Greenhouse Project 1

Pictorial series on the greenhouse project.

The is a totally “raw” location, with only a quick scratch in the dirt to show what I’m going to have to deal with:

Starting the greenhouse

Hours later, I’ve got the general dimensions dug out:

Starting the greenhouse

It’s difficult to tell the scale, but the next picture shows how deep this is.

Starting the greenhouse

I’m down about 40″ here:

Starting the greenhouse

Dimensions are 40′ long x 26′ wide. It’s big enough to grow all the food I’d need and then some.

Starting the greenhouse

Water installed, there’s also a french drain (inside) which you can’t see installed, and the footing forms installed:

Starting the greenhouse

Footings poured, ready for walls:

greenhouse footings

Walls going up:

greenhouse footings


greenhouse footings

Walls are done:

greenhouse footings

Those “cutouts” are 8′ doorways for sliding greenhouse doors.

There is a TON of work involved to get to this point. The design of the greenhouse is “pit set”, which required many tons of dirt to be excavated first. And now I’ll have to put a lot of it back, burying the walls on the outside, grading the ground all around, building in a driveway to and from both doors, etc. It’s a lot of dirt! I’ve been handicapped of late due to surgery, so it’s been slow going and more then a little painful at times.

The purpose of this pit set approach is to take advantage of the the thermal sink in the Earth. Depths greater the 3′ have proven to be less useful for greenhouse designs, although if you were building a house, you could go as deep as you desired.

Some good links I have found:
Solar Greenhouse Resources
Locating A Greenhouse
Solar Orientation

I will probably line the north-most wall with black water barrels, including fish tanks, to be used for solar absorption during the day, and radiation during the cooler nights. The inside design is another entire topic altogether.

My intention is to also do aquaculture, recirculating the water from the fish tanks into the plant beds, providing nutrients and water. I will also be using various bed “methods”, such as vertical beds and elevated beds constructed from PVC.

But first I will need to work out all the performance issues (heat retention) and whether or not I will install any solar collectors for the cold months here. Plus, there are huge number of other issues on ensuring the greenhouse actually works as intended (grows food).

As nice as it sounds to “grow your own food”, it is fraught with many, many pitfalls and problems and cannot be relied upon as any sort of a guarantee. Greenhouse can help both the novice and the expert, but they do not guarantee a harvest. They can extend your growing season — or if things go wrong, help wipe everything out that much quicker.

Outdoor raised beds work well here, but the weather has been extremely erratic. We’re having a deluge of rain every day now, and this would cause problems for any exposed beds. I’ve got some tunnel covered beds, encased in plastic tunnels, but the wind is also causing issues (something we never used to get here), blowing the plastic off. I’m seeing climate change first hand, but nothing compared to what other parts of the country and world are experiencing.

To read about the rest of this project:

Greenhouse Project 2

Greenhouse Project 3



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5 thoughts on “Greenhouse Project 1

  • May 5, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Those are some of the prettiest pictures I’ve ever seen! One big problem I always had when I had a (much smaller) greenhouse is insects – aphids, mealy bugs and so forth. They have no predators so they tend to go berserk.

  • May 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I know you can buy ladybugs to help control some of the insects, and I’m trying to remember a few others.

    The cold here might help with some of the other bugs, but I don’t know yet. It’s definitely one of the things I will have to look into.

  • May 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Amazing project! So inspiring to see the time, money, and effort put into a long-term greenhouse project instead of trying to fasten plastic sheeting to those stupid hoops like so many of us do. 🙂

    Diatomaceous earth would be my first line of defense against insect infestations. This link is a great source of info and now you know not to wear yellow while you’re working in your greenhouse harvesting all that insect-free food. 🙂

  • May 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Looks good. Is that you in the picture? I want to do something like this, but the building codes here are stupid. All they seem to care about is money. How far else have you gotten?

  • May 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    No, my muscles are bigger then that!

    The pour was done by someone else. Access was difficult so we had to use pumps, and that’s equipment I don’t have.

    There aren’t any building codes here, this county doesn’t have any, thankfully. If you ever think about moving, shop around, there are still places that don’t regulate this.

    Greenhouse parts are here, now to sort through everything and figure out how it goes up. I got all the wiring done, ground graded and backfilled and an aching back to go with it… I will post more pics in a new series, showing construction.

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