first frost warning!

trianglejohnOctober 26, 2012

I'm not ready!!

I am about mid way through building a large hoophouse/greenhouse and NOW it plans on getting frosty. Time to switch gears and find a temporary spot for the tender babies so I can plow ahead with the second half of construction.

Lucky for me I have whittled down my normally vast collection of tender plants, but those that remain have only gotten bigger.

I'm not complaining about the cold - all my cold weather plants were sick of summer weather, so bring on the chill hours.

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I am never ready as I need to bring the few tender plants into the house, which means spraying (hate to do that!) so that I don't bring in bugs, too.

Wishing you succes on your greenhouse project.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 10:04AM
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Good Luck on your project. I can't wait to see the finished product with all of your plants in there!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 8:36PM
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Looks good John. What are the dimentions? It looks like you can fit some tall plants in there. I alway hate this time of year when I realize I don't have enough room in the greenhouse for everything and have to make the decision of who lives and who gets left outside.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 9:53PM
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Hi Mike. Yes, you will be able to see it when you drive down my road! The ridge is 15 feet, the size is 20 by 30feet. There is this new line of thinking that for best summer cooling you need a tall ceiling and big wide doors and side walls that roll up - so this structure has 16 foot wide doors and 6.5 foot side walls that are more like curtains that you can roll up to allow fresh air in to cool it. The red step ladder in the photo is a 12 footer.

The plan is to keep my collection of large tropical fruit trees in there permanently. When they get too tall I will chip out the asphalt and plant then in the ground. I have a large assortment of tropical fruiting bushes that will get moved out and scattered around the yard as decoration during the summer also. There will be space along the south wall to start lots and lots of seedlings for the veggie garden and there will be space to set up a chair or two so that I have a pretend tropical island during the colder parts of winter.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 9:24AM
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I love your greenhouse! I want to see it when you are done, so please post a pic. It is going to be great!
I already bought my tropicals in, but boy, it would be sooo nice to have a nice tropical oasis in the winter when it is cold.
I'm jealous.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 9:15PM
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butterfly - I feel your pain! This time of year I'm normally scrambling to find space in various corners or windowsills to overwinter tropical plants. My collection had gotten so large (in number) that I had started building temporary greenhouses out of anything I could find - bales of straw and old plastic shower curtains! old wooden windows! an old shed skeleton with plastic sheeting. As time went on the seedling tropicals grew and grew and now they need someplace permanent. They have gotten too heavy to lift and move, or maybe I have just gotten too old.

Rather than build a typical glass house I opted for a hoophouse or high tunnel - much cheaper and they come as a kit that anyone with tools can erect. The property already had an abandoned basketball court - asphalt pad 24 by 49 feet. So I got a permit to build over part of that. The kit requires long heavy treated lumber (not provided) and lucky for me the property also had an old deck around a above ground swimming pool. Thanks to Tamelask aka Tammy's family the deck has been torn down and lumber repurposed and the basketball goal posts removed - yay! The house also came with a monster big wood burning stove which I hope to set up to heat the greenhouse. Firewood is abundant and free but needs to be chopped and hauled.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 9:18AM
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Just an update on the hoophouse - the catalog and instructions state that the size of structure I bought could be completed by a two man crew working long days in two weekends. I bought it in late September and just now got it done (well, almost done, there's a few leaky corners still). I have put in about a billion hours and even hired help to come assist me. It is one of those tasks where you can't advance to stage 2 until you complete stage 1 and all of this is being done on the top of a tall step ladder so there is only room for ME. I am so glad this part is over, everything now is at ground level.

I'll take a new photo one of these days but to get an idea of where things stand today just look at the above photo and turn all the grass blonde, take all the leaves off the maple in the back, knock down most of the tropical cannas and gingers over to the side and drape the whole pipe structure with plastic (think backyard circus tent).

Now for the next phase of the inspection process.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 1:36PM
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whoo hooooo! it passed inspection! Now I get to move all the plants in and figure out a way to heat it.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 2:35PM
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Congratulations John! It sure would be nice if the rest of the winter stays as mild as it's been and you won't have to worry about heating. If you use electric, don't forget to have a back-up for when the power goes out.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 1:35AM
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Funny how the tiny little tasks seem to take all day long to complete when the sun sets at 4:30. It seems like all I do is work on this project and it still isn't finished! Sheesh!!

Hosta - my plan is to use wood heat. Mostly because I already have two junk wood stoves (already in place inside the hoophouse) and pretty much unlimited access to free firewood. Finding the time to chop and haul will be my biggest problem. If things work out I may scrape together the money to buy one of those small solar chargers to hook up to the fans - that way during a power outage I can still keep the space above freezing. Most of the tropical trees can handle a light frost so I am not too worried.

The scary thing was that the plant collection already takes up way more room than I had imagined. I thought they would have room to stretch out and grow bigger AND that I would be able to buy a few more - wrong. Up is the only direction they can go, so glad I bought the "tall" package.

Here it is as it stands today. The only thing left is to finish hooking up the stove pipe and make the big roll up doors more airtight.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 10:56AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

John, how is it anchored? Is the covering a sectional thing where you can get replacements for any storm damaged
Is it braced for the prevailing winds?

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 1:19PM
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I did all the anchoring tricks the manufacturer advised and I plan on adding a few more when I get everything finished. The metal hoops making the ribs you can see under the plastic sheeting are driven into the ground (up to 2 feet on the high corner, and a little over a foot on the low corner). The four by four posts that frame the front and back doors are sunk 2 feet into the ground and back-filled with concrete. The original structure was supposed to be 36 feet long with a rib every four feet. I shortened it to 30 due to property line restrictions, so each rib is a little over 3 feet apart and the whole structure is 20 by 30.

The main roof is a double layer of greenhouse plastic with an inflator device pumping air in between the layers for insulation, it also provides a bit of stability during heavy winds, snow, rain and hail. There are extra metal pipes anchored to the ribs making rafters.

I prepped it for metal cables to be strung from door post to door post and then anchored to the ground - which should keep it from blowing away during a normal wind storm. During hurricanes and tornadoes they advise you to cut your plastic sheeting to save the frame work. I don't have extra plastic laying around so I may not do that. Most farmers use these high tunnels out in open fields where they really suffer during high winds. Mine is better anchored and tucked behind the house and garage so it doesn't get the full force of the wind when it blows.

I also plan on boring a few more holes in the asphalt pad and sinking some extra support poles inside to help the roof deal with any snow - if and when we ever get a really big snow storm. I need the poles inside anyway to hang orchids, ferns and hanging baskets so it will kill two birds with one stone.

If all goes well and I can really keep it warm in the winter I will probably change out the plastic with some sort of polycarbonate panel. The plastic is supposed to last from 3 to 5 years, so it will be a while before I have to cough up the big money.

If I can't keep it warm enough I may just section off one part of it and try to keep that area warm and reduce the number of plants I baby through the winter.

Part of the reason to do all this is because I have this nasty habit of starting seeds from everything I eat. I always assume these tropical fruit trees will die (and some of them do) but the survivors and the citrus trees I bought years ago have just gotten so big that I need to plant them in big pots and leave them in one spot rather than ruin my back hauling them in and out of the basement.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:42PM
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