From the dirt to our plate; the trials and realities of first-time farm ownership

Alas, Greenhouse Construction!

Let me be frank here…I have been waiting nearly 6 months to put up this Palram Bella Greenhouse and I’m overjoyed! Purchased this past fall, I knew the wait would be a long one and as winters go, this one WAS lengthy.

It may be too late in the season to find much success with seed starts, but the greenhouse will be a great way to extend the season. In North Dakota, summers seem like they are only 3 months long while winter takes up the remaining 9 months. That makes using a greenhouse for this purpose, make perfect sense!

While my husband and I went back and fourth on the greenhouse location, we knew we had four important factors to take into account. We had to consider the wind exposure, soil, year-round sun exposure and access to water. If we got any one of these things wrong, we knew in the end we wouldn’t have a greenhouse that functioned the way we had hoped.

Wind exposure was perhaps one of the things that bothered me the most. Winter blizzards, springtime southern winds and generally strong North Dakota gusts were nothing to fool around with! Not to mention the snow drifts left behind which would ultimately restrict early spring access.

We had the space to allow appropriate sun, we had multiple water spigots throughout the property and our soil was good. Wind…was the determining factor for the final placement. That, and the fact the location had previously been dug up to relocate a water spigot closer to the garden. My husband was relieved to not have to dig up any more of the lawn.

For many kit greenhouses it is recommended they be placed on a cement or raised wood foundation. In our case, we wanted to plant directly into the soil which made securing the greenhouse a little tricky.

Because the Palram Greenhouse, Bella model, had curved sides (better to withstand wind) we could not anchor it down with regular cable-to-ground anchors. We were forced to improvise. Treated lumber attached underneath the aluminum base frame kept the foundation rigid. 15-inch, eye hook, ratchet-style anchors were run through the wood to secure everything to the ground. The eye hooks would also do double duty to secure hanging or climbing plants within the greenhouse.

It took a while to get going and the process definitely required two people. My husband and I found that bolt holes where the ribs attach to the horizontal side supports were somewhat confusing. Unfortunately, the ALL ILLUSTRATION instructions didn’t help much when it came to the fine details. We found it best to measure the distance between the ribs to be sure we had things in their proper place in order to slide in the polycarbonate panels.

For the most part, the construction went smoothly. I chose to install all my vents on the protected north side of the structure. The winds from the south and east can be brutal on our property so planning ahead was essential once again.

Inside, things took shape rather quickly. Over time more soil will have to be added, but knowing I would have a center walkway, the existing soil was adequate for the time being.

I also managed to dig a small trench to run a pvc pipe from the spigot 14-ft away into the greenhouse. I simply ran my hose through the pipe and into the greenhouse. This will allow me leave the hose attached to the spigot, even when it’s time to mow. During the cold months, I’ll remove the hose and reinsert it when spring arrives.

Once the greenhouse was together, everything felt sturdy. The space heated up quickly and I began placing plants into the ground. Bags of soil were added to my Garden Tower Project revolving planter, store bought starts were brought in and potted plants followed.

Artichokes are big space hogs but they enjoy the heat. I’m hoping the extended growing season within the greenhouse might allow us to harvest a few artichokes before the ground freezes.

In-ground planting is essentially one big experiment. During the summer, greenhouse growing can be difficult due to the high temperatures. Growing our own seed starts will be where we see the payoff next season.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this Palram Bella 8ft x 20ft greenhouse. Exploring it’s functionality over the past week, I am noticing a few things I’d like to adjust before next spring.

Door Security – The main doors swing open and have magnets which hold them into place. Unfortunately, here in windy North Dakota, those magnets are just not strong enough to keep the doors from slamming shut. I may look at adding a hook-and-eye type system to secure the doors where I want them.

Vent Arms – The 4 plastic vent arms that came with my kit work but I fear its only a matter of time before they break. I may be wrong, but only time and the winds will tell.

End Vent – Partly because I chose to put all my vents on the protected side of the greenhouse, there isn’t much airflow from one end of the greenhouse to the other. A louvered end vent may have to be added to achieve the summertime cross breeze I require.

Shade Cloth – Imperative! Low airflow combined with the long side of my greenhouse facing south, shade is needed to cool down the space. This is one installation goal that will take place ASAP!

Side Mounted Shelving – When it comes time to start seeds, side mounted shelving will keep the ground free for other things. Kits can be purchased specifically for this greenhouse and I may save up to add them before winter hits so I’m ready for next spring.

Plant Hangers – Adjustable rope and ratchet type hangers will add more functionality to the space. Hanging planters would fit perfectly over the wasted walkway area in the center of the greenhouse.

A Better Plan – Summertime growing is HOT HOT HOT. Next season, I need to devise a better plan for things which can endure the heat as well as may require extra in-ground maturation time.

Misting System – I’ve already found that humidity levels can fluctuate dramatically. Installing an inexpensive misting system that I can hook up to a hose will not only boost my humidity when needed, it will serve to cool the space down.

Simple Containment Walls – This would help keep the bulk of the dirt where its needed – IN the planting spaces – not in the walkway. Multi-piece, plastic flower bed border would work well enough for this use.

So, there you have it. The long awaited greenhouse has arrived! Perhaps it’s time to start stocking up on seed starting flats so I have them for next year. Maybe I’ll even find them at a discount?!

CHECK OUT MY POST ON HOW WE CHOSE THIS GREENHOUSE!

#LifeOn25Acres

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