Thursday, January 8, 2015

In which I begin the greenhouse adventure

My first memory of being in a greenhouse was when I was a teenager, tagging along to a wholesale nursery with a friend who had a thing for plants. I did not care about plants one whit at the time, but I remember walking into this structure filled with light and life and thinking, "I need to live here."

I have always disliked being indoors. I teach most of my classes outside because I can't stand the confines of a classroom. In clement weather I shut off the air conditioning and throw the windows of my office wide open so I feel less claustrophobic. As much as I can, I try to be outdoors gardening, or cycling, or just sitting around on the wine patio. I even take my writing projects outside, to the garden. In fact, if I could, I'd be in the garden all year 'round. That I live in a place where I can do this three seasons out of the year is a plus in my "Quality of Life" column.

But winter, you see, has always been a bit of a problem for someone who doesn't like to be inside, for obvious reasons. With a greenhouse, however, that problem is ameliorated somewhat. I think I knew this, on some deep, cellular level where the soul resides, when I walked into that first greenhouse. Since then, I've always noticed them, wherever I've gone. I spy the top of one through some trees or over the fence in someone's backyard and wish I could check it out. Or I find the glasshouse conservatories in the public gardens and make a beeline for them. Or I try to peer inside the sunrooms of nice houses as I ride by on my bicycle--not out of nosiness, but out of envy.

I first entertained the thoughts of having a greenhouse of my own over twenty-five years ago. But they seemed out of reach and impractical. First, they simply cost more than I could afford at the time. And second, it wasn't that I especially desired to use them for planting things--I wanted the structure made of light more than I did the plants (see above, in re, not caring one whit for the plants), because greenhouses are, well, a way of being outdoors inside. I worried that since I wasn't that interested in plants that should be in a greenhouse, I would build one and never use it for what it was intended. (Even so, through the years, I'd see a plant particularly suited for a greenhouse and think, "I could grow that someday...")

But I'm now at a time in my life when a greenhouse makes sense. They have come down considerably in cost and after years of gardening, I, too, have a thing for plants. However, the real impetus for finally deciding to build one is this realization that they are a way to be out in the garden in the winter. In fact, in what I think is a brilliant design solution to my desire to write outside, I have set it up to be the winter version of my garden writing room (I'm writing this in the greenhouse right now, at 6:30 AM, when it is 18° outside.

So shortly before Thanksgiving, I ordered a 6'x8' Palram greenhouse kit (which is all I have room for) from Greenhouse Megastore, and when the holiday school break came around in December, I commenced to building. Here, in pictures, is the story of putting it together. In future posts, I'll talk about specifics--like heating, the plants I've put in, how I've set up my writing space, and so on. The build and set up was an adventure, but not one that has ended, since my inner engineer has resurfaced as I've tweaked and refined the kit to customize it to my needs desires.

The whole build took eight days, from ground breaking to move-in. The kit itself only took a day for one person (me) to put together, while preparing the base took three. The remainder of the time it took was devoted to the tweaking and moving stuff inside (and buying plants).

Making the base level and square:


I installed PVC pipes so I could run extension cords and a water hose into the greenhouse. I've decided that at some future date, I'll have an electrician put an actual outlet in the greenhouse space, but for now, extension cords are working just fine:

The base was filled with 3/4" limestone aggregate and the next day I began to put the kit together. It was done (except for the roof vent and door) in a matter of a few hours:


I've run a garden hose from a nearby faucet into the greenhouse and wrapped it with insulation:

Starting to move plants and furniture in:

It snowed the day after I finished:


13 comments:

  1. I love your greenhouse...and that you have one to answer your soul's yearning. xo

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  2. Hooray for the greenhouse, just in time for awful weather. I know you will enjoy yours as much as I do mine. I take little interest in the homes of others but I delight in every inch of space displayed in someone's greenhouse.

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    1. I know what you mean about other people's greenhouses, Jean.

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  3. Jealous! Lovely! Can't wait to hear more!

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  4. A beautiful job, and the wreath on the door is the perfect finishing touch. So happy for you! We installed ours a few years ago, and honestly, now, I just don't know how we ever got along without it!

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    1. Good to know that you are still using yours--I hope I can get as many good years out of mine.

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  5. Thanks so much for the look inside! I enjoyed watching your build and tweaking on Facebook. Mine is absolutely a refuge in winter, but in my case from the rain. You are very talented to put it together yourself. You are going to love it so much!

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    1. I've enjoyed your FB photos from inside your greenhouse, Alison. They have inspired me.

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  6. I admire your hard work and style, without question! But what really enchants me is that you write outside! I do as much of my CTG writing on the patio where flora and fauna sneak their way into my story inspiration. That's why my patio is covered for winter!

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  7. I absolutely love this -- and honestly, I've never thought about putting a writing space in a greenhouse -- love it!

    I've just come across your blog (about 20 minutes ago) and I look forward to following it from now on. What I thought was most interesting wasn't just our common interest in the outdoors / gardening but the fact that we're both teachers (or at least I'm in school to become one).

    Scrolling through your blog -- seems I've got some catching up to do!

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  8. Such short time you took to built that greenhouse of your, and I really like your greenhouse adventure! Thanks for the images, it look very nice. The snowing one is great. Hope you'll have a great garden there.

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