Last spring we cleared a foreclosed lot and got to keep just about everything there: barbed wire, stakes, t-posts, fencing, bbqs, a huge metal framed sign, linseed oil and just so much “stuff”. We had a huge load for the dump and still have tons of metal and buckets of fittings and bolts.
Among the “stuff” were pipes and connectors for a carport. As dust devils blew across the lot frequently and our little tomato cage (about 5 x 8′) was overflowing, we finally assembled what we had and realized that we were missing a few pieces.
We set it up as a 14 x 14′ structure with a flat roof, high enough to walk inside without bumping your head.
We had the rigid plastic for the ends from my old porch roof, shade cloth and only had to buy a few 2 x 4’s.
It worked surprisingly well! Too bad we didn’t set it up earlier.
Snakes liked it too:
This Mohave green was snoozing when Jose walked by without noticing it. But on the way back down to the garden, it rattled at him.
We shot 3 Mohave greens this year and 4 last year. The shade cloth now has a few little holes from the snake shot.
The straw you see next to the cloth is adobe. It’s all around the frame to hold it down (6 connectors are buried under it) and to keep critters out. It worked quite well.
The front of the shadehouse:
A neighbor was throwing out a couple old screen doors and after some alterations, it fit perfectly. And I’m so glad I saved that old porch roofing.
Unfortunately, we had early hard freezes in October and realized that it was time for some modifications.
It was quite easy to take off the ends and move everything into the SUN. We were going to use the water heater for our solar water heating system, but couldn’t get any of the upper plugs open.
You can see that I wrapped all the corners with left over insulation (I knew we’d find use for it some day) and put that blue masking tape over rough spots on the pipes so the plastic wouldn’t tear.
We had 2 old sliding glass doors and and note that the door is now on the north side. Of course need to have the glazing on the south side:
The water barrels help keep the greenhouse from freezing.
I found the best price for 20 x 100′ “clear” plastic online at the Home Depot:
I have NO idea why they call it “clear” — it’s NOT clear at all. I wanted clear so that we get more sunshine inside and it gets warmer.
The plastic also had several approximately 10″ + cuts, but fortunately not in the piece we used for the greenhouse. We also covered our raised beds and the beds in the garden with the plastic.
And then it got cold and we were devastated:
At night it was COLDER inside the greenhouse than outside!
We thought maybe the thermometers weren’t working right and switched them out, but got the same results: temps a few degrees LOWER inside.
We later figured out that humidity and water on the top help keep it warmer, anywhere from 10 to 18 degrees.
As always, adobe all the way around to keep the wind and critters out and help keep the greenhouse from blowing away. Still had to finish the south side with the adobe skirt.
It only took a few days until we had a MAJOR wind storm:
It was a miracle that the plastic didn’t totally tear. We heard the wind and the plastic all night, but of course couldn’t do anything until the weather calmed down.
Since you can’t nail to the metal pipe, we tied 2 x 4s to the pipes on the inside and then screwed whatever boards we had laying around from the outside to the 2 x 4s. And that did the trick!
We’ve been through several serious storms since and so far, so good. It’s not pretty, but it works.
After heavy rains before Christmas and temperatures in the teens, we once again had two big basins with water on top. Since I was by myself, I couldn’t even lift it up enough to drain it. And that’s a good thing, because right after I tried, I realized that the water could only HELP with keeping the plants warm.
The new salad bed:
I recently picked up some old lumber and it was perfect for a salad bed. We’re not sure yet what to plant, probably chards and beets that freeze outside.
Snow storm in late December:
In the foreground is the “original” tomato cage, used primarily as storage and to keep tomatoes separate for seed saving.
As temps plummeted to 9 degrees several nights in a row, the greenhouse was 26 degrees the first night. Then the thermometer broke, so we don’t know how cold it got in the greenhouse. However, a few tomatoes were frozen after the 3rd night. I’m surprised any of the tomatoes lived and wrapping them up in shade cloth and covering with a blanket sure helped.
And so does all that water and ice on the top, but of course the question is how long until the plastic breaks? It steadily drips all day, keeping the inside humid.
The solar water heater also froze – the attached water barrel is empty. We haven’t even looked at it yet, but it’ll be easy to fix since we built it.
It sure has been a learning experience and if you have some cash (or credit), it doesn’t cost that much to get a real hoop house:
Mike in Golden Valley (Island Palms Nursery) has a bender and sells the pipes for $30 each, but the problem is that we don’t know how to get the pipe home since we don’t have a trailer. And we’re lacking level space.
For now, our little carport greenhouse works and of course we also have our adobe greenhouse — more on that in a few days.