I’ve always dreamed of having my own home garden greenhouse but there never seemed to be a sensible space to put one. And I didn’t really have the available time or money to justify getting one. I have tried various smaller or more temporary solutions over the years with varying degrees of success. Just recently the stars have aligned and I am the proud owner of a new greenhouse that is perfect for my space.
Over the years I have tried a range of different solutions:
A plastic bag over individual plants as a temporary solution when I took cuttings for example. A plastic cloche for a few plants or a mini-version for seed raising. You can of course make your own cloche by draping plastic over hoops or a frame of some sort. Or if you want something more permanent, you can buy or make a cold frame: I’ve seen some ingenious ones made from a few bricks with an old window on top.
Then I found a tiny plastic greenhouse that fit perfectly in the space beside my shed. There are different versions with different numbers of shelves. I used mine regularly for growing on cuttings and especially in spring when I put all my tender tomatoes, capsicum and eggplant in there to await the annual Labour Weekend vegetable garden planting (or a bit longer if it was a particularly cold season). The main problem with this greenhouse however was that it really only lasted a season, or perhaps two if you were lucky. I tried to get replacement plastic covers but there weren’t any available. One year the friendly garden centre manager managed to get me a replacement for free because my latest version had deteriorated so quickly – then they stopped stocking them. (I have seen them recently at The Warehouse if you have a space protected from the elements or have a short term need).
The next step was to see if I could find something of a similar size that would be a bit more durable. After hours of searching for small greenhouses, and discovering that for most this meant a 6ft x 8ft (1.8m x 2.4m) glasshouse, I managed to find a polycarbonate version on Trade Me that seemed an absolutely perfect size for my space. The price included delivery from Australia and it arrived really promptly. Although it came with assembly instructions and I’m usually pretty good with this sort of DIY, it took me several hours of trial and error to get it assembled correctly. And I never could get the screws that held the shelves up to tighten enough to actually hold them up. This was the last thing in the assembly and it was very hard to reach inside to tighten them. I persevered for a while with this glasshouse but, as the shelves slid down as soon as I put anything more substantial on them than a couple of small pots, I got increasingly frustrated with it. I’m thinking now perhaps I could find a space in the garden to turn it on it’s back and use it as a cold frame instead.
Over the summer holidays I was tidying a spot in the garden where a few trees had recently gone ‘to the big orchard in the sky’ and suddenly thought “this could be a greenhouse sized space!” I decided that that was a bad idea after all because the space was too far away from my shed where all the tools were and I knew that would limit my use of it. But it had got me thinking! I started searching online for different greenhouses and eventually found a neat little 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9m ecogrow greenhouse that I thought would suit me (and my budget) just fine. Now where could I put it?! After wandering around my sloping back garden with a tape measure for a while I hatched a cunning plan: if I sacrificed the camellia next to my shed I thought I could just about squeeze a greenhouse in the space without having to remove my magnolia as well. Although the magnolia would partly shade the greenhouse, I figured that most people put shade cloth or paint over their greenhouses in summer anyway and the magnolia would lose its leaves in winter so perhaps it would be perfect.
Now I just needed to see one. But of course Edenlite is based in Mosgiel and the places in Auckland that you could see their glasshouses only had big versions. I rang and spoke to Tony who is the new owner of the company; he was coming to Auckland the next week and would come out to see the site and answer all my questions. The upshot of that was that I have bought a greenhouse and they had someone who could come in and prepare the site: remove the camellia, pour a concrete base, and assemble the greenhouse for me. You can assemble it yourself if you want to and you can just have a bare earth floor (or anything else) if you want; my site is sloping so a level pad had to be created and concrete is easy to just hose down.
The very wet summer we’ve had this year meant that the installation process took a bit longer than expected. It also followed a different sequence than I expected: I was very surprised to come home one day and find my greenhouse erected on the back lawn under the plum tree but nothing else done. But my greenhouse is now set up neatly beside my shed ready to use and the fun part of working out how to set it up and what to grow in there begins.