The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Neighborhoods Farm

April 13, 2014

Getting more bang for your gardening buck

I had been looking at greenhouses awhile, mostly in catalogs, at those fancy little things with all the bells and whistles. I pointed them out to my husband over breakfast. When I pointed, I made sure my finger was over the price. Still, he kept focusing on that number.

Then I came across an article in Countryside Magazine, where a guy made one himself. Now, if you’ve ever gotten an idea from this magazine, you know the directions can be a little vague. That’s because everything is homemade from “stuff they got free."

“Ah ha!” My husband’s favorite word. He studied the picture and said, “I can make that.” So, my greenhouse was born.

Well, actually it’s a hoop house. It started with two OSB ends and three PVC pipes. To build it, we laid treated 2x4’s on the ground about the size we wanted, which ended up being about 10’ x 12’ because when we bent the PVC pipe into a hoop, that’s about where it wanted to be.

We drilled three holes spaced out in the boards and pushed the PVC through them and into the ground till all was about even. Then we pounded sharpened 2x4’s into the four corners, framed for the doors and went around again with 2x4’s at the shelf height.

Two more 2x4’s run parallel down the center to brace the wooden ends. To make the wood ends, we just held up the OSB and used the PVC hoops as a pattern to cut the shape. Then we covered it with plastic. Scab pieces of 1” x 4” wood and deck screws held it all on.

To our surprise, it’s been up ten years now. I have replaced the plastic once, changed the scabs holding the plastic and changed the OSB to plywood.

The moisture is hard on the wood and it pays to keep it painted. My shelves are the wire ones they sell for closets. I heat with two ceramic electric heaters, plugged in two different outlets just to be safe.

I have a thermometer that tells you how cold it went overnight. I marked where to set the thermostat on the heaters to keep the right temperature.

Most people ask about heating the greenhouse. I have found cooling it when it gets warm is the bigger challenge. I gave up last year and put benches outside for the flats once the weather gets warm. This makes watering the plants easier, as water is problem No. 3.

You really can’t go more than six hours without watering especially once the plants get big. Now, there are automatic waterers, vents, heaters, etc., but the point here is to be cheaper than buying plants.

I start planting April 15th, except for peppers that I start two weeks earlier in the house. By May 15th I’m only heating some nights depending on the weather.

If you have the time and start at least ten flats you should come out ahead or you could go halves with a garden friend. Keep in mind that this is at least a six week commitment. If you can’t be there to water, open and close doors, and turn off and on heaters, you will lose the whole lot!

Your reward will be the varieties of plants you can grow and the pride in saying, “I grew it from a seed!” Well, that and “The material for the greenhouse, I got it for free!”

In 2014 the Ashtabula County Master Gardeners will be writing about frugal gardening. We will help you get more bang for your gardening buck! The members of the group encourage you to send questions that you would like answered in this column to 39 Wall Street, Jefferson, Ohio 44047.

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