bit as our greenhouse was 14 feet long and 12 feet wide. Our son Christopher worked out the angles for the roof trusses. Ken had some trouble getting the angles to work, until he realized one of his boards was 3 inches too short. LOL. Measure twice, cut once.
The greenhouse sits on a row of cinder blocks set right in the ground. At the north end, the foundation is one block high and at the south end, it is two blocks high, as the ground slopes towards the lake on the south.
For the sides of the greenhouse, we decided to use clear polycarbonate panels from Domtek. They are light and virtually unbreakable. I had really hoped to use reclaimed windows but Ken wanted something more maintenance free. We used reclaimed windows for the hothouse we build last year, and some of the wood frames Ken built for it warped within the first year.
We did, however, incorporate a large window we had stored. We had purchased the window to use in the workshop. However, the inner triple pane cracked during transport and so it sat in storage for almost 15 years until now. It looks great on the south side of the greenhouse, but it was a lot more work to frame around it than to use straight polycarbonate panels.
Since the north side of the greenhouse would not be required to let in light, we decided to finish it in wood. I wanted to plant sweet potatoes against the north wall, growing up a trellis on the wall. The outside of the north wall is finished in vinyl siding left over from the house build.
Since there are no windows that open in the greenhouse, we installed vents near the top on both the south and north sides. These vents open from the outside so you don’t have to disturb the plants inside while opening and closing. It gets pretty hot in the greenhouse on a sunny day, so we generally keep the door open during the day.
We debated on what to do for a door but finally decided on a homemade one. Lucas and Ken originally planned to use rough bark covered slabs of birch to finish the outside of the door, but that turned out to be too heavy. Instead, they stripped the bark off the birch logs and finished the door in birch bark and a rustic log handle.
The greenhouse is designed to be like an enclosed garden area and inside we are planting directly into the ground. The idea being to extend the garden season and grow heat loving crops earlier and longer. We haven’t figured out if we can collect rain water off the roof yet, so for now we have barrels fill with water pumped from the lake. Eventually we will hook up a hose from the barrels and have the beds in the greenhouse water automatically using a soaker hose, just like we did for the little hothouse. For now, I am watering by pail.
The greenhouse contains tomatoes (San Marzano, Amish Paste, Beefstake and Cherry), peppers (sweet and hot), basil, one watermelon and one cantaloupe (hoping they will trail around the peppers and tomatoes), sweet potatoes (I started the slips myself and have them planted in two large crates with a trellis up the north wall for them to climb. The crates are filled with a mixture of earth and straw), a couple of eggplants and several potted herbs. We started all the plants ourselves, first in the house under grow lights and later moved to the hothouse before moving into the greenhouse.
So far the plants are responding well to the environment. Even after one week, there is a significant difference from the tomatoes and peppers planted outside in the garden and those in the greenhouse. Sweet potatoes can’t be grown in Manitoba, our growing season is too short. I am hoping my experiment with them in the greenhouse works and we get a crate full of potatoes.