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Discussion forum for the various methods and structures used for getting an early start on your growing season, extending it for several weeks or even year 'round.

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Old February 27, 2014   #1
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Merced, CA
Posts: 751
Default Anne's Mini-Convertable Greenhouse


Now that I've figured out how post photos (more or less), I wanted to show you all the evolution of my mini-shadehouse-greenhouse.

It began last June with two elevated salad tables I had on the patio and some extra 1/2" PVC tubing I had around. I used the PVC to create a hoop house frame over the two beds:

The neighbors behind us took down the old fence and I cut up and used some of the old lumber to make doors and door frames. I then put standard black big box store shade cloth (50%??) that I had on hand over the structure:

Here are a couple of shadehouse mode interior photos, one with seedlings hardening off and the other with peppers drying:

As summer turned to fall, I got an inexpensive ($20) 15' diameter solar pool cover to keep the cold out yet provide some diffused light in. Unfortunately it's a translucent blue, so not ideal, but I have a total of eight 6500K T-12 and T-8 fluorescent bulbs for additional lighting.

I tacked cardboard around the bottom portion or skirt of the greenhouse and covered that with two thicknesses of 3 mil contractor's black plastic trash bags. I also weather stripped around the doors as well as I could.

As the soil filled elevated beds inside were just boxes with hardware cloth wire bottoms and weedblock to keep the soil in but allow for drainage (onto the lower shelf!), I installed corregated PVC roof panels on a slant for drainboards that fed into gutters on either end that in turn drained out of the structure through collapsible tubing that you can see at the bottom outside corners in this photo:

Now, as we're heading into spring out our way and things are warming up, I've made a few strategic cuts to the solar cover and added grommets so that I can roll up the sides and fold down the door window covers - just leaving the shade cloth beneath exposed. This is currently working great for hardening off my seedlings and giving them some fresh air. Soon I'll be starting more seeds - lettuce, herbs, etc - directly in the greenhouse (rather than starting them indoors).

Here are a couple of interior photos with the shades up/off:

I've got power coming in through a heavy duty extension cord (well protected from moisture) at one end and a little sort of irrigation system coming in from the other side. The irrigation system goes to a regular garden hose and a timer with separate connections to drip systems in each bed.

To monitor things, I've got an ambient weather remote sensor system with 3 remote sensors - one for each bed and one outside the structure. I also have an AutoPilot CO2 monitor that, along with other functions, reads temp, CO2, and humidity levels and keeps a half-hourly log for 24 hours for all the readings. This is my favorite thing at the moment as I can check the overnight conditions inside the greenhouse to make sure things are adjusted correctly.

For heating, I have a 250 watt heat lamp almost dead center in the greenhouse (at least 18" from anything flammable in all directions). When not in use, I can swing it out of the way off to the side with a bungee cord hooked to one of the PVC hoops. The bulb is in a ceramic socket brooder lamp fixture rated for 250 watts. It's hooked up to two overhead fans that turn on whenever the light goes on to distribute the heat and prevent hotspots. The heater's controlled by an STC-1000 digital temperature controller currently set to (as I recall) 10.5 degrees C plus or minus 3 degrees C. Checking the AutoPilot this morning, the interior temps overnight ranged from the mid 50's to mid 60's. Of course the temps were higher during parts of the day just due to the warm outside weather condiditions. I've got a therocube I have yet to hook up that will eventually control another fan that will turn on when the heat reaches 78 F.

The lights are on a timer to go on from 5am to 9am, then 5pm to 9pm.

After a few fits and starts where I think I either nearly fried things or nearly froze things -everything seems to be working OK. During the cooler weather, when I had 32 outside, I had things set so that things stayed in the mid 50's inside during the night.

As it starts to heat up, I'll probably roll up more of the cover, leaving the shade cloth in place.

While I have some tweeks to maker here and there, I think it's all pretty much done now. Now on to get the raised beds ready for planting.

(Sorry the photo quality is so poor - I'm sure there's a better way to get photos into posts than what I'm doing now - but I haven't figured it out yet!)

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Old February 28, 2014   #2
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Sacramento CA
Posts: 288


Wonderful job of repurposing! I think you are really an engineer with the hobby of gardening!

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Old March 2, 2014   #3
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Merced, CA
Posts: 751

Hi Rick,

Thanks! I think you may be right about the engineering thing - I probably missed my calling .

Here are a couple of photos I took today of the greenhouse with the sides partly open and more plants inside. Lights also on today since it's so overcast today (as I suspect it is up your way too).

East side bed - with mainly ungrafted extras and back-ups:

West Bed - with tomato grafts, a few artichoke seedlings and some rootstock.

I hope to start planting out in a couple of weeks!

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Old March 2, 2014   #4
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 1,992

I bet you get more done in a day then most people do in a week.
Lookin' great!
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Old March 21, 2014   #5
Tom A To
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Pilot Hill, Ca.
Posts: 307

When embedding pictures, they look good at 800 x 600 pixels (or similar to maintain aspect ratio). Yours are a little small to see any detail. Nice greenhouse though!

Audios, Tomatoville. Posted my final post and time to move on.
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