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Carol's Greenhouse at Oakcreek Buffalo Ranch in Jane Missouri

Here are a few details about the greenhouse. It measures roughly 8 foot wide and 14 foot long. The sides are glass, courtesy of the Habitat for Humanity RESTORE. The four sets of sliding glass doors cost around $75/set. The ones on the front are set, the ones on the end slide. The screen doors provide ventilation in summer, while the glass doors will make it cozy in winter.

Work table and shelving

Thanks to the great folks on the garden web forum last winter, I learned that over 60 percent of heat loss in a greenhouse during winter is through the roof. THAT WAS A CHALLANGE!! Their concerns about heat in summer also led me to change my design and put sliding doors on both ends with screens. The roof is 2 by 8 rafters every two feet. On top, there is a layer of quality 8 mil gh plastic. Below that is clear pool cover, with the bubble side up, I believe. Under the rafters is another layer of the bubble clear pool cover with bubbles up. The effect inside is almost of being underwater, with a very diffused light from above.

Hand pump to water barrel below table

The location of the greenhouse is right by my front porch, so I did want it to look nice. It was a perfect location, on the south side with great winter sun but shaded by oak trees from mid April to mid October. It is protected from the North by the house. My hope is that during the milder weather of fall, spring and winter, the greenhouse will actually provide more heat to the house than it takes out, thanks to the two windows and a window fan. During particularly cold spells, the house will hopefully keep everything safe in the greenhouse by sending back some of the heat it had been sharing. During summer, the house is not trying to cool the greenhouse temperatures. Experience so far shows that it only gets an hour of full sun during summer. It heats slower (due to water barrels?) and gets about 3 to 4 degrees warmer than outside shade.

Rain barrel

Across the back wall, the grow beds are 22 inches high and three foot wide, running the length of the greenhouse. Water is available from a frost free hydrant in the yard – but will seldom be needed. A rain barrel holds 50 gallons which is then piped into the greenhouse. A hose allows transfer of water to two more 50 gallon barrels under the table that will help moderate temperatures in the greenhouse as well as provide water for the work table. As you can see, an old fashion hand pump pulls water to the tabletop from the barrels below.

Ceiling and window fans

A shelving unit above the work table will hold grow flats, seedlings, and plants. Growing in this heat wave (114 in the shade and 117 in the greenhouse) is Malabar Spinach. They are the first plants, compliments of my friend Robin who has them growing all over her 'edible yard'. Also under the work table are storage shelves. The two water barrels are connected at the bottom, so if you fill one, you fill both. The floor is used carpet, making it easy to walk on and easy to replace as well as insulating the floor from the cold.

There are two windows into the home, one of which was just put in. In the picture of the ceiling fan, you will see the new window. A fan sits in that window to circulate air from the greenhouse into the home and vise-versa. In the same picture, you will see a grow light which can be lowered to be closer to the plants. Closer to you is the thermometer that records outside temps and greenhouse temps and keeps track of daily high and low temps in those locations. It is in that location so it can be read from inside the house to help keep track. The grow lights have a timer that can turn them on at dusk, or at a predetermined time, and turn them off at a set time. The ceiling fan provides light, air circulation and a nice cozy feeling.

The first question everyone asks is “What are you going to grow in there?” My answer is 'me'. It will allow me to be out in the sunshine even when days are too cold for my old bones. There are hooks above the door to attach a hammock. It turns out the hammock was too wide for the space, as they are designed for double occupancy. That problem was solved by cutting the boards a foot shorter on each end, bending them back underneath and screwing them to the remaining board. It was an easy fix and fits perfectly now over the aisle. I should be able to settle in with a good book in the sunshine when I'm not fiddling with plants.

OK, yes, I do plan on growing plants as well. I'm sure it will be a learning curve. But the folks over at gardenweb.com greenhouse forum will have lots of tips, no doubt. Its a pleasant way to spend a winter day with other folks who are interested in greenhouses. And yes, it really would be nice to pick ripe tomatoes and lovely greens for a salad all winter. I'm hoping to bring in some of the really cute little green frogs now living in my cucumber patch. In fact, I'm working on setting up a little pond for them, complete with cucumber vines. Wish me luck!!

Carol Klein 417 226-4540 oakcreek@olemac.net

Meet my friend, Dale Wagner. He's the person who brought my dreams of a greenhouse to reality. The greenhouse is attached to an addition Dale built onto our house 15 years ago.

November 16, 2011 What a difference three months make

Little green tomatoes!! Its about time to raise the lights again. The lettuce and cukes make a fine salad, but I can't wait for tomatos!