Friday, March 27, 2009


I started the front part of my greenhouse in December 2003, and finished it in spring 04. The top row of windows on the greenhouse are double panes of glass that I installed with silicone caulk. The bottom row is a motley collection of openable windows, mostly recycled with a couple of new ones, very useful for ventilation.

The size of the greenhouse part is 8x20 feet. For the roof, I used "crystalite" fiberglass, available in 4x25 foot rolls from Gothic Arch Greenhouses online. Over this, paranoid about hail as I am, I installed 1/2" hardware cloth.

The room in the back, with the clerestory windows, was built in the autumn of 2007. It is also 8x20 feet. It was delayed a year because of the flood of 06. When open, the clerestory windows provide a lot of ventilation for the greenhouse, and keep it from overheating during the daytime.

This greenhouse is loosely modeled on Kathy Hope's greenhouse in Questa, NM. In our hotter climate in southern NM, it's not necessary to slant the south wall towards the sun. A vertical south wall works just fine, and is a lot easier to build.

To the left of the greenhouse is the apple tree we featured a couple of days ago. To the right is the ever-present Rio Grande. Yes, we do live right on (and occasionally in) the river.

I built 5 heavy-duty shelves in the back wall of the greenhouse, lined with 4- and 5-gallon plastic buckets, filled with water and painted black to absorb as much solar energy as possible. This "water wall" contains 3000 pounds of water, and prevents the greenhouse from freezing at night. In previous winters I had a significant condensation problem -- the water buckets were considerably cooler than the air temperature during the day, and water would collect on the surface of the buckets and drip off. This past winter I neglected the greenhouse and left the clerestory windows open all winter. Not only didn't my plants freeze, even though outside temperatures dropped as low as 10 deg., but there was no condensation problem.

Look, a greenhouse sprite! I had sensed her presence in there from time to time, and I feel fortunate to have finally captured her image. On the left, I have pineapple guava, orange, and kumquat. The two citrus have never borne fruit, and I'm starting to feel frustrated. I'd hate to cut them down, but greenhouse space is too precious for nonproductive trees. On the right are two tomato plants growing all the way to the ceiling. The brown leaves are courtesy of my neglect -- obsessed with the Ark as I was, I didn't water the greenhouse for two entire months -- December and January. I'm making it up to everybody now, but the brown leaves remain as my winter legacy.


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