Friday, August 28, 2009

A greenhouse grows at Chalupy

Still in 2006, come spring, it was time to build a greenhouse. Now in Alaska the classic way to build a greenhouse is with "PVC flex and visqueen", i.e. flexible PVC piping and trasparent, or at least translucent, plastic. This gives you what has come to be called a hoophouse. But my objective is always to buy the minimum, so for version 1.0 greenhouse this was the playpen that came with the house. Pole construction seemed the way to go, so my first step was to take a walk in the woods and collect some poles.

Onece I had some poles, came the task of peeling them. This is not a pleasant job. These poles are too long for the shaving horse. So I improvised with a forked stick.
The reason you peel is to avoid the wood rotting on you. The inner layer of the bark (the cambium layer) is basically bug food. Leave it there, feed the bugs, rot the poles.

As you see, the trusty drawknife works well for peeling poles. Note the snow on the ground, it was in April, I think. With some peeled poles, I blocked out a crude shed to fit the old playpen.
There were many frustrations which I won't detail. But slowly the greenhouse takes shape.
The structure you see there survives to this day, and cost $0.00, not, of course, counting labor, because I pay myself no salary.

The last task was to cover it with "visqueen" or translucent plastic. When you buy the stuff at Home Despot, er, Depot, or wherever, it says "transparent." Nonsense. But when you do it, you have a Greenhouse. It ain't heated, of course; it would be more properly called a "giant cold frame." So then it looks like this:
The cost has risen, of course, because I can't make the plastic. We are now into $5.00 for the plastic, a figure that is steadily rising with the price of oil.

So now you are wondering (and quite properly, I may add) whether this contraption works. Well, actually, yes.
Here we have zucchini and cabbages busily growing. I have since discovered that while zucchini belong in the greenhouse, cabbages do not. But that is another story. My life is a long struggle to optimize greenhouse crop allocation.

Greenhouse 1.0 had many faults, but the worse one is that in winter, the snow loads it down (we have a full meter of snow at Chalupy) and the roof collapses. We are now at v1.3, and all of the versions have been concerned with not having to rebuild the roof. So far the score is winter-3, JRC-0. Looks bad for the home team. But there is always v1.4. And we have plans for v2.0, but I will not reveal them because this is what we call in Venezuela pavoso, jinxing the outcome.

As I write, greenhouse 1.3 is full of tomato plants and some cucumbers. Will they ripen? We shall see. It is raining, and has been for two weeks. The tomatoes want more photons. Not so many photons, not when it rains.

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