Tag Archives: greenhouse

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

The garage catches up

Last summer, you might recall, we painted the exterior of the house.  We ran out of summer before we could finish some of the details, like painting our garage (if an entire building can be considered a detail). So naturally, we waited until we were pressing up against rainy season 2017 to start this painting project. But, look at this little bitty garage! It’s only Model T size, so it can’t take long to throw a coat of paint on it, now, can it? Let’s see how many side projects can derail our progress.

100 year old garage with original carriage doors

Our Model T garage

1.  Power wash.

Washing is really just a starting point for any paint job, not a side project, but it takes time and effort, so it’s on this list. Bonus—it’s always fun to play with water when the weather’s hot. Eric attacked the alley side first, which was caked with years of dust.

Man pressure washes old garage

Playing with water on a hot day

Damaged shingle siding on pressure washed garage

After pressure washing. The corner shingles have been crunched, probably hit by the garbage truck.

2. Hack back the Japanese garden.

Meanwhile, things were out of control on the garden side of the garage. We needed to be able to throw a tarp over the plants to protect them from paint spray, but first we had to be able to get to the plants. We didn’t do much garden maintenance this summer, and it shows. I’ll use my tweaky back as my excuse, and—oh yeah—the un-Seattle-like hot weather. It’s no fun gardening in 90+ degree  sun. Yep, old war horse excuses trotted out one more time.

Overgrown small Japanese garden.

An overgrown mess.

Black and white cat meows as he lies in a garden.

Checkers says, “Don’t mess with my secret sleeping spot!”

Small, old garage waiting for paint

Garden side before paint

As I trimmed and weeded my way down the narrow garden path, I discovered that Digger O’Dell* (as my mom would have called Duke) had extended his excavation hobby to the Japanese garden, which I had feared was inevitable. I found a pit at the corner of the fence, and a trough all along the side of the garage foundation. Eighty-three-pound Duke, with his dig-or-be-damned determination, managed to wedge himself behind the spikey blue Atlas cedar and the bushy spirea, a tight fit even for a cat. Look what he did to my black mondo grass!

I’m trying to save some of it in water until I can replant.

3.  Install a drain pipe along the alley.

Eric plans to bury a drain pipe next to the garage to handle winter runoff from the alley. While digging the trench, he dug up hundreds of day lily bulbs, which we gave away to neighbors. I don’t know why he didn’t subcontract with Duke to do this work.

Looking down the alley side of the garage.

Looking down the alley side of the garage where the drain pipe will go.

Dug-up day lilies laying on a board

Day lilies, anyone?

4.  Renovate the greenhouse.

Then, there’s our little greenhouse, which was built 20 years ago from salvaged windows. It was desperate for attention. The window glazing was falling out, the shingle siding was rotting, and the fiberglass wiggle board roof was oxidized, brittle, and leaking. We couldn’t very well paint the garage without upgrading the greenhouse! That’s where this project really exploded: Eric is applying narrow T-1-11 plywood siding … nothing fancy, but it’ll keep the wasps and rain out. Also, it’s getting a new roof of UV-resistant polycarbonate panels, which we saw on the catio tour this summer. I’ll reglaze the windows and we’ll paint the greenhouse to match the house. This will be the old windows’ first experience with paint. They’re due.

Run-down greenhouse

Sad!

Greenhouse made of salvaged wood windows

Such potential!

Brittle fiberglass roof on greenhouse.

Crispy roof.

Greenhouse with blue tarp on roof.

Blue tarp. Yep, we’re those people.

Before he could begin installing the new greenhouse roof, Eric painted the garage gable, which would be inaccessible once the new roof went on. Our weather was still summer-hot.

Man stands on ladder in roofless greenhouse and paints a wall.

Painting the gable.

5. Straighten up the saggy garage door.

Yes, the garage leans a little. So will you when you are 104 years old. The left door, in particular, is sagging. (We don’t park in the garage. We use it as storage for … stuff.)

100 year old garage with original carriage doors that sag.

A little crooked, but cute as ever.

Eric filled screw holes and moved the top hinge on the left door back up to its original position so it could get a better bite. This helped raise the door a tiny bit, but not enough. Eric has other methods up his sleeve for later.

I kept running into green paint on the garage. The house would have turned green in the 1940s or 50s when the asbestos siding was applied (as did the house next door, which remained green into the mid-90s), because the asbestos tiles were originally green. The garage didn’t get the asbestos siding treatment and has always been sided in the original shingles.

Garage door hinge replaced in original postion

Underneath–green?

How did we do?

We’re still working on it! We’re not finished (with anything), but we’ve made lots of progress, and the autumn rain has held off—so far—no guarantees about tomorrow. Here are some before-and-afters.

Painting the garage doors was my project. It seemed to take forever, and it’s still not quite finished. The center strip needs replacing.

100 year old garage with original carriage doors that sag.

Before

Repainted 1913 garage.

After

The greenhouse roof. Nearly finished, but it still needs blocking between the rafters, trimming, and a gutter.

Brittle fiberglass roof on greenhouse.

Before.

Greenhouse with new polycarbonate roof

After. The new roof even makes the sun shine!

Greenhouse siding. Since the “after” shot, I’ve primed and pre-painted the siding panels, and they’re ready to be installed. Next will be trim and reglazing those windows. We haven’t started the door end yet.

Before.

Boxer lies in front of greenhouse under renovation.

Much has been done since this shot, but Duke looks too cute not to include it!

The garden side of the garage. Both the garden and the garage look better. I really like how the plants look against the new color.

Small, old garage waiting for paint

Before

1913 garage with new paint

After

I got on a roll and weeded and trimmed up the whole garden.

The alley side of the garage. So much better!

100 year old garage with original carriage doors

Before.

Newly painted 1913 garage

After.

Wait—what’s that, just past the greenhouse? My next post, that’s what! Stay tuned …

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*Digger O’Dell was the “friendly undertaker” in the 1940s radio show, The Life of Riley.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it