Friday, November 6, 2009

Our New Hothouse

For many years we have been intending to build a hot house. Up till now we have made do with plastic bags and bottles over seed trays and we have kept vulnerable plants in the house during cold spells. But now we can look after our more sensitive plants in style- in our brand new hot house. Well it’s new in that it has just been erected, but in fact it is actually quite old as it is made from reused materials that we have gathered from a variety of sources.

The hardest part was levelling the site. It didn’t look much work when it was staked out, but it took 2 full days to cut the area level, and drag over logs to make a retaining wall for where the ground has been built up. The photo shows our Heather and our friend Ilya helping us do the lifting of the wall frames.

The walls came from an old poultry farm and have sheet metal on their lower half and wire netting fabric on their upper half. We used old recycled timber to build the frame for the roof, and the doorway. Covering the whole lot is solar weave plastic.

We have chosen this type of structure because we had most of the materials on hand. It also enables us to make the hothouse rabbit and snake proof (the hot conditions could be very attractive to our reptile friends). Having the metal part at ground level is advantageous because this is the area most vulnerable to damage from tools, mowers etc.

We’ve connected the plastic in such a way as to be able to roll up the sides so we can moderate temperatures as the weather warms up. In summer we will take the plastic right off so plants can keep growing without being “cooked”. This should also extend the life of the plastic.

The hothouse is quite big, measuring 3.6m x 7.2m and enables us to use it for a variety of purposes. We are using half of it for growing plants in the ground and the other half for growing our own seedlings and cuttings. Two old discarded portable BBQ’s put out for roadside collection have made good potting benches. Half of the floor is paved with old pavers (free) from a nursery that was putting down asphalt instead. These provide some thermal mass which should moderate temperatures on cold nights.

In the earthen area we have planted 6 tomatoes, 8 basil plants, 8 egg plants, 6 bell peppers, 6 long sweet yellow capsicums 2 German pickling cucumbers and one perennial chilli. We have also planted a cool climate banana and half a dozen lemon grasses.

The whole design was a bit of an experiment and has required many minor adjustments as the project has proceeded, but seems to be working well now. It even withstood gale force type winds that blew through Victoria in early spring.

Who knows, we may even set up a couple of deck chairs and enjoy the warmth ourselves on some of those freezing Victorian winter days.
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