Friday, May 1, 2009

Mini Greenhouse Project

I'm not a serious collector of plants, but I do have 15 or 20 cactus and succulent plants. Many years ago when I lived in California, I had a large collection of them and even a small cactus garden. A few of the plants that I still have are remnants of that long-ago interest. Three or four of these are over 40 years old, my having gotten them in the mid-1960's.

When I moved from California in 1987, I left most of my plants at my parent's home where they have struggled along in a state of neglect for over 20 years. In the past couple of years when visiting my mother, I've taken some steps to close out the surviving remainder of those plants. Where I live now in Washington state is not a climate that is particularly conducive to growing cacti. However, enthusiasts cultivate cacti in England so why not Washington? I brought about six or eight plants home with me on two separate trips. I figured I had nothing to lose, as left mostly without care as they were, they would eventually perish anyway. With careful care, including moving them indoors for their winter rest period and out of the wet, they stood a decent chance of survival. So far, this has worked.

Part of my plan to cultivate these plants in Washington is to place them outdoors during good weather. In the Pacific Northwest, that means when there is no longer any danger of freezing and the moisture has eased up a bit. This period is approximately from mid-April to early October.

To enhance this time outdoors, two years ago I decided to get a small greenhouse. I didn't want to spend a fortune for so few plants, so I bought a folding, tent-like mini-greenhouse online. It was made out of plastic tarp material with a spring steel band that held it up. It lasted two years and by the time the second year was up, it was badly deteriorated and no longer serviceable. I decided that I would buy something more substantial to replace it. Checking online, I couldn't find anything that I could afford or that I wanted. I decided to make exactly what I needed. The pictures above show the result. The design rather follows the pattern of the punishment sheds in "Bridge on the River Kwai" but the sheathing materiel is clear, not steel. I'm no carpenter, but I took my time making this mini-greenhouse and used many existing materials that I had stashed away. The lumber was all freebies or scrap, and much of the hardware was as well. I had to buy three sheets of the clear PVC sheathing material for about $12.50 apiece, so by the time I got finished I had $50 or a little more in the project.

The stand or base that the mini-greenhouse is sitting on was not part of this project. I already had that on hand. I was driving down a street not far from my home, and this stand was sitting in a front yard with a "free" sign on it. I think it was originally made to support a water heater off the floor (code requirement). It looked potentially useful to me, so I stopped and wedged it into the trunk of my wife's Pontiac Bonneville. Before placing my mini-greenhouse on it, I covered the top with a remnant of some vinyl flooring that was left over from one of our bathrooms.

Now, I have my plants moved into it. There's plenty of room left; I may even get a tomato plant to put in there to use up the extra space.

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