Greenhouse Building – Part 1 – Planning

I’d be lying if I said that planning the greenhouse was a snap.  It took a good bit of sitting, reading, thinking, coffee, chocolate, wine, scribble paper, scribble paper tossed for the cats, patience, and plain logic consideration for how it all needed to go together.

Being in an urban space, I’m limited.  Limited in how large I can make things, the codes I need to follow, and how easily machinery can get into the space to name a few.  The same issue I’m sure many urban dwellers face.  Having limited space also meant I had to plan carefully how to maximize every bit of space I had.  I did not want to have an “ugly” but functional end product.  I wanted to have something functional in summer, winter, spring, fall, and something that made the most of the sun, and the shade, and also gave me a pleasant space to socialize or just relax.

I’ll focus on the greenhouse portion, but in the planning I did also include plans for the main yard and raised bed gardens throughout summer, that would avoid the underground electrical/gas/telephone but give me “pretty” with as much vegetable, flower, and urban orchard as possible. (Plus hammock, don’t forget the hammock!)

So as you can see, if you are going to plan one of these give yourself a LOT of time to sit, think, and rethink.

One of my first things was to watch the sun in my yard.  Did I even have the right spot available for winter, that would have full sun exposure during the lowest portions?  Or would buildings and fences, or simply the angle of my modest bit of land prevent me from building?  I’m lucky – I really did have the right spot, one that caught the first and last bits of winter sun, and would suit the greenhouse needs.  In fact, I probably should have bought a lottery ticket with that luck.

The original "glorified shed" with a wonderful sunny wall.

The original “glorified shed” with a wonderful sunny wall.

The next was the attached garage.  Yup.  A lot of planning for this.  The house had what I called a “glorified storage shed”.  It was technically a garage with door, electrical and all.  And with more holes in the roof than cheesecloth.  I had always planned to replace it and this was the perfect chance.  The winter greenhouse NEEDS a warm pass-through so I never need to open the exterior door to the elements at -30C.  Why not make that pass-through a garage and optimize space?  (And then why not make storage above that garage to store…stuff).

Once the basics of location and pass-through were decided, I had to consider how to make this a greenhouse functional for both summer and winter.  My book described something for 100% winter, sealed, well insulated, heat sink, and good to go.  And for the cold I really really get that.  But again that SPACE issue.  I’m urban, I do NOT have room for summer and winter greenhouses, AND a garage, AND a summer garden, AND a deck,  AND a yard.  So this one would have to do double duty.

Almost the final plans....almost

Almost the final plans….almost

I also considered how I would work in the space day to day, and made sure I planned in water so I would not have to haul that from the house throughout winter, the largest surface area of raised beds that would be easy to work in, as well as the absolute MUST of a small table and chair for when I needed that summer-fix of plants in January while enjoying a warm drink.

With a lot of re-drawing and planning I finally settled on a plan that would include 6 vent windows that I can seal off and fully insulate in the winter but open to let the extreme heat out in summer (plus let in pollinators), and a door that would be an insulated one in winter, and nothing but screen in summer.  As well, the heat sink would be turned off in summer, and only run during winter along with the small back-up heater should it be needed.

I’ll get into some more technical details as I write out the build.  And of course as time goes on, I’ll be writing about what did work, and what did not (eep!).  I already regret not trying to go down along with the up, and make the garage underneath all cold storage, but I think I needed the lottery for that…

Always love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to leave them in comments, along with questions or how you’d change things to suit your urban space.

3 thoughts on “Greenhouse Building – Part 1 – Planning
  1. Sierra

    Very cool post. I feel like you could spend the rest of the season just in sharing about this project. You are so ambitious!

    • Pam Tallon

      Awwww, thanks! I think I generally use the term “crazy” 😀

  2. Noles Dennhardt

    Awesome project! I definitely wanna do this myself one day.

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