In the planning stages of building our house here at 9,000 feet, we had always thought we would eventually build a greenhouse. At our former location in Wellington we had a small, non-heated greenhouse, which provided us with cold-tolerant things like spinach, kale, chard, lettuce and beet greens throughout most of the winter. It also provided a place to finish and harden the seedlings I had started under lights indoors. It was attached to the south side of our house, under our deck, so the north side of the greenhouse was protected by the house. (See photos of this one below.) It was a great addition to the garden there, so we planned to do it again.
We mulled over whether to attach it to the house or build a free-standing greenhouse. Here are some of the pros & cons:
Attached to the house:
- Water and electricity readily available
- North side protected by house
- Easily accessible in winter
- More available space for a larger greenhouse
- More available light for the plants
- Would be farther from the house; less accessible
- Water and electricity would be more of a challenge
- Would require insulation, particularly on the north wall
We chose to attach the greenhouse to the house, under our deck on the south faces. (I say “faces” because with a 14-sided house, we used two of the sections.) We also decided we would like some sort of heat source, to allow for more growing throughout the winter. While thinking through the options, Tim decided we could have radiant heat in the floor, with a solar collector to provide that heat as well as enough capacity to provide hot water for the house.
The greenhouse is now complete! It is full of beautiful, growing vegetables. Tim is now working to complete the solar collector and the system for heating. The solar collector is standing to the left of the greenhouse in the photo above. Inside the crawlspace, at the back of the greenhouse, is the mechanical room, which houses the water collection tank and controls. Tim is in the process of writing a detailed document of how the greenhouse was built, which will be included when complete.
Since the greenhouse is attached to the house, water and electricity are readily available. The glazing is 5-wall polycarbonate, about 5/8″ thick. It includes approximately 100 square feet of raised bed space 28″ deep, radiant in-floor heating, concrete floor to maintain thermal mass, a pond filled with about 200 gallons of water
(for thermal mass), a lighted grow-bench area for starting seedlings. Currently the pond (left) is topped with a shelf–eventually it will likely house water plants and fish.
Venting is provided by two large ceiling vents equipped with automatic openers, in addition to the door which may remain open as needed. In the future we may add fans and cooling, but we will wait until summer to determine how much cooling will be necessary.
Tim has devised a way to put down insulation over the glazing at night to keep the cold out and the warmth inside.
We are very happy with the result and plan to enjoy it for years to come.
Here are photos of our former greenhouse, which served us well, but our new greenhouse is 10x better!