Another epic adventure tale from our beloved Ozark Hillbilly:
Before GH: I first built this raised platform in 2016 or 2017. I had dreams of building the greatest and most luxurious greenhouse the world has ever seen, but my eyes were bigger than my budget. Every time I was getting close to having the money for phase one, something would happen and I’d have to use that money for something else. sigh…
This past fall I was in one our farm supply stores in town and I espied some greenhouse kits and the price for the 10×16 one was a very reasonable $170, Probably too reasonable, so I wondered how long the fabric and frame would last. Looking at the price again I took the plunge. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and I wanted my fresh greens in winter, not what they sell at Wally world.
Getting started: The first thing I had to do was rake the gravel level as it had settled quite a bit more on the high side than it had on the low. It was a real pain because the 1/2 barrel planters had to be moved around so I could access the whole platform one section at a time. Once that was done I went about setting the front and right side beams to build the frame atop of. To set them in place I drove 2 2′ long 1/2″ rebar at an angle every 2′. The rebar went into the gravel with very little resistance and I thought to myself, “Hope we don’t have a Derecho any time soon.”
Hoopty Do: The frame went up fairly easily with only a glitch or three.
Coming Together: Getting the fabric over the frame by myself was a pain, especially as the wind was variable and it got partially blown off a time or two. I could have waited for a calmer day but I was impatient and really wanted to see it all put together.
That being done, I moved the half barrel planters to their final locations along the southern side and set the full barrels along the northern side for a heat sink.
A Visitor: One day while working on this project I had a visitor to my lumber pile. She was every bit of 6′ long and somewhat torpid from the meal she was digesting (the 2 lumps about midway down her body).
I had known she was around as I had found a skin she had shed, and from it I knew she was a long one, but couldn’t say how long. She’s the longest black snake I have ever found. May she live long and prosper on my many varmints.
GH After:The finished project. To hold the sides in place, I ended up screwing 1x2s into the beams over the plastic to hold the sides and West end in place. On the East end I used sandbags, so I could pull them out of the way to enter.
Top photo: The mostly finished interior with the planters on the left, the heat sink on the right with 3 2x8s for a counter top, and my starter table at the far end. I have a space heater in their that I only use during extended periods of below freezing weather and so far I have only found a thin layer of ice in the water barrel once. The heat sink does the job 90% of the time. I am not yet done fine tuning the arranging of things and I probably never will be.
Spinach: Spinach was the first thing to come up. I now have many lechugas [lettuces] and cabbages growing, and have just started some radishes and carrots as well as some basil. Nothing like fresh basil.
I’m trying to order some seedling plugs from Select Seeds, but their order form is not cooperating. Murphy grant this isn’t an omen of the upcoming season!
What’s going on in your garden (planning / memories / indoor), this week?
Looks like the world’s greatest greenhouse to me.
Click on the snake pic to see the full glory of her. Definitely worth the time.
You ain’t kidding. Wow. 🐍
Wonderful pics and greenhouse and snake. Can you explain what the heat sink does and how you set it up?
I am curious about the foundation. I have a slopey part of my backyard that would be perfect except for its slope. You seemed to have solved the problem.
@OzarkHillbilly: I am so envious! Wonderful job, but I am not sure I understand the heat sink technique.
Our select seeds seed order came last week. Itching to get started.
We have corn and black snakes that over winter in our compost bins. Luckily for them the mice do too and when they wake up in spring they usually don’t have to look very far for that first meal.
@OzarkHillbilly: Wow on snake pic. It’s so long!
And very impressive greenhouse. May your harvests be bountiful.
That looks great. I love the barrel planters. so much easier to control than std beds. please post updates
Nice- does the house-side hose coupling freeze in the winter though unless you unhook?
That is very cool. I’d love to see more pictures of how the plants grew later on!
@evap: The water in the barrels heats up from the sun during the day (if it is sunny) and slowly releases that heat into the space at night, keeping the temperature above freezing. This works well as long as you don’t have too many cloudy days in succession.
A heat sink is any object/structure that absorbs heat from the sun during the day and releases the heat at night. In this case, I painted the barrels black and filled them with water. During the cold spells they release more than enough heat to keep things above freezing most of the time. I run the space heater from 8PM till 4AM more out of paranoia than anything else.
@sab: I used treated 6×6’s. Starting at the low side, I laid them level and drove 1/2 ” rebar at opposing angles every 2′, and built up from there spiking the 6x6s together. I had to put a few sleepers in to keep the taller side in place. Than I I got 10 yds of gravel to fill it (and a few other things) using a skid loader because doing it wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow would have been akin to suicide.
Also, before I began building the structure I rented a chain trencher to bury the water line and the electric.
It was a lot of work. That kind of project is best done in pieces. Set a couple 6x6s and be happy, knowing you are one step closer to the finish line
I started parsley (a lot- I eat parsley like other people eat lettuce) and snapdragons – the big snapdragons for cutting. I have 5 different Sweet Pea varieties which I will start indoors later because my spring is too short for them so they need a head start. I’m obsessed with Sweet Peas. They don’t really grow well here but I have been trying for 20 years so have gotten better at it.
I use old heating pads (under trays on low) and an ordinary shop light once they’re up for seedlings. I prop the shop lights on bricks and add bricks as they grow then take the whole thing down in May and get the mudroom back :)
Wow! Congratulations on the gorgeous new greenhouse, Ozark Hillbilly. And I look forward to seeing more pictures of your produce as the year goes on.
@OzarkHillbilly: Oh wow. What a queen.
Good Morning, Everyone😊😊😊
That is one fine-looking greenhouse! May your spinach and other greens thrive right now.
@Kay: My original plan was to run a water line thru the crawl space under our bedroom (above insulation in the floor joists with heat tape on the the line where it exited the foundation and connected to the buried line (2′ deep, our frost line is at 30″ so not enough for the coldest times). As is I use a hose running from the hose bib on the other side of the house and connect it to the buried line. For winters I disconnect it and let the lines drain out (I have a hose bib on the far side of the base, handy for the chickens). I used to blow the lines out but now that I have the green house on top I don’t have to worry about any residual water in that part of the line freezing.
My tulips (in planters) are coming up, and overnight frost will come in this week. So I covered them up with an old net curtain and felt a sense of achievement. Now it doesn’t feel quite so significant :-)
@OzarkHillbilly: She is beautiful. My FIL, from Macon, MO, was terrified of black snakes. Per family story, as a child he was chased across a hay field by one.
The clivias came up from cold front room in the basement yesterday. Soaked them. Now I wait to see if they will flower.
I may unwrap the pot of 20 tulips this week. Had thought about doing it mid January then the first Arctic blast came through. The second blast is on its way out today. It might be safe to unwrap them. I had lifted the newspaper covering them to see if they were up a month ago. They were up. Think they can handle any further cold weather.
Wow! Very impressive greenhouse. Thanks for sharing the photos.
Thanks. I read your longer explanation in another comment and realize the set up is much more of a permanent structure than I thought. You will have a ball with that.
I’m in discussions with my middle son for him to build me a little greenhouse on a Michigan property I’m slowly moving to and he dismissed my “heat sink” idea – but he’s part of Big Electric :)
I’m thilled you get 90% + freezing with no power used. He has to give me a heat sink.
@OzarkHillbilly: I wonder if you painted the barrels black if they’d absorb enough extra heat to put the space heater out of business. I read that it helps a lot.
@MagdaInBlack: Heh, I once got “chased” by a very large, dark skinned snake but it wasn’t a black snake, much too thick in the body for a black snake. 3-4′ long and about as thick as my fore arm. I was fishing at a lake and it came right at me from the water. I fended it off 3 or 4 times but finally gave up and moved down shore. Very un-snake like behavior. Maybe it had a nest in that location and was defending it (iirc gators do that).
The only truly aggressive snake I’ve ever come across are water moccasins. They are the kings/queens of the waterways and they know it. This one was not a pit viper.
@Kay: They are worth the trouble. Free energy, what’s not to like?
@Peter: If you look at the top picture, I did paint them black. ;-)
What time is it? It’s Tracey Ullman time.
@NotMax: Here I thought it was Rolling Stones time.
Now I’ve watched the click I see you think so too.
Looks great OH! I’m a bit envious 😉
I didn’t get my porch /winter greenhouse enclosed in time this year, but I’ll have the cover rails installed and will use them for mosquito netting this summer. In the fall I’ll replace the netting with the greenhouse film. I’ll probably have to use a heater for the coldest weather since it’s only in sun about 1/2 the day in winter, but it should offer enough protection for the potted roses and other plants, plus allow me to grow the cold weather crops.
Still cracks me up they went all in, to the point of painting the individual grapes in the fruit bowl.
@NotMax: I caught that, too funny.
@Kay: I’m very familiar with my “hippie earth mother” ideas like this being dismissed. I do them anyway and surprise surprise, they work. Do it 😊
I am always impressed by your efforts! LOVE the heat sink.
If I manage to throw some shade-tolerant seeds into the planters on the back (north-facing) porch I call it a win, for outdoor gardening. Indoors, I have a bunch of stuff that doesn’t need a lot of fussing (except the rosemary, which can go from happy and alive to dead-dead-dead in no time). I did manage to start two new rosemary plants from cuttings, and I have a bean plant, from one of my Rancho Gordo beans. I have no clue what I planted, but it’s still growing. I have 6 massive aloe plants, and 6 or so spider plants that are completely pot-bound (I’d split them up but have no takers) along with other random stragglers from various rescues over the years.
Because I lived not terribly far away and had access to transportation, was assigned, for extra credit, to take care of the greenhouse in my high school during school breaks (summer excepted). Also had carte blanche to skip out on certain classes whenever in order to putter around in there.
He thinks they would be “messy” and “leaky” but I would put them under the bench just like Ozark did.
I was a bit surprised that so many on here weren’t familiar with the idea. Thermal mass in passive solar structures was a big thing back in the 70s and 80s. The idea lost appeal and fell out of favor? I can’t see why.
What do you fill your planters with?
And what do you think Ms Snake ate? Mice? voles?
@Kay: Another option is to use dark pavers as a floor. Anything with a lot of mass which will absorb the solar energy and slowly release it during the night. “Thermal inertia”.
@Spanky: I don’t think it lost favor, I just think people don’t think about passive vs. active solar as much.
I assume, from the white chin, that’s a black racer…?
@satby: And my totally ignorant guess is that because of global warming everybody’s focus is on keeping cool. Which is my focus here too!
Except in February. :^(
@Kay: @kalakal: By the by, I got the barrels really cheap thru Craig’s List. You have to be careful to buy food grade barrels if you are going to turn them into planters as I did. For the heat sink it doesn’t matter.
OT: After my Amtrak adventures visiting my friend in the Sierra foothillls, I’m now figuring out where else to go. I bought the US rail pass the last day it was on sale, so I have 10 rides to use over a 30 day period before May 19th. Plus a voucher good for a year Amtrak gave me for the extremely delayed train. Right now considering the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls… both of which I’ve only seen from the air. That would still leave me with 4 rides. Oh, and the Empire Builder to Seattle! Still two rides left after that (assuming I leave from Chicago for all but the eastbound one). Too many choices!
@satby: A friend uses wine bottles in his kitchen window as a heat sink; it’s impressively effective, for such a small space as a windowsill.
I can’t see why.
The Whole Earth Catalog went out of print?
@NotMax: They sold out, man!
@narya: The entire southern exposure of my dark brick house acts as a heat sink for the garden beds I planted on that side. Even uncovered everything there comes up a couple of weeks before the rest of my yard. It’s a separate growing zone of its own.
@MelissaM: Holes in the bottoms for drainage (because I had them outside at first) with a layer of large gravel on the bottom, a piece of weed fabric, then about a foot of compost (I can get it for free in Washington) with top soil on top to finish it off. Next year I will mix some more compost into the top soil.
as to what the snake would eat, mice, voles, rats, chipmunks, anything she can get her mouth around. They can dislocate their lower jaw for larger prey.
@tybee: I don’t know, I’m not a snake guy. I can identify most of our local snakes but there are considerable holes in my knowledge. It could be a black racer but I looked up black rat snakes and they have a white chin too. shrug Your guess is as good or better than mine.
Ever see a rat snake climb a tree? Impressive. And pretty damned fast too.
@NotMax: I was a reader of “Mother Earth News” and the like, and Mother Earth is still around. I think Kays son thinking it was “messy” plays a part. Unconventional = messy, or so some folks seem to think.
I want a floor that drains, so I was thinking I would use those smooth, black landscape “river stones” rather than gravel. It’s only going to be 6 x 9 so I can spend a little.
I started out thinking I would buy it used – I like the idea of re-using one that isn’t being used – but takng it apart and trucking it to the site is a PITA, so he’s looking at new kits.
@satby: STL city is almost all brick masonry. (a big fire way back when burned half the damned town and a law was passed mandating brick. now repealed) It takes a long time for the sultry summer air to cool down at night.
Revival of Sweeney Todd opens on Broadway soon.
Also Camelot with an updated book by Adam Sorkin.
So did Myrna Loy.
Linky absent. Fix.
So did Myrna Loy.
@satby: Nice! When I was looking to buy a place, I specified that it must have a substantial southern exposure (in Chicago, that means north side of the street).
“A nice stone floor that won’t be wet with flowers and things”- exactly right. Now I need a flower sink, though.
@NotMax: Ha! Great movie!
@NotMax: I do love NYC!
@Kay: Michigan is quite a bit further north than Missouri so they probably won’t provide passive heat for as much of the day or as early in the season but it still seems like it would be worth doing.
I agree. It is colder than Missouri though, especially where I’m putting it. I have to think about snow load, too, NW Michigan gets at least one really heavy snow a winter (feet, not inches) although it should melt quite fast because I’ll have a pitched roof and if the interior is warmer…
It’s been fun to plan.
Wow, that’s one magnificent greenhouse! Lots of thought into the design and construction. So impressive.
@satby: Mass equals take up room. Costs more money to have more land OR have less space to live and or store stuff. I used to think we all bought to much stuff. I still think most people do, but I have gotten tired of buying tools or supplies, and then having to buy them again a few years later or even months. When you get old, time seems to go by faster and you are always having to fix something again so I need to put things away to save money.
Solar heat using our roofs has lasted because we don’t need that space, but the passive heat using bare floors without much furniture that I remember being discussed, few people lived like that.
OH, that looks terrific! What a wonderful place to pot(ter) around in :)
@Kay: When we got that wet heavy snow I went out and knocked the snow off the greenhouse. May have been unnecessary but I wasn’t taking any chances.
McMansions used to come with large utility sinks and areas where dogs could be hosed off — do you mean something like that?
@CaseyL: Heh, thanx for the chuckle. And the compliment.
Mud rooms were de rigueur at one time, also too.
Quonset is what professional growers use, but you knew that :)
In the 70s in Southern Arizona my folks purchased a tract home lot from a builder. Flat roof, pea gravel on top, evaporative cooler, car port. They later added a house length open porch facing south. They got to pick the floor plan and the brick, along with other choices There were a lot of the usual choices, but they selected adobe.
The adobe bricks were significantly larger/wider than any of the other choices. That thermal mass did a decent job all year around.
Getting ready to start my tomato seeds (so far the only thing I’ve decided on). Bought three new types, all new to me AAS winners: Pink Delicious, Chef’s Choice Orange, and Sunset Torch cherry tomatoes. May also try starting some of last year’s seeds though I expect less germination. And I have a lot of Canna Lilly seeds to start too.
I have an older house with a mudroom with a huge sink which I love and use for everything. They built it during WWII and there were material shortages so a lot of it is mismatched, or so the guy who refinsihed the floors told me. It was a fancy house at the time but now it’s smaller than a lot of new houses.
The family who built it had twins – they’re still in town, they manufacture furnaces- and it has this wild giant bedroom, with two built in desks and two matching closets. It was my youngest child’s room and he must have always felt like he was missing the other person :)
I love how people in those days put the kids as far away as they POSSIBLY COULD. They gave them their own floor. It was like “DON’T bother us, we’re busy”
@Kay: Yeah, and I looked at it but it costs a wee bit more than this one did. ;-)
@OzarkHillbilly: I like your greenhouse, and I love the heat sink. I would have loved to try it but I don’t think we get enough sun during the winter for it to work. Gray skies are the norm here, just outside Seattle.
It’s been warm enough that I’m wondering if we’re done with snow until next winter, and the seed catalogs are making me twitch because I should have gotten my orders in last month. Warmish, I should say; high 30s for the overnight lows.
Right. Yours is wonderful. I’ve been thinking about it for ten years. I watched this whole you tube series on a woman who built one from old windows BUT she did not think about how heavy windows are and it collapsed. I still think about her. What a goddamned HERO hobbyist. A++++ for effort :)
I had tossed some of last year’s spinach and radish seeds into the large self watering pots I was storing in the garage a few weeks ago. I decided to try it because the geranium I’ve stored in there has stayed looking quite good, but the seedlings were looking leggy so the 4 pots went outside yesterday; I guess the sun through the garage door windows wasn’t enough. I built a low grow tunnel over the pots, one layer of sheer curtains, then a double layer of row cover fabric, and they are near a fence so out of the wind and in the sun from sunrise until late afternoon. Only two pots are planted so the empty ones are on the end of the row as thermal mass.
I’ve been reading the book Grow a Little Fruit Tree and I want to remove the out of control nectarine that is huge, always blooms weeks too early so every bloom freezes, plus the trunk is splitting and has no bark on 1/3 of it from some damage that apparently happened years ago. I’ve been getting my husband to read the book too and I thought he’s be on board, but he likes the nectarine just as a tree and is opposed. I am frustrated since I do 100% of all the gardening, landscaping, maintenance of it all. Maybe “pissed off” is a better description because it is now too late to get the bare root trees I wanted because they are sold out, and to make a Little Fruit Tree you need that size and the courage to aggressively prune it when you plant it, so I’ve missed an entire growing season. Now I’m thinking about cutting it down anyway and building a robust grape arbor close to the fence, and saving space to grow two little fruit trees in front of it next year.
@opiejeanne: Go ahead and try a greenhouse if you want. Seattle height here and we’ve multiple (at least 6) greenhouses on the street, of various levels of complexity. Certainly the ones with solid wall heat sinks or with a bit of augmented heating are good to go all winter. I’m less sure about the little Walmart plastic ones but that’s also because those households just stop gardening over winter. And I know some of the nearby farmers use poly-tunnels — in very early spring for sure,
I think they’ve already started their seedlings for later sale going, plus some of the more tender greens.
In other news, my being forced into being dairy-free by developing an apparent allergy with age led to my LDL ( “bad cholesterol) dropping 40 points in 5 months, HDL (good) going up 10 points. Maybe becoming allergic to dairy wasn’t such a bad thing, plus the migraines that were becoming a problem again basically stopped.
It looks similar to the material we had for a very small (3x4X6) starter “greenhouse”. that lasted 2-3 years. The zipper closures were the first to fail I believe. We still have the racks inside a Harbor Freight 6×8 kit
The kit is cold in winter and blazing hot in summer, hot enough to wilt or kill plants so it has to be vented during the day. We use bed warmer hot pads for starts in the early spring.
@OzarkHillbilly: reading comprehension! I plead Sunday morning blurriness.
Well shit, the dog park has me off and running on Sunday mornings now and I missed this. Awesome work dude!
Reverse tool order
Those 55 gallon blue food grade drums only have the two bung openings in the top. The material is rather thick polyethylene, so pretty tough and durable. So, upright, not leaky or messy.
Look up “Trombe Wall” for more on thermal mass and passive solar heating/cooling.
One of the drum bung openings is standard 2 inch tapered pipe thread & the included bung often has 3/4 inch pipe thread. If you want to have an opening out the bottom or low on the side, you can mount a “tank adapter” of any size that fits thru the bung opening.
There is a subset of tank adapters especially useful in these drums for yard & garden, the “evaporative cooler drain” (in brass or nylon). The external threads are 3/4 inch garden hose, so any female threaded garden hose fitting fits, including drip hose systems. You probably will need an extra hose washer because the threads beyond the drum wall and locknut are short. Examples: Dial 9225, 9229, 9205, 9209. At least regionally in northern California, Thrifco Plumbing 719-T, 4400713.
The trick to easily getting the tank adapter thru the hole from the inside is to first put a stiff wire or small tubing in from the bung and poking out of the mounting hole, then slide the adapter down over that. Put the locknut on your little finger and hold the adapter from the inside.
J R in WV
We were cutting brush across the back of the farm to build a fence to keep livestock in, was many years ago. We were taking the lunch break sitting in the shade up on the ridge, when I noticed a really big black snake up on a big sourwood tree, or some such, had really big craggy bark with big crevices, in which big snake was lurking.
Snake was inches from a newly excavated cavity in the tree, patiently waiting for someone, anyone to come out or go in to that cavity. We watched closely while we ate lunch, then walked back into the brush to keep hacking. We have a ton of black snakes on the place, I’ve never seen a copperhead locally, as black snakes predate copperheads really well. One more reason to collect black snakes and let them out on the place.
After we closed the new house up, we had a black snake living in the floor/walls, which we suspected for a while, when a friend handyman was working downstairs in the basement and found a shed skin on top of an AC duct. It was 66 inches long, and the resident biologist tells us a shed skin shrinks quite a bit. He ID’ed the snake from the scale pattern of the shed skin, which I still have, draped over a framed topo sheet of the state.
Another time years ago I was picking up tarps which had been laid against the shop footer, and found dozens of tiny ring-necked black snakes coiled up together under the tarps. 6-8 in each little bundle. It was cold enough I could just pick them up, I put them under the bush-hog. Probably a couple of dozen all together. About the size of a ball point pen at that point in their very young lives.
It’s funny — I’ve always admired and liked non-poisonous snakes, but my brother has always been terrified of them — he’s a sincere RWNJ also too, so go figure.
@OzarkHillbilly: It might just be the angle of the pic but it looks to me like she already got herself some varmint! I think I see a distended belly there performing some slow digestion. She is an undeniable beaut!
J R in WV
Glad to see I’m not the only serpent admirer on the place.
Was staying at a state park lodge for a business meeting, again years ago, and my room was ground level with a tiny patio outdoors, While standing at the elevator bank, I noticed a single tiny ring-neck blacksnake on the floor, again, ballpoint pen sized baby. I picked the little guy up, went to my room, out onto the patio, and across the steep lawn into the woods to set baby sneke free. A good deed for that day.
Wonderful park, lots of great geology and scenic beauty.
Pipestem State Park, FYI.
Late but wanted to answer:
@Yutsano: Yes, 2 of them in fact.
@J R in WV: Black snakes and garter snakes are my most common. I have found a speckled king snake and a milk snake (beautiful!) too. I get copperheads from time to time. I just catch them and relocate them to the conservation area down the road. No timber rattlers, yet. I have a shed snake skin draped over a box of “nature objects” on my wall too. I didn’t know they shrank after shedding.
@raven: Better late than never!
smedley the uncertain
@Michael Bersin: WE owned one of those made out of slump block with a BUG roof and a swamp cooler for air conditioning. We were contemplating straw bale construction for a retirement place. Helped friends build a few. Lots of Mother earth and Whole earth catalog ideas
@OzarkHillbilly: Wish we had room for a greenhouse, but it is suburbia. Yours looks great, enjoy!
@Kay: Late back to this thread. When we sold my parents huge house built in 1920 we left behind a complete collection of the original storm windows in the basement ( 20 windows and 6 doors, all wood frames with glass.) Under the contract we weren’t allowed to take anything like that with us.
They knocked the whole house down and salvaged nothing. I could have really used those storm windows had I known.