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The saga of putting up a greenhouse

It was winter when we visited a friend who had a shed greenhouse attached to their garage. It was warm and summerlike inside while the snow swirled outside. I decided at that moment that I needed to fulfill my dream of having a greenhouse.

Growing up, my aunt’s florist shop had a greenhouse. One of my father’s friends grew poinsettias commercially. My fond memories of these two places fueled my lust for a greenhouse.

OK, so now my husband knows that I want a greenhouse. But how do we go from dream to reality? A location that would get sunshine during the winter months was important. A water supply and electricity needed to be available. The materials that would be used for the greenhouse structure had to be chosen.

Once the kit was ordered, site preparation began. A foundation was dug below the frost line. The water line was buried to supply the frost free hydrant. Conduit was also buried for the wiring to provide electricity for the heater, lights and outlets. Before the concrete footer was poured, foam board insulation was placed around the inside of the footer.

The inside of the knee wall that hides greenhouse supplies was insulated with foam board then covered with FRP panels for easy cleaning. The floor of the greenhouse was filled with lucky stones. A walkway was created with rubber pavers.

With the help of our son, we erected the greenhouse in one weekend. The walls are 3/16-inch single-pane tempered glass held in aluminum channels with gaskets. The roof is 8 mm tinted double-wall polycarbonate.

An electric heater keeps the greenhouse above 50. A ventilation system consists of a fan at the north end of the greenhouse and automatic louvers at the south end. Two circulating fans are suspended from the ceiling and run all of the time.

The benches, built from purchased tops and lumber from the farm, run the length of the greenhouse except for the space for a chair and a potting bench. Four large plastic barrels were painted black and filled with water to act as heat sinks.

To further reduce heat loss, bubble wrap was used on the glass during the coldest part of winter. The north wall of the greenhouse is covered with foam board insulation covered with aluminum foil on the inside to reflect light back into the greenhouse.

While the greenhouse is not a money-maker, it gives me endless hours of enjoyment. Cuttings of geraniums and chrysanthemums used in the flower beds thrive. Seeds provide other annuals, vegetable plants and herbs. I can work in the greenhouse with the snow blowing and dream that Spring will soon return to northeast Ohio.

For details on building your own hobby greenhouse of any size or shape, go to http://go.osu.edu/ hobbygreenhouse.

Greenisen is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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