As we put the greenhouse to bed for the winter, I felt like looking back through the several years we have been (are are still) building it. 

...A lean-to greenhouse was in the plans for our barn from the get go. The greenhouse walls were part of the foundation.

... Putting the oak frame up took many weeks of cutting and fitting and cutting some more. We wanted it to be able to withstand any snowload.


...The first winter we covered it in plastic sheeting, which we stretched out and tacked on in the middle of a blizzard.

...The plastic was not very durable.


..We replaced it with polycarbonate panels.

..The next step was build the growing boxes. It got pretty warm in there on a sunny winter day.


..We watered the soil in preparation for planting by piling it with snow that would melt on sunny days.

..Our first crops included kale and carrots.

...Then tomatoes, but their foliage flourished much better than their fruit.

+...the new kale on Oct 19.

...O.K. We're going to let the greenhouse cool off and have a rest for a few months.

8 replies

  1. Oh boy! I don’t feel encouraged. I am sat in sunny Australia visiting my daughter, meanwhile our plastic covered polytunnel is back in Latvia and I understand they have had 40cm (16 inches) of snow. It would be a huge endeavour to cover it with polycarbonate but maybe over time we could.

    • Hi Joanna,
      Wishing your polytunnels in Latvia well!
      They say that the Eskimos have over a hundred words for snow.
      Recently someone said they guessed most of those were swear words.
      I tend to love each and every flake, but if it took down my greenhouse, I’d add a few swear words to my lexicon for snow.

  2. I’ve got my fingers crossed for your polytunnel, Joanna. The good news is snow tend to slide off our greenhouse, and I hope your tunnel too.
    The panels we used were made just about 30 miles from our land. they weren’t cheap. When Doug finishes teaching from the semester, I’ll ask him to write about the panels. They are working pretty well for us so far, but not without little problems on how to finish the cut ends.
    I was all for finding old storm windows and making it of glass, but Doug thought the polycarbonate would stand up better to hail (which we are getting more and more frequently here) and provide a bit of insulation.
    More about them soon.
    Enjoy Australia. My cross-the-street neighbor in town is from Australia.
    g day, mate!

    • Thanks Denise, enjoying the sunshine anyway and trying not to think too much about the polytunnel. At least we believe the main wooden structure will withstand the snow, it is the plastic we would be worried about unlike poor Dennis, that must have been awful.

  3. Well good for you and your greenhouse. My wife and I visited our grandsons for an early Christmas out in Colorado over the weekend. The media carried accounts of a major winter storm back here. We got back on Monday night, and Tuesday found that some 14 or so inches had fallen, and it did not all slide off my newly constructed hoophouse. In fact it settled nicely and destroyed it. I learned that 3/4-inch PVC pipe doesn’t work well to support snow loads. Instead of growing early crops next spring, I get to think about how to rebuild it, more sturdily.

    • Oh man, Dennis! What a let down, figuratively and literally.
      I remember one year when I was biking cross country (this was a few years ago) and we were camping in New Mexico in early November, and a snow dump flattened our tents, causing the rest of the night to be spent huddling in a brick out house. Shortly after that we decided not to bicycle through the mountains and changed the nature of our trip.
      I love snow but would be devastated by the damage you describe. I’m sorry to hear about it. Good luck with that rebuild. I’ll be interested to hear your next building materials and how they work out.

  4. Denise – I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the past couple days. A major project for this summer will be to build a wood-framed greenhouse covered with plastic firmly stapled to the 2x4s that can withstand the snow loads. No more messin’ around with toy hoophouses!

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