Gardening Articles

The Construction Of Conservatories And Small Greenhouses

Have you ever stepped from the chill and dreariness of a windy day, when it seems as if the very life of all things growing were shrunk to absolute desolation, into the welcome warmth and light and fragrance, the beauty and joy of

a glass house full of green and blossoming plants? No matter how small it was, even though you had to stoop to enter the door, and mind your elbows as you went along, what a good, glad comfortable feeling flooded in to you with the captive sunlight! What a world of difference was made by that sheet of glass between you and the outer bitterness and blankness. Doubtless such an experience has been yours. Doubtless, too, you wished vaguely that you could have some such little corner to escape to, a stronghold to fly to when old winter lays waste the countryside. But April came with birds, and May with flowers, and months before the first dark, shivery days of the following autumn, you had forgotten that another winter would come on, with weeks of cheerless, uncomfortable weather. Or possibly you did not forget, until you had investigated the matter of greenhouse building and found that even a very small house, built to order, was far beyond your means. Do not misunderstand me as disparaging the construction companies: they do excellent work--and get excellent prices. You may not be able to afford an Italian garden, with hundreds of dollars' worth of rare plants, but that does not prevent your having a more modest garden spot, in which you have planned and worked yourself. Just so, though one of these beautiful glass structures may be beyond your purse, you may yet have one that will serve your purpose just as practically. The fact of the matter is, you can have a small house at a very small outlay, which will pay a good, very good interest on your investment. With it you will be able to have flowers all the year round, set both your flower and vegetable garden weeks ahead in the spring, save many cherished plants from the garden, and have fresh green vegetables, such as lettuce, radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers that can readily be grown under glass. And you will be surprised, if you can give the work some personal attention, or, better still, have the fun of doing a little of the actual building yourself, at how small an outlay you can put up a substantial structure of practical size, say 20 feet by 10--of the "lean-to" form. By way of illustration let us see what the material for such a house would cost, and how to erect it. Almost every dwelling house has some sheltered corner or wall where some glass "lean-to" could easily be added, and the shape and dimensions can be made to suit the special advantages offered. We will consider a simple house of the lean-to type, requiring a wall, to begin with, 20 feet long and 7 feet high, down to the ground, or a foot or so below it, if you can dig out. Below is listed the material such a house would require. With modern patented framing methods such a house has been estimated by greenhouse building companies to cost, for the material only, from $325 to $400. Yet you can have a wooden house that will serve your purpose at a cost for materials of $61 and, if you do not care to put it together yourself, a labor cost of, say, one-third more. As our north wall is already in place, we have only four surfaces to consider, as the accompanying diagram shows--namely, south wall, gable ends, roof and openings. For the roof we will require a ridge against the wall of the dwelling house, sash-bars running at right angles to this, a "purlin," or support, midway of these, and a sill for the lower ends. For the south wall we will need posts, one row of glass, and boards and "sheathing." For the gable ends, a board and sheathing wall to the same height, and for the balance, sash-bars and glass. The required openings will be a door or doors, and three ventilators, to give a sufficient supply of fresh air. house built against the dwelling wall. If possible it would be well to gain a steeper slope for the glass and better headroom. The detail in the upper right hand corner shows, at larger scale, the plate and front lights, indicated just below in the main section.] For these the material required will be: 10 ft. of 2-in. x 4-in. ridge $ 0.80 13 10-ft. drip bars 3.25 2 10-ft. end bars 1.00 5 6-ft. x 1-1/4-in. second-hand pipe posts .50 20 ft. 1-in, second-hand iron pipe 1.00 4 1-1/4-in. x 1-in. clamps .50 20 ft. 2-in. x 4-in. eaves plate 1.60 20 ft. 2-in. x 6-in. sill 2.20 15 1-in. pipe straps .50 18 ft. 2-in. x 4-in. sill, for gables 1.50 40 ft. side bars, random lengths, for gables 1.00 3 ventilating sash for 3 24-in. x 16-in. lights 3.00 9 16-in. headers for ventilators .40 6 hinges with screws for ventilators .75 1 roll tar paper, single-ply 2.00 6 boxes 24-in. x 16-in. glass, B double thick 24.00 75 lbs. good greenhouse putty 2.50 ------ Total of items listed above $46.50 Level off a place about 22 x 12 feet, and set in the posts as indicated in the plan on page 158, taking care to get the lines for the ends of the house perfectly square with the wall, and exact in length. This is best done by laying out your lines first with stout string, and making your measurements accurately on these. Then put in the posts for sides and ends, setting these about three feet into the ground, or, better still, in concrete. Put in the two corner posts, which should be square first. Next saw off all posts level at the proper height, and put in place the 2 x 4 in. eaves plate on top of these and the 2 x 6 in. sill just far enough below to take a 16 x 24 in. light of glass, with its upper edge snug in the groove in lower side of plate, as shown in detail of section on page 159. Fit the 2 x 6 in. sill about the posts so that the mortice on same will just clear the outside of posts. Then put on the siding on sides and ends--first a layer of rough inch-boards, running vertically, a layer, single or double, of tar paper, and a second layer of boards, laid horizontally, covering on the outside with shingles, clapboards or roofing paper. The five 7 ft. x 1-1/4 in. pipe posts may now be placed loose in their holes, and a walk dug out of sufficient depth to allow passage through the middle of the house. Rough boards nailed to stakes driven into the ground, will hold the earth sides of this in place. Next, after having it sawed in two vertically (thus making 20 ft), screw the ridge securely to side of house at proper height, giving a thick coat of white lead at top to insure a tight joint with house. Now put one of the end bars in place, taking care to get it exactly at right angles with ridge, and then lay down the sash-bars, enough more than 16 in. apart to allow the glass to slip into place readily. Take a light of glass and try it between every fourth or fifth bar put into position, at both ridge and eave, as this is much easier than trying to remedy an error when half the glass is laid. Use "finishing" nails for securing the sash-bars, as they are easily split. Next, with chalk line mark the middle of the roof sash-bars, and secure to them the one-inch pipe purlin, which will then be ready to fasten to the uprights already in place. Next, make concrete by mixing two parts Portland cement, two of sand and four of gravel or crushed stone with sufficient water to make a mixture that will pour like thick mud, and put the iron pipe posts in their permanent positions, seeing that the purlin is level and the posts upright. (If necessary, the purlin can be weighted down until the concrete sets.) Then put into place the ventilators, glazed, and the headers for the same--short pieces of wood, cut to go in between the sash-bars,--and fit these up snugly against the lower edge of the ventilator sash. When laying the glass in the roof, which will now be ready, use plenty of putty, worked sufficiently soft for the glass to be thoroughly bedded in it, and leaving no air-spaces or crevices for the rain to leak through later. If this work is carefully done, it will not be necessary to putty again on the outside of the glass, but it should be gone over with white lead and linseed oil. Be sure to place the convex surface of every light up. The panes should be lapped from 1/6 to 1/4 of an inch, and held securely in place with greenhouse glazing points, the double-pointed bent ones being generally used. The lights for the ends of the house may be "butted," that is, placed edge to edge, if you happen to strike good edges, but as a general thing, it will be more satisfactory to lap them a little. The woodwork, before being put together, should all receive a good priming coat of linseed oil in which a little ochre has been mixed, and a second coat after erection. I have suggested putting the glass in roof and sides before touching the benches, because this work can then be done under shelter in case bad weather is encountered. The benches can be arranged in any way that will be convenient, but should be about waist-high, and not over four or four and a half feet across, to insure easy handling of plants, watering, etc. Rough boards will do for their construction, and they should not be made so tight as to prevent the ready drainage of water. The doors may be bought, or made of boards covered with tar paper and shingles or roofing paper. The house suggested above is used only by way of illustration. It may be either too large or too small for the purposes of some of the readers of this book, and I shall therefore give very briefly descriptions of several other types of small houses, some of which may be put up even more cheaply than the above. The plainest is the sash lean-to somewhat like Fig. 3, which is made by simply securing to a suitable wall a ridge-piece to hold one end of the sashes for the roof, and erecting a wall, similar to the one described above, but without glass, and with a plain, 2 x 4 in. piece for a sill, to support the other ends. Either a single or double row of sashes may be used, of the ordinary 3 x 6 foot size. In the latter case, of course, a purlin and supporting posts, as shown in diagram, must be supplied. Every second or third top sash should be hinged, to open for ventilation, and by tacking strips over the edges of the sash where they come together, a very tight and roomy little house can be put up quickly, easily and very cheaply. New sash, glazed and painted one coat, can be bought for $3 to $3.50 each. Ten of these would make a very practical little house, fifteen feet long, and over ten feet wide. Another form of lean-to where there are windows is shown in another diagram. The even-span house, of which type there are more erected than of any other, is also shown. The cost of such a house, say 21 feet wide, can be easily computed from the figures given in the first part of this chapter, the north wall, and purlin braces from the ridge posts, being the only details of construction not included there. A simple way of greatly increasing the capacity of the ordinary hotbed or coldframe, is to build it next to a cellar window, so that it will receive some artificial heat, and can be got at, from the inside, in any weather. Several sashes can be used, and the window extend to include as many of them as desired. By all means get a little glass to use in connection with your garden this coming year. Put up one of these small greenhouses, if you can: if not, get a few sash, at least. Don't put it off till next year; do it now! In the next chapter we will take up the handling of vegetables and flowers in the small greenhouse. But don't be content to read about it. It's the pleasantest kind of work--try it yourself!

Previous: The Coldframe And The Hotbed
Next: Methods Of Heating

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