A DIY Weekend – New Fence, Pavers and Greenhouse….all in Four Days!

[dropcap1]O.K.[/dropcap1]so we are a little late with this weeks blog post but it was all with good reason. Starting last Friday, we began an epic push to get the back of the property ready for the greenhouse. This included erecting a new wood fence (posts and all), laying pavers and of course assembling the greenhouse. All with the help of a very few dedicated family and friends (thank you Scott, Patrick and Don!!!). Also thanks to our cousin Pete for hooking us up with the gravel. Lastly, thank you Robin for helping with the landscaping and the first round of plants! The real hero here however is my husband John, who tirelessly led the charge over four days to make sure we got this all done in a weekend, truly an amazing effort. I think it may be from all the DIY shows he has been watching lately but whatever it is I like it!

So with the thank-yous out of the way lets get on with the story of building the greenhouse. The fence was needed to protect the greenhouse and get the rest of the back ready for a patio, we chose pavers for underneath the greenhouse so that the natural drainage through the stones and underlying gravel would make sense for watering. Our research has shown that many greenhouse owners place their greenhouse right on the ground but we felt it would be better to try and stretch the season and protect our greenhouse from the Chicago winters with a little elevation. We also purchased a solar powered light so that we can work in the greenhouse at night if need be with no need to use power. We will give you the review on that after we have test driven it for a while.

The greenhouse we chose is an 8×12 Aluminum frame with UV panels in the ceiling and polycarbonate walls which are under warranty for 10 years, The roof has two vent panels and there are two entry doors as well as a fan. All of these will assist in controlling humidity and temperature inside the greenhouse. We have ordered a shade cloth (allows for protection of plants from burning in the sun) and a temp/humidity thermometer which should be here any day. Humidity we are learning is of most concern in the actual soil of each plant. Roots must be watched to ensure that the humidity does not cause rot. We also plan to order a gutter system for the greenhouse which will get it very own rain barrel (only seems to make sense). We also have power and water on the back of the building to allow for us to extend the season and perhaps even make the greenhouse a four season affair. We will let the summer dictate the potential to make this happen.

Thursday thru Saturday were all about the fence and laying the flooring for the greenhouse. The flooring consisted of a digging a 9×13, 5 inch depth, hole dug into the back patio which was filled with pea gravel and levelled using a tamper. Once that was done we could lay the pavers (a good arm workout but not much fun otherwise). Once we had the pavers laid, we swept a bag of sand over the top to assist with leveling the flooring as it settled. We weren’t sure if the weather would hold for another day, but Sunday morning, if you recall was beautiful and sunny so we set out to assemble the greenhouse.

Our particular model (ordered online at JustGreenhouses – we recommend, better prices, no tax and free shipping) came in three large boxes. One contained the panels and the two doors. The second contained the shelves, the third contained a dizzying array of hardware and aluminum pieces with names like G05Q, G07T, S28 and P03. You know your in trouble when you see that……..organization was going to be key if we were going to survive this adventure. In about 45 minutes we had set up our system, relegating the shelving to the side, holding the doors & panels in another box and laying out all of the other “parts” library style on a big tarp. By placing all the pieces in alpha-numeric order we were able to minimize the confusion as we worked our way through the 56 page manual.

Armed with a drill, driver and a few provided allen and crescent wrenches we set about our task. Feeling very much like Vanna White, John would call out his letter/number combo and I would pull them for him. After about two hours we had the first wall built. An hour later we had both end walls built. Then onto the frame. This took most of the day to build and reinforce. We soldiered on for about 11 hrs (probably could have been less if we had lined up the requisite assistants) and finally gave in at the very end when sliding in the side panels was beginning to feel like rocket science. Alas, a little sunburned & chilly we threw in the towel and went home to a hot shower and dead sleep.

On Monday, John took pity on me since I had been battling a cold and let me sleep in. He went back and finished the panels in a few hours. As it turns out, in our stupor the night before we had tightened the reinforcing cables incorrectly which had pitched the frame out of line a bit. With fresh eyes in the AM, John spotted this immediately and had the rest of the greenhouse put together in no time. I awoke to a fully built greenhouse and immediately set about populating it with seed trays and small plants. Our plan is to use the greenhouse to start herbs that we will transplant to larger planter boxes outside the greenhouse to increase yield, as well as keeping tender lettuces, the lemon tree we are hoping to grow, caper bushes, heirlooms, little cukes and other fun things as we come across them.

To sum up the experience, like most things worth doing, as soon as it was built we forgot the pain of getting there. Our advice to would be greenhouse owners at this point would be to line up as much help as possible and get in a Zen frame of mind and you should be able to make it through the adventure of greenhouse assembly without too much pain.

Now the fun part begins, we will see what we know & don’t know about using this new tool at the restaurant. We are a little less than a month from opening so soon we can let you know exactly how we use our plants. We have lined up a botany focused intern to help us as we move forward and think this will become a permanent offering. We will introduce you to her next week.
 Until then……..

(click on image to see slideshow of the building process)