Thursday, October 24, 2013

Poor Girl's Greenhouse

  For the whole spring and summer, I've been growing my microgreens outside on the back deck; they took up so little room that it worked perfectly! And then the rains came. Granted, I was delighted to finally have the rain; we needed it super bad. But my micros weren't thrilled with the sudden sogginess. It finally got to the point where the micros weren't growing at all, but rather were rotting, because of all the standing water (I'm not kidding when I say "the rains came". It was torrential and lasted for days!) 

 So I had to build some sort of protection really fast, and really cheaply. I'm a horrible builder (I can do basics if you tell me precisely where to put something), so that left me having to face a project that wouldn't fall down on me, and didn't really require wood... What I came up with was a tweaked version of things I was seeing online. It involved cattle panels, greenhouse plastic, fence posts, and wire. Ta da.

My sister helped me erect this funny little greenhouse, and all total it took us about 4 or 5 hours. In the pouring rain. It rained so hard that our Carhartt coats were drenched through (that's sayin' something!), our hats were worthless, and we could have feasibly brought out shampoo and washed our hair there and then. It was wet. But it was fun; we sang lots of songs from Pete's Dragon (I admit, that's a favorite childhood movie...).

 Anyway, you probably want details on this thing, huh? Thought so. I was originally planning it to be something like a 6.5'x15' structure, but apparently the cattle panels are shorter than I remembered... It came out as a 6.5'x13'. Oh well.

 We pounded 8 fence posts into the ground at 4' spacings, to keep the greenhouse firmly on the ground, and then used some random wire (it was leftover from the electric fence used on the pasture!) to lash three cattle panels to it. Technical, I know. I didn't really know what I was doing; just had a vague idea, and ran with it. 

 The plastic was a mistake. I didn't know what weight to get, so went with the cheaper option of buying the 4mm. Next time I will invest in the 6mm. Trust me folks, pay the extra cash and do it. Water comes through the 4mm. I'm not talking condensation here (you get that no matter what weight). I'm talking actual RAIN. If it's raining hard enough, and you're standing inside that greenhouse, you'll feel a gentle mist of drops coming right through that plastic. Which can be nice in a way; it's like having an automatic watering system. ;) Just tryin' to stay positive here. But still, go with the 6mm plastic. It's worth it. You may also notice that I have two flavors colors of plastic going on here. No idea what happened there. I thought for sure I had grabbed the exact same bags of plastic, but when I pulled them out to put them on the panels... They were different!!! *shocked look* There wasn't any time to exchange one for a matching plastic (remember the drowning micros?), so I just went with it. I like the less-clear plastic, personally. Seems to hold heat in a bit better.

To put the plastic on, all I did was dig a 6"-8" trench around three sides of the greenhouse, lay the plastic over the panels, get it snug, and then buried everything. That greenhouse ain't goin' nowhere.

You may notice in the picture above that I have pieces of cardboard behind each fence post; this keeps the metal post from ripping the plastic. My original desire was to put those rubber sleeves on the tips (you find them at farm stores; they keep animals from gutting themselves, which happens more frequently than you might think...), but once again time was the master of the day and I didn't have said rubber sleeves on hand. So ugly cardboard has to suffice for the moment.

This image below gives a closer look at our "wire lashing" job. Zip ties would have been awesome to have (that would have cut the building time down to probably 3 hours or less!), but did I have them? No. Phooey.

 I'm working on lining the back and one whole side with these handy dandy PVC shelves (this original one came with a kit from Half Pint Homestead), but until those get made, I just plop my extra trays on the ground.

  To keep vegetation at bay in there, I'm getting ready to put landscaping fabric down, and then covering everything with a generous layer of woodchips. It'll allow water drainage, look nice, and do an excellent job at smother weeds and grass.

  It took about 2 weeks for the microgreens to adjust, but now they're doing amazingly!! It gets up to an easy 80+ degrees in there by afternoon these days. I'll be working on winterizing the greenhouse over the next couple of weeks; getting a front and door on it, and then *hopefully* building a homemade solar heater.

 It's still very muchly a work in progress, but I wanted to show it to y'all nevertheless. It was cheap to make (all total it came to $85), works well, and my sister (who is taking over the business when I leave for Missouri) should be able to grow microgreens through the whole winter.

 Not bad for fence posts, cattle panels, and plastic sheeting. ;)

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Melissa said...

Love it! I've been wanting to make a very small one to place on the patio for all my outdoor potted plants. I hate having to buy new plants every spring and I think this will help tremendously rather than keeping them in the garage.

Anonymous said...

And that plastic covering makes for the most beautiful soft lighting - Positively PERFECT for photographing your greens.