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Picture Blog: Constructing a Customized Greenhouse from the Ground Up

Greenhouse benchesToday’s picture blog comes to your courtesy of Growers Supply customer Randy Kirkpatrick, who submitted some shots of his greenhouse to the 2011 annual photo contest. Here’s his story:

My first greenhouse was an A-frame built from electrical conduit and corrugated fiberglass panels, plastic sheeting, wire and duct tape. I like to be creative, but when my greenhouse needs switched from “over-wintering” a few things in central Texas to maintaining a collection of tropical plants in Kansas it became time to get more serious about what I was investing in. I chose the largest structure I had space for, which was an 18’ wide by 25’ long ClearSpan™ Medium Carport Frame. I selected the extra-large Greenhouse Equipment Pack and the appropriate quantity of plastic. Using the gable end frame design provided in the catalog I purchased enough galvanized square conduit and fittings to close off both ends and to construct an extra tall and wide entry door to allow ease of access for tall or bulky plants and a wheelbarrow.  My flooring is made from salvaged brick for the aisles and work areas and sand for the under-bench growing areas..

To provide extra shade for the less sun-loving plants I created two 4’ by 5’ movable panels by stretching Aluminet Reflective Shade Cloth over a rectangular framework of standard ½” metal electrical conduit with fittings. These panels are easily laid above the central hanging shelves, in whose construction I needed to employ zinc-plated Double Loop Lion Chain. This innovation works perfectly as orchid and other small-plant growing space! To supply water during the winter I have incorporated two 55-gallon blue plastic barrels in the sunniest corner from which the “tempered” water can be pumped as needed.

I have improvised a method of “pinning” individual pots of orchids and bromeliads to the side panels in addition to using “balcony ledge” wire baskets for that purpose, and the bench plan facilitates up to four growing levels at all points of the floor plan! I knew that I wanted the 13’ height of the carport frame not only as collection space for exhausting hot air, but also as occasional growing space, since I do have a couple of extra-tall plant specimens and overwinter cactus, water hyacinths and occasionally start flats of seedlings on the uppermost growing levels where sunlight is at its maximum. The 4th level can be a bit difficult to manage successfully, but that’s why they make stepladders!

Greenhouse shelving

“The 4’ high benches were carefully planned to utilize 1-¼” galvanized conduit and Quik Klamp connectors. Their ease of use and strength provided not only typical bench space down both sides of my greenhouse and  a 3-tiered growing shelf at the end, but also allowed for vertical growing space along each sidewall plus a unit of suspended shelving  down the middle.”

Custom greenhouse sidewall“Conventional 16’ by 4’ galvanized heavy duty cattle panel (8”  by 6” grid) provided the vertical sidewall growing option when it was attached from the existing upper tier of 1-¼” conduit.”

“The overall strength of the bench structure allows me to climb all over it as needed when I’m squeezing in plants for the winter, and the horizontally-suspended panels allow me to hang baskets at will; strategically located conduit allows for hanging even super-sized baskets, which have become my means of grouping, transporting  and growing collections of smaller plant specimens.”

Greenhouse benches

Durable greenhouse benches“The bench tops themselves are covered in horse panel, which results in a surface that can hold anything from a 2” pot to me!”

“The 3-tiered suspended shelf down the middle was made using scraps from trimming down 16’ X 5’ (2” X 4” grid) galvanized horse panels to a width of 4’4” for topping the benches. That was the maximum width I could reach, so I elected to trim off the additional 8” for other uses, which includes a means of “pinning” pots to the sidewall panels. I used 1 ¼” galvanized conduit suspended between the 10’ high poles erected as part of the original bench design both to guarantee stability of the side- and end-wall benches and to allow for support of an additional cattle panel five feet above the benches.”

Orchids in greenhouse

“I am really satisfied with the heating efficiency provided by an inflated double layer of plastic film and with the structure overall.”

Inflated poly covering

Have you ever considered building your own greenhouse?

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