Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Build your own greenhouse

What has a greenhouse to do with home-power?

Just run a stove top element with your RE Gen. SSG and keep your greenhouse warm!! My last ripe tomatoes out of my greenhouse I ate at the beginning of November and that is without the SSG .

I made you a quick sketch of my own greenhouse to show you how really easy it is to build your own, with a few 2x4's, 2x6es and OSB boards for the back side and the roof, three 3/8s re-bar stuck into drilled header and food board which are tie-wired under three 3/4x3"-slats for the front.

In case you wonder how to install the diagonal 1x4’s, here is a tip:

Prepare the two sides flat on the floor with other 2x4’s as shims, drill and glue two sharply *pointed hardwood dowels into the ends of the corner and the two 2x4 door-frame-studs. Use the pointed dowels to punch mark the opposite side and drill with 5/8th spade drill bit and fit them into the pencil marked 2x4 header and 2x6 foot-board, using a carpenter's-square, glue and hammer them in, one at a time, after drilling the double*dowel marked opposite end. Fit the studs into the foot-board first. One at a time, then glue in the top six pointed 5/8th dowels and hit the pencil marked header with a hammer to set punch marks from the six dowels, drill up and press header into the glued up dowels.
If you don’t like the dowel method, toenail them into place which is only half as strong.
Cut the two 2x6 and three 2x4's of the backwall to length. Tack one 2x6 to the corner 2x4 stud as one and place the 1x4 diagonally overtop of the side frame and mark the frame, now set the skillsaw for the depth of the 1x4 groove which is probably ¾” being the thickness of the 1x4 and saw/mill out the wood between your marked lines for the diagonal 1x4 and fit it flush, remove the tacked 2x6 of the backwall and use glue on the 1x4, nail in place and trim top end off of the 1x4 once you nail the backwall to the sides.
Make sure the middle 2x4 or 2x6 on the back wall is in the center of the wall as a back support for the two OSB sheets budding up.
The top front face and eaves where the swivel pulleys are hung can all be boarded up, because there is still full light hitting the shelve.

You’ll be cutting some of the dowels in half, which happen to be within the 1x4 slot. The glued in 1x4 will compensate for the shaved dowels. If you offset the dowels by ¼” you will prevent most of it.
To hold up the plants, build plant supporting rails:
Drill three 1 or 1-1/2” horizontal holes into the front face of the 4x4’s all the way through and slide rail supports into it to hold two horizontal rail-slats each. The horizontal rail-slats are drilled and held in place by a pin/nail in the rail support each. The whole support assembly is stuck together loose in order to take down in fall.
The plants are tied up to the rails with strings or plastic ties which makes for free space and good oversight for watering, clearing the weeds and leaves from the ground surface and branches as the plants grow.

On the two sides just wrap plastic from outside to inside and tack it with wood strips or staple it to the 2x4s. Vapor barrier lasted four years on the sides and three in front. Proper greenhouse plastic should last your for 6 years. For the door, I took it off my old camper. The automatic window opener you can look at here:

or go to Lee valley's gardening index and click on greenhouses then Window Opener.

If you like growing tomatoes make sure you clean every dead leave or spoiled tomato off the ground, remove the soil every year or move the building to new soil. I'm now on my sixth year on the same spot with the same clean topsoil and my tomatoes are without sickness, except the very odd one. The moment or even before a leave or tomato falls to ground I remove it. Also in fall at season end I keep the plastic rolled up to the top under the roof, remove all plants and weeds and let the chick weed grow for my early spring salads.

At the new tomato season I clean all the roots out with a flat end pick and other garden tools, add some more good soil and composted grass and till it in with my dandy Honda Mantis.

Composting grass clippings: Place a couple timbers in a corner of your garden, lay some bark-slabs (flat side up) with chicken or sturdier mesh on it and place all my grass clippings thereon, watering every 4 inches and covering it with an old tarp which keeps the sun out, but lets some reign through. I look through it in the fall with a pitch fork, re-stacking it while adding water if too dry. In spring it will be nice and black and ready for my garden plants. I mulch the berry bushes with it under new grass clippings. The tomatoes get it on top of the stems:

Strip all, except the last two, leaves off the new tomato plant and lay it in the six inch trench, which I prepared by adding two handful of 12/8/10 or similar, mixing it well with the soils in the bottom of the trench, covering it with one inch of soil laying down the root ball with the whole naked stem, while sliding the end of toilet roll over the two last leaves for a collar to keep the cut worms off, covering the root and stem with a slight layer of soil whence adding the black grass compost and leveling off with soil and water the whole job a bit.

My tomato plants grow over six feet and have stems thicker then my thumbs at the end of the season with plenty of tomatoes. In Dick Raymond I have a good teacher, check him out here: