The greenhouse is back in business!

Our little greenhouse is a last-century addition. It was built in the late 1990s when my ex-husband got hold of a bunch of 1940s-era fir casement windows that a friend was surplussing. He set about building a greenhouse, appending it to the rear of the Model-T-sized garage. It’s about 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep. Some 20 years later, the greenhouse was needing serious TLC.

Dilapidated small wooden grrenhouse.

Here’s how the greenhouse looked a year ago, just before our new back fence was installed.

But wait! I had this post half-written when I collected some photos from Eric. He supplied me with several from 2008, and reminded me that he did the first major rebuild back then! My spotty memory skipped right past that era. He claims that he should have taken the whole thing down then and rebuilt it from scratch. If you ask me, he nearly did.

Let’s go back to 2008 … We had not yet created our Japanese garden, and a little lean-to (built to cover a golf cart) was still attached to the garage. Our veggie garden had yet to be conceived. And we had a LOT more grass. At that point, Eric removed the fiberglass wiggleboard roofing, the rotten roof framing, the windows, and the south wall framing. Only the east and west walls still exist in this photo. (The north wall is the garage itself.)

2008. Ah, memories …

The dismanteld greenhouse in 2008.

2008: The greenhouse seems to be a magnet for junk we don’t know what to do with … including the kitchen sink (far right under the gray planter)!

For the new south wall, Eric created a knee wall of concrete block (which serves as one wall of our raised veggie plot), rebuilt the window wall framing, and reinstalled the windows. He also installed new rafters and new fiberglass roofing. And that was how the greenhouse survived for the next 10 years.

Fast forward to 2017 …

Greenhouse made of salvaged wood windows

Summer of 2017: Siding has been removed. Here you can see the concrete block foundation.

Eric started the 2017 renovation by installing a new, mo-bettah roof and new siding. We looked at UV-resistant polycarbonate panels at the Home Show and Garden Show (the kind greenhouse kits are made of) and knew that was the way to go. Eric ripped off the sun-brittled fiberglass wiggle-board roof (again), replaced the rafters (again), and installed half-inch twin-wall 8 mm polycarb panels. Already the greenhouse looked more substantial, and it was so much warmer. We successfully over-wintered all of our succulents and a friend’s young fig tree.

Man installs polycarbonate roofing on small greenhouse.

September, 2017: Eric installs the polycarb roofing. New siding is temporarily tacked onto the south side.

Small wooden greenhouse.

After the new roof was installed. Siding has been removed for painting.

Polycarbonate greenhouse roof panels.

Lots more light … and UV resistant!

This spring, while I was busy relandscaping half of the backyard, Eric continued on the greenhouse. The vintage window frames originally had been varnished, but never painted. By now, the varnish was long gone and the window glazing was dried up and falling out. Eric reglazed the windows, replaced all the window framing (again!), installed trim, and painted the whole thing to match the house. What an improvement!

Small greenhouse with casement windows.

The casement windows are painted to match the house. (That’s our weather station on the pole.)

That left the west side—the end with the door—or in this case, a frame where a door should go. For the life of this greenhouse, a succession of roll-up bamboo blinds have served as the door. They blew around in storms, their ropes hopelessly tangled, and eventually, each blind rotted in the soggy Northwest winters. Unfortunately, the door frame wasn’t quite tall enough to accept a standard door. It’s never simple, is it?

Small wooden greenhouse

West wall before rebuild.

Small wooden greenhouse.

West wall with windows removed. The greenhouse is still full of junk.

Small wooden greenhouse.

It doesn’t look any better in a closeup.

Rotted wood window frame.

Just a little rotten.

As you can see, Eric had his hands full removing the rotten wood and reframing the walls. One of the old window panes broke, so instead of glass, he replaced the lower two windows with spare polycarbonate material. I like the look.

Polycarbonate panels as window in a greenhouse.

I would have liked polycarb in all the side windows, but we didn’t have enough.

Gargoyle decoration.

Our gargoyle guards the door. He (she?) needs a name.

Small wood greenhouse with casement windows.

Almost finished!

The door opening, which was just a couple of inches too short to accept a standard storm door, could not be raised. So, Eric cleverly built out the frame and installed the door against the exterior wall instead of inside the door opening. Hey, this is just a greenhouse … what code?

This should really be Eric’s blog, huh?

Door framed on the outside of an outbuilding.

An easy fix–apply the door to the outside of the building!

Only when the exterior was done did we tackled the mess within. I was always frustrated by the collection of odds and ends that somehow migrated into this small space. I literally could not step more than three feet inside the door, and even that was challenging. Too bad if I wanted something in the back (besides, I didn’t really know what was in the back). And the tangle of garden tools? Impossible! ARRGGHH!!!

We pulled the entire mess out onto the lawn and sorted it: dump, garage, or greenhouse. For once, only select gardening-related objects were allowed to be stored in the greenhouse.

Gardening equipment strewn on the grass.

Everybody out!

We had fun putting things back in an organized fashion. First, we hung an additional tool rack on the back wall, which I can walk straight up to now! Eric cleared weeds from the Saltillo tile floor. (The tiles are a bit broken, but still suffice and look cool.)

Garden tools hanging on a rack.

A place for everything …

Finally, Eric built a step in the gravel in front of the door, and paved the area with flagstones. Sweet! That green table inside? It was in the basement when I bought the house. It’s the base of a Hoosier-type kitchen cabinet. In rough shape, but perfect for a greenhouse.

Small wooden greenhouse with black storm door.

Complete with human door and cat door.

However … it’s been a very hot and dry summer here in the Northwest. Endless sunny days really up the temperature in the greenhouse, and I couldn’t last in there for very long under the direct sun. So, I bought some canvas and made a couple of grommeted shades, which we hung from hooks. Frank Lloyd Wright taught us that trick. The shades don’t lower the temperature much, but standing in shade is preferable to standing in sun. We’ll remove them in the winter, of course.

Thermometer showing over 95 degrees Farenheit.

Temp creeping toward 100.


Canvas shades cover greenhouse roof.

Under the big top.

I added some solar-powered landscape lights to the window shelf. They make a nice glow in the evening.

I love puttering in my greenhouse now. I’m out there every day, sometimes just to enjoy looking at tools that I can actually reach!

That’s a wrap on another project!

Small greenhouse with lights at dusk.

The greenhouse at dusk.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

23 thoughts on “The greenhouse is back in business!

  1. om and Judy Huppert

    I know your plants and kitties will enjoy all of the hard work. Very nice greenhouse that is spacious and good looking.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Thanks T&J! It’s true, our feral friends love to hang out in the greenhouse during the winter. We have a kitty shelter in there and they can keep warm and dry.

  2. Barbara H.

    Good job! I’ve started clearing out my gardening areas, but it seems like I only get so far and then get distracted. It’s still better than it was and I hope when the weather cools down I can get back to it. I’ll remember your greenhouse for inspiration.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Hi Barbara–It’s so hard to get anything done in this heat. The entire greenhouse job was accomplished by the end of June. Now, we can barely stand to go outside past noon!

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Hi Karen! We probably won’t start seeds because we usually plant directly in the ground in spring. I am propagating some rhododendrons, which will go out there once it’s cooled down … and I have lots of succulents and tender plants to overwinter, too.

  3. Connie in Hartwood

    This is proof, again, that we live parallel lives. This summer, the state of our greenhouse has reached a crisis. Window panes were falling out, and something drastic had to be done. We’ve been scraping and puttying and painting the windows. Putty must be painted, so why not paint the trim while we’re at it. All that was left was to add the shingle siding, that we already have. As of now, the south wall is finished and the east wall is half done. Steve is 2/3 of the way finished scraping and securing the window panes on the west wall, which I will putty and paint soon.

    It feels good to see that other people also use their greenhouse for random storage space. Makes me feel a lot less like a wasteful freak. You are very, very brave for dragging your hoarder stuff onto the lawn and showing it to the whole Internet. I may follow suit … when I get to that point.

    Your greenhouse is fantastic. Isn’t it wonderful to have a warm place to hide in the winter?

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Hi Connie! I just want to say (again) that so many times I want to comment on your blog, but I can’t get it to work. (Yours isn’t the only one where I have this trouble.) I look forward to seeing your greenhouse again! We are fortunate to have greenhouses … whether they hold junk or plants. I am committed to keeping the junk OUT of ours from now on! That’s what our little garage is for! 🙂

      1. Connie in Hartwood

        Do you do Instagram? I have pretty much migrated my blogging energy over there. Immediate gratification and sharing thoughts and projects without the need for my PC is a very good thing for me lately. My greenhouse has figured prominently for the past few weeks, as have the critters, garden, and other things.

      2. D'Arcy H Post author

        I’m not on Instagram, although it seems many are shifting their blogs that way. I’m a writer, though, and I enjoy writing the stories. I’ve avoided Instagram because I’m afraid it will suck up even more time (like Facebook) … but maybe I should give it a try. Gotta keep up with the trends!

  4. curt

    Fantastic greenhouse renaissance, D’Arcy! I hope one day I get to build one. Now what to do with all that junk…

  5. Alison

    i love how the polycarbonate panels look as windows!!! what a cool idea. and how clever to install the door on the outside of the greenhouse so he could use a standard door. such a huge improvement! it looks ah-MAZE-ing! love the cat door too 🙂 and your frank lloyd wright inspired ceiling is super cool! i’m going to have to remember that trick.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Thanks, Alison! The canvas shades also make an almost shadow-free light. Not so important in a greenhouse, but great for anyplace you need even light (like, for art). Duke loves lying on the warm tiles of the greenhouse floor.


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