Building a Greenhouse
I’m not sure what possessed me to do this. I have been enjoying gardening so much this year that I wanted to extend my growing season. I also wanted to plan ahead for germinating seeds very early. My biggest mistakes this year while gardening was not getting my seeds started early enough. I can germinate seeds in my house, but once the seedlings start, my cats want to eat them if I have them in plain sight, but if I put them in a seldom used room, I forget about and neglect them. My solution? A greenhouse.
I think most of us are on a budget these days. I did not want to spend an arm and a leg, and only needed a small greenhouse. I’m not a huge fan of the ones I have seen made of plastic. I wanted something that was going to last a bit longer and be more decorative.
I went on Craiglist and found people selling old windows. I looked for the cheapest ones – which were $10 each. I didn’t really care if they were old, cracked, etc. I figured that would only add to the character. I picked up 13 (the last of what the guy had) up in Lebanon, PA, and stuffed them in my small SUV. I had no design plan. I knew I would figure that out later.
The windows were all different sizes. I began by just laying them out and looking at them and measuring. I needed to figure out how I was going to assemble. I decided on two “stories” high and one window length deep with a pointed roof also out of windows.
I’ve never made something like this before, so I kept envisioning but needed to just get to work as most of my projects are simply on the fly, and I take each design hurdle one at a time.
I took the hardware off. What a pain that was! There were so many layers of paint over the hardware so it required scratching the groove back into the screws and then using a lot of muscle to keep the screwdriver in that groove and turning.
Some of the hardware simply fell off. Everything was covered in yellow tobacco film. Have you ever dealt with this? our entire house was covered in it when we moved here. It was absolutely disgusting. Nothing like pulling soaking wet wallpaper off the walls and getting covered in stinky gold-colored filth.
I removed other parts of the windows – there were some metal strips and areas like this that needed to come off to make the inside of the windows flatter so I could assemble easier. I had to pry these areas up carefully as I didn’t want to cut myself with any of this old metal. I am up to date on my tetanus shot but still. When working with items this old, you never know what you are coming in contact with.
Speaking of safety, I decided not to scrape the existing paint off. I was unsure what type of paint and whether there was lead in it. Better to be safe.
I examined the panes of glass and caulked any areas that I felt needed it. I did have to scrape some of the very loose caulk off to reapply.
Next, I laid out the windows like walls and attached with metal strips.
I built a base out of old scraps (from the deck we took down – getting great use out of that!) and made a base similar to a raised garden base. on the uneven ground. I dug down where needed so that I could get a nice level base.
Since the windows were different sizes, I had to make sure that the base would accommodate. I wanted the center of the “walls” to match up. You can see here that the front was a little longer than the sides. I took care of that with the shape of the base.
I made three bottom sides solid so they would not open. The front bottom window opens. I started off making the top front and back open for venting, but then changed it from opening to the side to opening outward (see below).
The top was tricky. I had no plans except to keep the angle at a 45. Any time I make a “peak”, I use a 45 if possible. It just makes it easier when calculating how to cut other angles. I love math but when my design part of my brain is working, I’m more about the result and hate to take the time to make calculations like that.
I don’t have a closeup here but I attached these two roof windows to a 2×2 strip of wood – this kept it at 45 degrees for me, but also gave great support. I continued the support by adding strips of wood attached to the thicker parts of the window frames and two center supports that would sit flat on top of the structure.
I decided to make shelves out of as usual, leftover scraps. This is scrap wood and welded wire that was what we used on the cage bottoms of our rabbit hutches. We had more than enough so that was a no brainer.
It looks a bit lumpy in this picture but after it gets some use, it should flatten out nicely.
Welded wire is strong – much stronger than hardware cloth. Using wire, this will allow for drainage to occur when plants are watered.
I made three shelves. The bottom will be gravel (thanks to Dean for that idea) that I can also put plants down on top of but shouldn’t rot the base easy like soil would.
Location is also very important – if I’m going to garden, I have to check on things at least once a day. I put it up right next to a gate I go through multiple times every day to get to the chicken house to pick up eggs. I also turn on/off the electric fence for the horses here. It’s close enough to the house yet far enough, and near the fence in a location that the horses cannot get to once we put our exercise ring in (the exercise ring will come out from the post on the left side of the gate here.
It also gets sun from sunrise to sunset here.
And yes, it does look like a telephone booth and for a moment, I considered painting it TARDIS blue…but I figured that would get lost in translation around here haha 😉 I even considered at one point painting it black but then I thought about birds trying to perch or dive-bombing it.
Finished project (other than gravel in the bottom, a little more touch up caulk and paint and adding plants). I added some strips of wood to the edges of the roof as well as on the seams where the windows are butted up together. I added some finials to the top and some wood slats in a triangular shape in the roof area for decoration. The front and back top windows open for venting (I have aluminum rods that fit into drilled out holes to keep it open when needed). As of now, the inside top is still open. I’m debating adding a slide out panel of plexiglass if I need to keep more heat in during colder months.
I really adore this little thing. It has character, it will be useful, and adds a little decorative interest to the backyard. Oh, and I have three windows left over – hmmm… may have to have a deck-sized greenhouse “cabinet” of sorts? Will get back to you on that once I design it in my head… 😀