Monday, February 20, 2012

The Greenhouse

I've been starting seeds under lights in the basement for years, and have had reasonably good results doing that. I always fantasized about having a little greenhouse, but had nowhere to put one, and felt like the prefab kits were too expensive... so I relegated my want to the category labeled "dreams".

Then last year, Susan caught Flower Fever, and we ordered and started scores of flower seedlings under the lights. Suddenly, my humble four fluorescent-light fixture setup wasn't enough room. My tomatoes and peppers were fighting for space with Black Eyed Susans, Zinnias, African Daisies, Thunbergia, and Morning Glory. I had to clear another shelf and scavenge light fixtures from the ceiling of the storage room to provide light for everything. It was bordering on ridiculous -- I wish I'd taken a picture of it.

It was clear that the time had come to make my greenhouse dream a reality.

Last October, the project began. We decided we could fit a narrow lean-to style structure on the south side of the garage. It looked like this when we started (after we moved the grapevines that were formerly in residence).

Note: the worker removing the siding, who shall remain nameless, got a little carried away before I remembered to snap a "before" picture. Ahem.

Feeling pressure to get the structure up and shingled before the Winter-That-Never-Was hit, we worked hard for a couple of weeks. Tom took at least three days off work to help make it happen. Of course you know how it really went: HE did all of the heavy work and I spent my time on the fun parts that didn't require much upper body strength. Obviously, I couldn't have done this without him!

I'll spare you the blow by blow (believe me I have pictures of every step!), but by Thanksgiving this is what we had accomplished.

Here's a view from the interior after the benches went in.

Those 55-gallon drums (thanks dad!) supporting the benches are filled with water, which soaks up heat from the sun and slowly releases it at night, helping to keep the temperature inside well above freezing on all but the coldest winter nights. Just in case, I have a space heater on a thermostat that starts up if the temperature gets below 40 degrees.

Once the structure was weatherproof and insulated, we worked on it in fits and starts through the winter, adding siding to match the house, a door into the garage, a workbench and shelving at the west end, lighting, a thermostat controlled exhaust fan, and finally this weekend--a water line!

And just in the nick of time too -- because growing season is upon us!

*short pause while I do the Dance of Joy*

Here's the OUTSIDE on Sunday afternoon:

While THIS is going on INSIDE:

Working in the greenhouse in shirt sleeves is akin to a time-warp. I keep forgetting it's still February!


There's just one teeny-weensy problem: Already I wish it were bigger!


  1. Wow that awesome. I love it. That is a bummer that you already wish it was bigger. Maybe that will be next years project.

  2. Cool! Wouldn't the barrels soak up more heat if they were black?

  3. That is really fantastic! WAY better than any kit you could buy. Have fun!!

  4. Yes, the barrels would theoretically gain more heat if they were black. I have some paint and plan to conduct a little experiment. ;-)

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