Friday, October 29, 2010

Shade Pavilion Greenhouse, and not a moment too soon

As I mentioned earlier in the month my husband was working on a plan to enclose our shade pavilion and turn it into a greenhouse of sorts.

Goal #1: keep the container plants dry and yet still give them have plenty of light. In prior years these same plants have spent time in the garage, where there is only one tiny north facing window.
Goal #2: in the event of an arctic blast a (yet to be determined) heat source will (hopefully) keep the plants from an unhappy death.
Unexpected benefit #1: the plants will avoid the freeze-dried effect of the cold winter winds.My husband started sketching ideas a few months back. But this is the sort of project that you end up inventing as you go along. Once he started the ideas unfolded and things happened. His desire was to create something that doesn’t compromise the existing structure (no new holes drilled) and can be reused year after year.
The project got kicked into high gear last weekend. The magical fall sunshine was over and the rains were beginning. We needed to take action. (I say "we" but really it was he, I was just an extra set of hands). As designed the framework works with the structure so no new holes were drilled.
The sides and top consist of a heavy sheet poly that fits into a metal channel and held tight with a clasp pressed into place. The 2 x 4’s that support the sides are held in place by a metal plate attached to the existing hardware. The ends are a rigid plastic, one with a door complete with a handle and lock (lest the plants escape).
All the pieces are labeled for easy assembly next year! (have I mentioned that 'modular' is my husbands middle name?)
As luck would have it Sunday, the day we’d scheduled to complete the project, was the same day as the first big storm of the season. Big downpours and the winds were whipping. Not ideal conditions to be working outside.

Mr Big (my Agave americana ‘Variegata’) was temporarily under cover…shedding the 1”+ of rain that fell that afternoon. I could tell he was eagerly anticipating his new home.
I had already moved a lot of the plants under the pavilion earlier in the week, hoping to avoid the rains soaking them. Nothing like working in close quarters with lots of spikes huh? We had a few welcome sun breaks in between the downpours.
The poly sheeting went up when I had run in the house to retrieve a tool. I’m still not sure he got it up and over those tubes by himself.
Before we clamped down the sheeting we needed to move Mr Big into place. He’s the one plant that will not fit through the door. He went in and then the sides went on.
Close up of the metal channel and fitting that holds the poly in place.
The last rigid plastic panels go on the end opposite the door. The greenhouse roof is under the existing corrugated metal roof so most of the rain will already be kept off the plastic. What does manage to get through will mostly flow off due to the built in angle. What doesn’t can easily be brushed off with a broom.
Look at them…all snug under cover. Time for us humans to go inside and get warm with a nice bowl of cioppino. Organizing the containers and moving the rest of them inside will have to wait for another day.
After all that rain the water lovers were happy. Water was pouring over the edges of their containers.
The wind sent pinecones falling like torpedoes, this Gunnera leaf was impaled.The patio gets pretty messy when a big storm is a brew’in. The price we pay for the tall Fir trees behind the patio.
And the leaves were falling everywhere…making a mess of the gravel in the front garden. (a pretty mess)
This cold seems to have come out of nowhere. Over night it seems the Hosta leaves are golden.
As are some of the Tetrapanax leaves.
The Peonies look fabulous with their fall colors.
And the golden Water Canna leaves are capturing rain drops.
Wednesday we had a break in the rain and I went out to organize the prisoners and move some others in. These Phormium will have to stand guard outside. They are a tucked under the “eves” so they’ll stay a little dryer.
But it’s amazing how many plants can squeeze in there!
I kept picking up and moving in containers until I felt like I could fit no more.
Funny thing I picked up a large container and found these…
Opps! I thought that banana was dead when I put that pot there, guess not.

It’s a good feeling to know we are giving these plants a chance at a dry winter. The “greenhouse” isn’t air-tight but I think that’s a good thing, since they all got a little wetter than I would have liked before we moved them in and a little air circulation is probably a good thing. If this winter turns as nasty as predicted we’ll fire up a heat source. Still investigating what that might be.


  1. Impressive feat of engineering. Lucky plants.

  2. Wow! Go Danger Husband! It looks awesome.
    I'm betting, somehow, that with a psuedo-greenhouse to keep plants happy, pretty soon you'll be wanting a REAL one...

  3. I notice that "Mr" Big has a baby. Who knew that was possible?! I am now certain that my agave will come back to me with gender confusion disorder!

  4. wow that's looking great! Glad your plants will have a chance at a more comfy situation for this winter!
    Are you going to dig up any of your other less than frost hardy plants for the winter?

  5. that is an excellent job, well done Mr DG! It is amazing what difference just a little protection like that makes to the plants.

  6. I love the door and latch... very cool.

  7. So very excited for you both. The pots look very snug indeed. And pass the cioppino, please!

  8. Well, I have to say Loree, you are way nicer to your dry-guys, mine were totally exposed to the 5 inches of rain we had this past week, and were only scuttled under protection with our 1st frost warning. I brought home my pop-up greenhouse today, 5x5 and I too have not figured out the heat-but I expect it will involve light bulbs and seedling heat mats,,

  9. How wonderful! I wish my husband was handy like that!!!! And they should do really well in there. Even with what you call a "mess" your yard and all is beautiful!

  10. That's a lot of work, hope it pays off for ya'll. Your containers are so pretty.

  11. I think you just launched Greenhouses To Go. Impressive.

  12. Danger Husband! Love that. Hubby definitely has some admirers in blogland. Now can you send him this way? I predict your plants will fare beautifully with this arrangement.

  13. It's a mass migration on the scale of the African herds! But a lot less dusty.

    Looking pretty nippy up there, considering how the Danger husband is dressed. Still warm and sunny here. Austin's mini-migrations of tender plants in and out of the garage and under and out from under sheets will begin around Thanksgiving and continue through February.

  14. Hi Danger!

    Schoolwork has kept me from visiting as often, but WoW! looks like you've been busy. I'll be doing the same (plastic-o-rama) around Thanksgiving and bringin all the tenderlings in. All your plants look snug and ready for wintertime.
    David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston

  15. ricki, I hope they feel lucky come January.

    Greensparrow, the Danger Husband thanks you! And I've no doubt a real one would be nice, but unfortunately there's no place to put one!

    Denise, as long as it's healthy and happy does it really matter? :)

    Mary, that's a good question. I've been toying with the idea...I'm working on a list of possibilities. Of course I'll let you know.

    Spiky O, I hope you're right! I wish it were just a little bigger. You know so I could fit a chair in there.

    Dirty Girl, the's all in the details.

    Denise, it was just a doctored up Trader Joes bag, but warm and it definitely hit the spot!

    ks, you've already had a frost warning? That's crazy. We bought a space heater yesterday. We'll see how well it does. Hopefully we won't have to use it!!

    Thanks Candy, and he is pretty handy. I believe he once said "if they don't find you handsome at least they can find you handy"...luckily I find both.

    Me too Darla, and at least we'll know we tried.

    Patricia, omg! I love it. Should the husbands day job hit a snag we've got a back up!

    Grace, it is good isn't it? (Danger Husband), I think he's got a new nick name.

    Pam, you are so right! My muscles certainly felt like I had been trampled. We still haven't had a freeze but the high 40's with a wind can cut right through you.

    Hi David, they may look ready but I know I'm not. We put away the furniture on Sunday. They patio is so empty now!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!