Thursday, December 20, 2007
Cold day atop Mont Merde: the greenhouse is MUCH taller than it appears in this picture
Many have asked, so here it goes:
Coldframe, high tunnel, hoop house, polytunnel: we just call it The Greenhouse. Folks: It will add a zone and a half to your growing season. My 6B garden? An 8A, people...Panhandle Florida!
I got the greenhouse kit from an outfit in Tennessee called Grower's Solution. The guy on the phone was both supremely friendly and extremely kind, answering my myriad questions as well as easily and quickly supplying a hardware shortage (one measly part!). I had hoped to use a local manufacturer for my greenhouse, but my request was a small one, and the local outfit doesn't deal with little orders like mine. Sigh.
The goods: It's 16' wide, 20' long, about 9' high in the center, and is composed of six bows (arches) that are set in ground stakes 4' apart. For ease of shipping, the bows are in three pieces: you screw them together to create one bow. It has one central purlin (center pole) that ties the bows together. If it were self-standing and 4' longer, it would require more bracing; as it is, it relies on a building for its one end and it is free-standing at its door end. For ventilation, I purchased one hand-rolled side (it rolls the plastic up about 4' off the ground on one long side) and created one large gable vent above the door.
You are supposed to supply the ground boards and the end framing for the end wall (in wood); they supply the plastic to cover the whole thing, and the channels and wiggle wire to hold the plastic to the bows.
We (i.e., nonmotivated husband and myself) hammered in the ground stakes, screwed together and erected the bows, and attached the purlin in under two hours. It was Instant Gratification, I do not lie. But then it was my work from then on: I excavated the ground on 3 sides to both bury hardware cloth and the 2x8 wood ground anchor and then erect the 2x4 notched studs for the end wall/door framing. This actually took me two whole days to do...separated by a week, of course, because, really, who has two full days to work on anything?
Putting the plastic on was another battle with the husband (that is, getting his free time). He committed finally on a day that was windy: I advise you not to put plastic on a greenhouse in the wind. Ever. But that was our fate. We anchored the plastic to the endmost bow (against the building) and then went from bow to bow until we reached the door end, kind of like pulling pantyhose over a reluctant leg. That wiggle wire is quite amazing stuff. It really is great at holding down the plastic film. The film is graded to last of 6 years without significant UV decomposition: I have heard neighbors say they've gotten 8 years of use, which rather helps me, as plastic is not exactly the most eco-friendly of things. We held the plastic down to the last bow with some pre-soaked 1x2 furring strips.
I say this all with a rather blase' attitude. I here admit that I am a builder of many things: neither construction nor power tools intimidate me (hahahaHA), but, well, if you have never held a hammer nor worn a toolbelt, then putting up your own greenhouse could be a challenge. (Compared to building our coop? This was a walk in the park.) But I will say that Tom's purchase of a hammer drill greatly eased our pain: it helped put the bows together and helped put the channel atop the bows in, like, no time at all. I had gone along just fine with my 14 amp cordless drill for two houses' worth of renovations; Tom has helped me see the light with his 18a Drill of Pain. I admit, I was impressed. (I still like mine better.)
Am I saying you all need to go out and erect a hoop house in your backyards? Well, absolutely! (I'm getting salads and veggies out of my garden in late December, are you?) Just read this guy's books, read his wife's gardening columns and book, and yes, you too shall Sip The Kool-Aid.