Building a Greenhouse
Last Fall Jed and I took on a new project for Jayflora. Every year as Jayflora has been expanding, I have been taking up more and more room at my dear friend, Jim Hoffman's greenhouse at Sand Flats Orchard. He has been so gracious on letting me start all my seedlings at his greenhouse but there comes a time when you just need your own space so you don't feel like such a burden on others. Just the dahlia tubers alone were taking up benches and benches of space.
So this lends us to our next big step; A greenhouse project. Jed has had a little experience in greenhouse building. He had built his own high tunnel at his home vegetable farm years prior. He was eager to get his hands on another task (He loves staying busy).
So for those of you who are looking to build their own greenhouse in the future, I wanted to give you some insight on how we did it.
We wanted it to be big enough just for my seed starts and a care house for the tender annuals before they get planted out in the field. Yet small enough for me to be able to afford to heat it. We decided on a 16ft x 32ft greenhouse.
My property being on a hill made it very limited as to where we could build this thing and still maintain proper sunlight. So we chose a site behind the house, it just so happened to be my sweet pea and poppy garden. The garden where I planted out early crops because I was able to work the ground. Say goodbye to the garden and on to bigger and better things! (We will build a new raised bed on the hillside).
So we removed the exsisting garden and began to level out a site. This took a lot of fill. We hired a company to bring in truck loads of sand and then truck loads of crusher run stone. Thankfully my grandpa let us use his handy bucket tractor to complete the job!
By this time we had already started bending the hoops. We bought two types of hoop benders from Johnnys. One was the Gothic style bender. We liked the gothic shape because it sheds snow load easily for less winter maintenence.
We bent 9 hoops for our 16 x 32 house and added crossties. The hoops are actually chain linked fence top rail that you can buy from Lowes or Home Depot. Typically people use them for dog kennels.
To anchor the hoops down we used 4' sections of conduit pounded 2' in the ground that the hoops slid in to. The hoops are spaced 4' apart.
We used 2" x 10" base boards on the bottom on all sides and added wiggle wire channels to the sides.
Once our base was down we covered it with road fabric to prevent weeds from growing up and to have a nice even ground to stand on. We then began working on the end walls. I order a majority of my greenhouse supplies from a place called Nolt's Produce in PA. They are by far the best prices I have ever seen. Every year I order a truck load; Drip tape, plastic mulch, soil, plastic trays, fertilizer etc. This time I ordered in sheets of polycarbonate to finish the end walls of the greenhouse. I really liked the look of the polycarbonate and it was easy enough to cut out doors with it.
I also bought my greenhouse plastic from Nolt's. Once the exterior of the greenhouse was finished we waited weeks for a calm day to throw over the plastic. My patience was tested on this day, we would get a light breeze that would go through and the whole thing would act like a sail in the wind! I then understood why Jed wanted to wait so long for the perfect day to put it up.
This is a double-layer poly greenhouse so we added two layers of plastic and adhered it with wiggle wire. We then added a blower system to keep air between the two layers so that they don't rub against each other and keeps a little extra insulation. We ran lead cords out to the blowers until we dug trenches for the electrical lines.
Once the electric was in, we were in need of a heater. We ended up finding a 70,000 BTU heater on craigslist. We were pretty specific to getting a heater than ran off of kerosene because there was no way for a propane truck to reach the greenhouse in the back of the house. There is no driveway to get to the greehouse and since we are on a hill it is hard to get any big equipment to it.
Last year I also found a used greenhouse on craigslist for a deal I couldn't pass up. It came from someone who was looking to get out of the business. We had to dismantle and haul home and we were determined to get it down in one day! It was definitely a sight to see, especially through down town Saratoga!
Anyways, I scored a bunch of extras such as benches and plastic trays and even the greenhouse plastic was in good condition. Our plan is to use this as a hoophouse for season extension. We snagged it because it was a good deal but we can't put it up and grow in it until we get adequate water supply by drilling a well.
The benches came in handy for finishing our double poly heated greenhouse project.
Now to complete to project we needed ventilation. It's a pretty small greenhouse so we can most certainly open the back door and the front door to provide circulated air movement but what happens if we arent home and no one can vent?! Well we found these super cool inventions from farmtek! They are heat activated vent openers! I didn't believe they would work at first but they are the greatest things ever!
Once the black piece heats up, it starts to push the vent open. (You twist the black knob to adjust temp settings). This little device doesnt look like much but I couldn't believe my eyes when I walked out to the greenhouse on a sunny day and the vents were pushed wide open! Amazing!
So there you have it! Our little double-poly heated greenhouse project. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. Our future projects are drilling a well, installing our hoophouse, and building a floral shop. Stay tuned!
"When you live for a strong purpose, then hard work isn't an option. It's a necessity."
Your Flower Farming Friend,