Greenhouse Effect
PAGE 2 of 4

 

Design

My design principles were:

    *  It had to be "doable" for me.  I am pretty handy around the shop, but am not an architect or an engineer.  I had to be able to look at other designs, make sense of and copy the parts I liked, then interpret them into something I could plan and build.  Since I'm the self-reliant type, I had to be able to do it on my own as well.

    *  As previously noted, it had to be "inexpensive" enough to be worth doing this way, but not "cheap".  I am into quality.  In addition, it had to be deconstructable -- I do not want this thing sitting out in the yard all year.

    *  It had to be effective.  I had to go into the project believing that the product would have a reasonable chance of success in what I was asking it to do -- protect my plants from the extremes of winter.

    *  It had to be robust enough to take the cold and especially the wind, without being overkill in the cost or time departments.

I took notes and pictures of some homemade greenhouses from around town over the past year and devised my plan.  One in particular in Kennewick was the model I was trying to replicate.  The materials were purchased from the Richland Home Despot on a Saturday morning.  I was able to do everything start-to-finish, including all preparations and clean-up in about 8 hours by myself over three days.  Two people could do this in about 3 hours.  It should take no more than an hour to break this down at winter's end and stow the reusable materials.

 

Materials

After finalizing my plan, I purchased the following:

    *  3 standard "cattle panels".  These might be difficult to procure depending on where you live.  I got them from a ranch/farm supplier in Pasco.  The panels are generally used to build small hog pens and such, but for me they will be a wireframe.  They come in two styles, "10-line" being the most common and that is the best to use because of the symmetry.  They are heavy and wobbly, and will scratch the heck out of your vehicle if you are not careful.  Handling these by myself was an adventure in itself.  Thanks to Damien for the use of his truck. 

    *  2 rolls of 10'x50' clear plastic.  User a heavier grade.  I used 6 mil.  If you are efficient, there will be lots lots left over for next time.

    *  1 16-foot 2'x'4, 3 8-foot 2'x2's, 1 8-foot 1'x2'.

    *  A package (100) of 8-inch zip-ties.

    *  2 rolls of clear duct tape.

    *  1 roll of standard electrical tape.

    *  2 simple door hinges, and a simple handle and latch.

    *  4 2-foot sections of rebar.

    *  2 20-foot pieces of PVC.  Schedule 40 is okay, but lighter grade will work better for this.

    *  2-inch wood screws.

The cost of everything above was less than $140, and the cattle panels were $84 of that.  Most of the big stuff you see here can be stored and reused if disassembled carefully.  I will replace about half of the zip-ties, all of the sheeting, and all of the duct tape each year.  Amortized over time, it becomes a very inexpensive greenhouse.

I also ordered a remote-sensing thermometer ($35) that I can set-up in the greenhouse and monitor from my bedroom (thanks Jen, great idea).  If I need to add some supplemental heat during a particularly cold spell, the thermometer will help me monitor for that and I will stick a portable heater in the greenhouse.  I want to keep the inside above 20 degrees at minimum, preferably above 25.

 

Equipment

This project can be completed with the following tools and accessories:

 

Construction

There are 3 cattle panels to start with.  The panels are ideal for a simple wireframe that is both rigid yet flexible.  One panel will be the floor, connected to the other two which will be the rounded roof -- like a Quonset Hut.  I cut the floor panel in half and tied it together with zip-ties, then tied the floor to the roof panels, bent them over, and zip-tied all of the seams together...

Cattle panels are heavy-gauge wire.  You will need serious wire cutters. 

 

Here is the wireframe, tied to some base studs.  This greenhouse measures roughly 9-feet long,
by 8-feet wide, by 6-feet high at the apex.  In this shot, you get my Stanley Kubrick effect... Do you
remember how Kubrick's movies often involved long corridor and room shots?  Think 2001,
The Shining, or Eyes Wide Shut.  It was one of the signatures of his cinematography.
If you look way down the fenceline, you can see my beehive.  I'm sure they
wouldn't mind staying inside the greenhouse for the winter.

 

The studs along the bottom of the wireframe are two of the 2'x2's.  I affixed these with zip-ties.  They are there so that there is something to staple the sheeting to.

Next I fashioned a simple door frame and fastened that to a base stud...

 

Next, I took the two PVC pipes and cut them to match the shape of the wireframe roof -- 16 feet long.  The four pieces of rebar act as footings... I pounded those into the ground, then slid the PVC over the rebar.  Finally, I affixed the PVC to the wireframe with the electrical tape...

 

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