Dec 28, 2013

Update on our Attached Greenhouse (we are excited.)

So, the funny thing is, when we got that notice from the city I talked about a couple of greenhouse posts ago, I knew it had to have come from someone in the neighborhood/area who read this blog. Because somehow, the city had gotten word that we were building a "greenhouse," only they were told it was going to be a freestanding greenhouse. Since Jeff & I don't generally talk a whole lot about our plans with people, the only real place I could think that someone would know we were building one would be if they read this blog. So I know now that people in this city, people I know, read this. Thus, being more careful about posts, being more aware of peoples' privacy.

I have worried that people will think this is going to be an ugly monstrosity. I don't blame them because, hey. Look at our place! So many weeds. WE used strawbales to insulate our walls last winter, and then Jeff pulled them away from the walls & then never found time to go put them in the horse shed thingie. My kids scatter stuff everywhere. Just like they do inside. And it's harder to remember to ask them to tidy up in the backyard because I don't see it all that often, to be honest. And it doesn't help that all the garbage blows over from the highschool. I have dealt with that by paying my kids to pick it up, a penny a piece, and generally we've been able to keep the area looking OKish, but. You know. Our place is currently kind of the neighborhood disaster. I have goals about changing that this next spring, but who knows if they can happen depending on finances, how well the new baby fares etc.

Anyway, I can see how someone who is familiar with our place might be like, "a greenhouse? Right. It's going to look cobbled together and terrible."

Well, and it's funny because our friend Dave thought the same thing, when we were initially describing our plans to him. Though he didn't tell us this until a couple days ago when Jeff showed him the progress we've made. He gave us a compliment that was also a bit of a dig--"Wow. It actually looks good! From the way you guys were describing it, I was thinking it'd be kind of trashy looking." (Not offended, Dave. It made Jeff laugh. But only because we know you love us!!)

The thing is, when we do stuff, we want to do it right. For Jeff, that means planning meticulously, gathering the precise measurements, the exact pieces, and then (for me) an important thing is finding a period of time when we can work on it until it's finished. I hate half-done projects. They are usually messy, obstructive to routine and space, and not very nice to look at. So... yeah. When we do stuff, and slowly, little by little, we'll do stuff, people will hopefully get an idea of us as a family that really does want their place to look nice, and be a credit to the neighborhood.

Having said all that. Here's where we're at now for the outside (about 3/4 done with plywood, window framing, etc):

We're going to have to leave it plywood until spring, when we'll put insulation and cement board on the outside. Also we'll be mortaring the cinderblock then; right now it's just stacked.

We'll be painting the cement board probably the same color as the rest of the house, with another complimentary for windowframes etc. I'm trying to decide if we do the other color in white, kind of like the rest of the house, or if we go a darker grey to make a nice, pretty contrast. And I'm planning on hanging flower basket planters all along the beams, and planting some red flowers in each. That combination of grey and red is just very pretty. I've seen it done before.

We also plan on taking some of those white flagstones our friends the builders of our house put in a long winding path throughout the yard, and repurposing them to create a path along the house, along the periphery of the greenhouse, and then out to a white flagstone patio/barbecue pit. We're also planning on coldframes along the south (so the path would go around those, too). Overall, I'm pretty certain it will end up looking very nice. Which actually is quite important to me :)

Here's where we're at for the inside:

I am kind of swooning over the amount of space. Our plan for the south side is 4X4 square foot garden beds up against the window side, for sun and warm loving plants such as tomatoes, squashes, peppers and herbs. I plan on hanging strawberry pots/baskets on the inside from every post as well... lots. I love strawberries and want to grow a wide variety.
There will be a path of dark flagstones or pavers (which we will have to buy) for along the house-side wall, so we can walk and have access to everything. We plan on setting it all on sand (with landscape fabric underneath to prevent weeds growing up through, though we don't have many weeds inside anyway because it's graded gravel.) I plan on growing nice mosses in between the flagstones/pavers. It should be quite beautiful. Then as we wrap around toward the east (that corner there you see) we'll probably change to either trees planted in the ground or trees aboveground in giant pots, plus lots of multi-level pots, on stands or hanging, containing bush-berries and fruits or other edible plants that like a great deal of sun. Then as we come around to the east, where there's still good sun but not as much, and it won't be as warm, we'll have a few more square-foot beds with the colder winter vegetables. Then in the very north corner (jeff hasn't built yet) we have a pair of French doors off of the house that open into the greenhouse. We're planning on making that area a sort of indoor solarium/patio, with nice wicker chairs or cast-iron chairs or something more solarium-like, and probably a fountain and a little pot-pool with some stones and maybe a few fishes.

And possibly on that wall of the house, we'll hang one of those pallet-gardens, or a couple, with shade-loving plants like ferns, etc.

Underneath will be more of the dark flagstone pavers on sand, with mosses or elfin thyme growing between the cracks.

In a word, when we get done, it will be wonderful.

SO, back to right now: we've almost got it all enclosed. Jeff is also working on making it airtight--closing in the space between wall and rafter, etc. It's still pretty drafty; we haven't insulated, there are places for the air to get in quite easily, and we haven't even closed off the entire thing yet--the north side's just an open frame, and Jeff hung a tarp to close off the enclosed space to give himself a warm area to work in during the day. But guess what? Even with just that, the nighttime temperatures inside the greenhouse have measured 20 degrees higher than outside temperatures. And during the day:

It's already warmer outside in the greenhouse than it is inside our house!

Think of how it'll be once we get it all enclosed, insulated, caulked if we need to. We may actually need to vent heat inside the house during the day to make sure things don't get too hot for the plants.

Jeff and I have a plan, too, to keep things warm at night (though hopefully it'll be less of a problem than we currently anticipate)--we're going to create curtains of insulation that can drop down over the windows once the temperature inside the greenhouse gets too low. Jeff loves smart-home techology; he'd like to set it up to work automatically with thermometers that gauge temperature, so that when the air at night starts to get below a certain temp, these thick, insulation curtains slide down over the windows and in the morning, when the sensors pick up that the outside temperature is warm enough, they can slide back up. And we can get our sun and warmth at night, too, so we can grow things like...

tomatoes. the holy grail of vegetables. Which I have never been able to make work to well here in an outside garden, even during the summer. The season is just too short.

Well actually, honestly Eggplants are the holy grail. I couldn't even get those to grow in Utah.

It's possible we can use the same system of heated water tubing that warms our concrete floor inside the house, to heat the garden beds as well. Run several loops of the hosing under the bed, keep the soil warm at night. There are lots of options. I want vines of tomatoes swinging from my ceilings year round. Did you know they get really long if they can grow all the time? And they keep producing, too.

It will be amazing. It's Jeff's & my christmas present to each other this year... he's been building all christmas break and I think he's really enjoying it a lot. I'm enjoying seeing it go up, and seeing our dream become a reality.


merrilykaroly said...

It looks amazing.

Janell said...

It's HUGE! For some reason my recollection was you were just attaching the greenhouse to a short side of your house.

And it's looking so nice! It'll be absolutely gorgeous when you're done.

Nicole said...

Amazing. I'll take one, please!

Emma Tank said... actually looks good!! ;)

Just kidding, I was expecting that. Keep shocking your skeptics, it keeps them on their toes. Great work, guys!

Putz said...

that is a lot more than a greenhouse><<>,.it is a playhouse for your kids in the winter, it is a place to watch weather or sunsets or sunrises{whatever side the facility faces} or the river right by you<><>so it is a refuge of sorts and i am sure it makes your house much or seem much bigger

David L said...


Yes, I admit it. I doubted you. :-) Friendly doubt, but nonetheless doubt!

You guys have done a fantastic job. Honestly, it looks professionally done, attractive, solid, and beautiful. It really, in my mind, solidifies your house. Makes it look less like a cube and more like a home (Wow... this is probably coming out terribly...).

And the flowers will look pretty! Red on gray is a nice combo.

When we come up around Easter, I'd be happy to help with mortaring, facing, painting, whatever. It'll be penance for my doubts.

Sarah Dunster said...


Your doubts are understandable. I find your penance to be adequate.

(Is it silly that I got all excited at the thought of you guys coming to visit again??? Even though I'm not sure when that will be. Ah well. Babies.)

Sarah Dunster said...

Thank you Putz, Merrily, Janell, Nicole, Emma (& Dave). I'm so glad it's turning out to look nice. Relieved that it will be a good thing. And yes, Putz. What you wrote actually brought a bit of moisture to my tearducts. Jeff and I have been wanting this for a long time.

David L said...

I know... I keep hoping Easter, but that will be even two more heads than our last visit! Let's see... Between the two families, we have... 16 people now? That's incredible. It'll be a tight squeeze, but hopefully it works well. I'll be ready for a good visit by then as well.

I'm hoping we can get up over the summer again and hit that lake again. Honestly, that was about as relaxed and happy as I've felt ALL YEAR, and I know the kids loved it as well.

Sarah Dunster said...

The lake was awesome :) summer visit please.

Deb Samaniego said...

Awesome. My husband needs to see this. He can build anything & this would be worth all the time & work. I'm not a green thumb, but maybe I can change.