Tag Archives: greenhouse

Landscaping for a Cool Climate Greenhouse

It has been nearly a year since the 30-year-0ld greenhouse was relocated to its current, sunnier location, and it has taken me that long to get even halfway finished with the landscaping. Last year, employment took time away from my favorite hobby, but this year the limiting factor is my back, which is beginning to resent the grind of casting 42 sq ft of concrete path. I work about two squares at a time, working to wrap the walkway around the far side of the greenhouse past the oil tank.

The April 2014 photos show the addition of a sand/gravel path with water-worn bluestone. At .47 a lb and about 40 lbs each, the cost adds up fast, but it adds so much to the look. The clusters of rock on either side hold soil for the thyme and other creeping perennials that I’ve planted there. My goal is to have it look something like this:


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

My intent is to create a hardscape around the greenhouse that will absorb heat and reflect light. I purchased several large basalt rocks with unique shapes to stand at the end by the driveway; these have provided nice sitting places for the cats.

I’ve softened the look with a spreading privet honeysuckle that is durable and easy to grow, and marked the path entrance with a mugo pine. DSC_0450

A bell on a post will mark the other side.  On the barn end, a small green lawn will separate the concrete patio from the gate, which fits into a trellis structure I’ll show later when it looks more presentable. A fence will connect the trellis with the deck and inhibit deer movement.

 

The deck will snuggle up against a huge Douglas fir to provide a shady place to sit and overlook the adjacent field.

DSC_0426The ugly oil tank is here to stay, but I’ve left a gravel pad for easy access and removal should that ever come to pass. I hope to get my Virginia creeper to hang from a wire trellis over the thing to hide at least some of the color. Otherwise, I may try to paint it.

 

 

 

A gate will lead down through our new terrace garden, still in the planning stages but soon to be built if the RAIN EVER STOPS.

My goal is to complete both the greenhouse landscape and terracing by August if not sooner.

The guiding plan for the greenhouse portion:

Greenhouse plan, now about 75% complete

Landscaping in a Northwest Winter

This winter has been an exceptional one for much of the country, with sub-zero temperatures and heavy snows. Here in the PNW, however, we have had a rather typical winter of rain and wind with occasional dips into the 20′s. Now, as February creeps slowly by, the rain has increased and the ground has become so saturated that stepping off of the beaten path results in sinking up to the ankles in mud. Up until January, I have been diligently toiling at my greenhouse landscaping project, but now the weather has driven me indoors to ponder my landscape design business restart. The next major element – paving stones – must wait for higher temperatures and less rain, hopefully in March.

Before and after shots from September and December are encouraging:

  September -  bare ground with weeds    January – stone path completed with some plantings

I am waiting until March, when I anticipate the chance of a deep freeze to be much less, to put out the ground covers and grasses that will border the path. Selections include red thyme, woolly thyme, winter savory, and California fuschia (Zauschneria california). The piece of square metal visible just past the Mugo pine will hold one of several cordylines that will add a directional emphasis to the scene.  In the background is my revised deer fence, intended for beauty as much as functionality.

Below the greenhouse, the plan is for a terrace garden that will put to use a barren hillslope where my horses once roamed:

Using the rototiller, I’ll break about eight five-foot wide terraces into the slope, and line each with a 12″ wall of stone laid over landscape fabric so I can avoid the weedy disaster that plagued my earlier work.  Another stone wall will line either side to create a contained area for growing flowers, strawberries, and tomatoes, leaving a path to the side for access between greenhouse and garden.

The idea is consistent with my desire to apply permaculture principles to my landscaping by putting most of the open areas into production. The area between the barn and garden, though shady in the mornings, may provide enough light for some shrubs and dwarf fruit trees. The garden will produce most of our vegetables.  I’ve also added cherry and plum trees to the existing orchard and hope to add a few medlars as well. The key to success, and to some extent the bulk of the entire effort, will be keeping the deer away with hundreds of feet of fencing.

 

 

 

 

Greenhouse Landscaping

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The moving of the greenhouse has given me impetus for landscaping the scrappy area surrounding it. About 10 feet to the north was a functional but quite unbeautiful shed my father built flanking a 300 gallon diesel tank.  The site upon which the green house now sits was once as a parking area for his excavator. Now, I wanted to create a space that no longer required mowing (increasing the likelihood for a rock to go through the greenhouse glass),  and that was also low-maintenance and did not block the windows. Cost is always a consideration as well, and when I inventoried the materials that I could acquire most readily and cheaply, stone and logs were high on the list.

 

 My choice of a rock garden also serves another purpose. Light-colored rocks and gravel reflect sunlight back into the green house and absorb heat that can be re-radiated back after dark.

 

The area immediately adjacent to the greenhouse proved easiest to envision.

On the south side, I am planning a slate path surrounded by fine gravel and larger rocks arranged to form pockets within which grasses and creeping plants like thyme and phlox can be planted for texture and color. I particularly look forward to the addition of Zauschneria californica (formerly Epilobium cana) or California fuschia, a personal favorite of mine from my days in Southern California that I’d acquired on the cheap at a recent fall plant sale.

 

 

I wanted to create an attractive centerpiece within a compacted strip of soil about 10 ft x 10 ft between the east end of the greenhouse and the driveway. On a lark, I selected three flat basalt rocks and one taller, sharply angled stone from my local landscape supplier and arranged them in a group to invite sitting.  I lined the work with pieces of flat slate as a transition to the driveway, and to hold back the pea gravel I hauled in to surround the rock.  However, I needed a transition to the rock garden on the south side. As I pondered what it would look like, I began to consider the story that Asian-themed gardens tell using rocks and plants to simulate mountains and forests. Using the large basalt pieces as mountains, I used smaller, but similarly sharp rocks to emulate a tumble of jagged hills that would lead into the rounded river stones that I was using for the rock garden on the south side. A low conifer on the corner will suggest a forest, and provide a secondary focal point for entry into the path.

 

Transitioning from one flat open area to another has been difficult. Dividing space where there are currently no divisions has been difficult, particularly where the hard, compacted soil makes planting either fence or shrub nearly impossible. This has been the greatest challenge, in part because setting sills at ground level requires digging into soil that is like concrete.

 

The diesel tank and former shed are/were adjacent to a small grove of Douglas fir and madrone. I wanted to separate this area from the greenhouse and derived the idea of a dry stack stone wall from time spent in New England observing aged rock walls winding through the forest. I also visualized scenes of natural rock falls in the Cascade Mountains and Sierras, and environmental artist Andrew Goldsworthy’s ‘Storm King Wall’, which winds through a forest in the Hudson River Valley.  My wall, which is currently in the construction phases, is designed to emulate a roughly-stacked pile of rock and will be planted with brightly-hued autumn fern, lined with moss, and flanked with shiny masses of Oregon grape  (Mahonia aquifolium). Originally planned to be about 12 feet long, I am now considering its extension back into the Douglas fir grove as a way to draw the eye into the trees and invite exploration.

 

The front (west end) of the greenhouse will feature, for ease of maintenance, a hardscape walkway leading back to the driveway.  The serenity of the Douglas fir grove suggests a sitting area, so I will construct a small (12’ x 10’) deck that extends from the level of the diesel tank north. The diesel tank, at present unused, may one day be removed, so I’ll keep the area immediately around it as a gravel pad. Between that and the deck will be an area of bark and stone with low conifers and shrubs flanking a gate and fence that will transition into the agricultural areas, to be discussed later.

 

How to Move a Greenhouse


A New Start

I’ll take the moving of the green house May 2013 as the time that begin my drive to firm up my finances so that I could once again support my father and I without my having to work at my tedious job. It also symbolized a new willingness to take chances and make greater efforts to find my place in life, four years to the month that I returned from California and began this blog to document my efforts to create a 10 acre garden. I finally quit my job in early September, and found a new peace with myself and my search for fulfillment that remains somehow grounded with this territory that is now mine.

How Do You Move a Greenhouse?

This glass monument to new beginnings was originally erected behind the main house beneath towering Douglas firs. Over the 30 + years that the thing sat there, essentially unused, the trees grew to completely shade it. When I returned, I built planters and grew seedlings that, in the absence of enhanced light, grew tall and spindly. Basement tenants used it to store junk.

 

On the eve of the arrival of new tenants and my renovation of the entire house, I hired the same contractor that redid the deck to move the greenhouse. None of us knew quite what we were doing. The original idea was to jack up the 10′ x 17′ structure and move it, glass and all, on a low trailer.  This was later abandoned when we concurred that the twisting of the aluminum frame would shatter the glass. That, and the sheer weight of the glass would have made it unmanageable.

After a day spent removing glass, the contractor – a very lively 79-year-0ld – and his co-worker son used ladders and plastic pipe to alternately lift and roll the structure up onto a flatbed trailer.  The frame tended to twist and bend, in addition to being heavier than we’d imagined. Furthermore, the wheel wells of the trailer prevented the frame from sliding all the way to the front. The front end of the greenhouse began to sag down to the ground, door flapping, as we descended the first hill.

At the time, I had two real estate agents looking at the house. Together they, plus myself, jumped onto the tongue of the trailer while the son walked behind to hold up the end. We proceeded this way at about 3 mph over the 1,000 ft distance to the top of the hill and the sunniest place on the property.

The old foundation was a brick patio with low cement walls. The new one is made of 4×4′s upon which the frame now sits. I am now in the process of installing a brick floor over sand. Most of the brick was free; the rest I had to buy at a local used materials yard for .50 each. Most of the glass survived the removal, but quite a bit of it did not survive my clumsy efforts to relocate it by wheelbarrow (you’d be amazed how much the stuff weighs – I’d say the glass alone was at least 1,000 lbs).

The contractor loves this greenhouse! He figured it was cheaper to move it (about $1,800 including replacement glass, 4×4′s and brick) than to buy a new one of the same quality. It appears to have been custom made, which has proven to make reconstruction slow as we hunt about for the correct size of aluminum strip to fit over the edge of each glass panel. The son started out labeling the glass panes with tape, but it turns out that all of the panels are interchangeable and have been merciful cut to even sizes with no fractions of an inch.

I’ve got about 15 panels left to replace, some of which I will attempt to cut on my own.

The electrical system once powered fans and a heater, but my father abandoned these long ago and they have rusted beyond repair. I’m looking into the possibility of solar fans, and a cheaper way to heat it than electricity.

 

 

 

The Design Possibilities

This is my new start at marketing landscape designs. I want to integrate the greenhouse into a larger scale design that compliments its straight, clean lines. In other words, the structure demands a level of uniformity that I’ve not yet achieved in my free-flowing, more naturalistic designs. Plus I’m seeking more enduring solutions to reducing weeds, which take up much of my time to control at the moment.  Considerations include cement or brick extensions along the sides that will reduce mud and weeds, and allow the placement of outside planters. Grass strips and a more formal pathway to the barn will also create a sense of formality and organized progression from one part of the garden to the other.

And the frame over the oil tank will have to go. Sorry Dad. They call it progress.