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Jul 17, 2009 05:22 PM

Hothouse/ Greenhouse idea

We just bought a house, and our apt. landlords gave us the go-to with taking the old stormwindows (6'x3'); Queen Anne (1910 or so).

My thought:
2 for the back, 1 on each end, 2 for the roof, and the last 2 as doors opening from the center.

Add shelves from the mid-section, with 2x4s as the bottom, raised over an open mesh bed (I don't know about actually using stones yet).

Using a frame of 2x4s.

The roof would be hinged so it can open, possibly completely to the back side.

Thoughts? I've been making drawings for a few weeks, and know I will need hinges and something similar to mesh for the triangles at either end. We have space, but I don't know how to garden and will be using this as part of my introduction to gardening (our house is on 1/4 acre, shaded in the back).

I want to reuse these windows for something, and am a better carpenter and cook than gardener. Thoughts?

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  1. Interesting idea, but I have several questions:
    1. What growing zone are you in?
    2. Are you looking to extend your season---early and/or late?
    3. What do you intend to grow in this hot house?
    4. How do you intend to use it---starting seedlings, growing trays of greens, growing full-sized plants in containers, etc.?
    5. Do you also have garden (or are planning one), or will this be your only growing space?
    6. Do you intend to position this so it gets the greatest amount of light/heat (ie., facing south)? If so, what is your plan for cooling it on very sunny, hot days?
    7. Have you considered the simpler option of using the windows to make a cold frame?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Anne

      1. I'm in Central NJ, and have my first successful plant this year--a repotted basil plant purchased early July (thriving on the front porch). Our backyard is sunny in the AM, and shaded during the afternoon. This is where I plan to put the hot house.

      2-4.I know very little regarding growing anything; it would simply be nice to have fresh produce during the winter when the farms around here only have potatoes and squash. I'm fairly certain that tomatoes and herbs might be too ambitious, but that is what my current idea is.

      5. Early this month, I repotted basil plants; those are on the front porch and thriving. Today I re-potted habaneros, jalapenos, and portugese peppers for the front portch; also marigolds for the edge of the back porch which is very sunny in the AM. We have a space which is 3'12' in the back--full sun (not yet purposed). Front, wrap around 3'x35' which can be repurposed (currently has unknown pretty green waxy plants). The back has a partially shaded area where the greenhouse might be once I build it--south direction. Nothing was planted there by the previous owners, but ferns are currently there.
      6. The current idea is not to put a bottom onto the house, but to (possibly) use pallets until we find the correct spot. The back yard (south facing) is shaded enough that it shouldn't need a cover, but we have shade structures which could go over it as needed.
      7. I don't know what a cold frame is.

      I like the idea of repurposing things, and building a small house seems like a great idea. We have coated racks in the bathrooms which will be added to the hothouse as shelves, as I don't want them in the main house but they'd be good for drainage.

      I want to grow things. I know how to build. I just don't know how to grow. So it's really an idea. The windows have been in the basement for years, and it's a shame to have them unused.

      1. re: Caralien

        OK, here's what I'm talking about re a cold frame:

        If you're only going to use it during the winter, you'll need to put it in your sunniest spot.

        I'm guessing Central NJ is about zone 6. Unless you're planning on heating this greenhouse, yes, tomatoes and (most) herbs are out of the question. However, you can grow spinach and salad greens (lettuces, radicchio, arugula, etc.) through most of the winter in a cold frame. Radishes and some Asian greens work well, also. You *might* get an extra month or so out of your basil if you move the potted ones into your cold frame/greenhouse before your first frost.

        The biggest problem with winter gardening is nighttime temperatures. While a greenhouse or cold frame will heat up well on a sunny day, temps drop inside once the sun sets (or it's shaded). With an unheated greenhouse you can only count on the temps staying about +10-20 degrees above the outside temps at night. So, find out what your coldest average temp is during the winter, and plan vegetables that can take those temps---with a small boost.

        I've just started reading The Winter Harvest Handbook by Elliot Coleman. I think all the answers you're looking for may be found in this book.

        1. re: Anne

          I've been reading Build it Better Yourself, and decided that the house (hot, cold, green) will be set directly on the ground, to prevent any further heat loss during the winter. I could add a heater and/or lights as needed to warm it up further, and may also wrap the house. I will be adding handles to the frame so that the house can be moved. We've decided against major changes to our house/landscape for 1 year, so trimming some of the trees for more sun won't happen until at least next summer.

          9 of the storm windows were brought over yesterday, and I'll pick up the last 3 in the morning, followed by a trip to Home Depot or Lowes.

          Thanks for your advice!

          1. re: Anne

            here is the current (unroofed) part of the project:

            the roof should go on within the next few weeks