Always A Season Late
November 13, 2019 | View PDF
It seems my husband and I always decide to begin a project at the wrong time of year. We purchase snow shovels in April, barbecues in November, and sleds after the snow melts, a new self-propelled four-wheel drive push lawn mower when the grass has withered in the fall, and the list goes on. Whatever we do, we end up waiting months before we get to use our new item.
This September we pulled our usual “let’s do it now when it’s too late to take advantage of it this season” stunt. We decided to treat ourselves to a small greenhouse. This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, as I have debated the benefits of a greenhouse ever since we moved to our little cabin on the mountain. This summer when a late June hailstorm stripped the potatoes, knocked the stuffing out of the zucchini, and totally demoralized the cucumber plants, I decided now was the time. (Yes, I know, this resembles locking the barn door after the cow has wandered off, but as I say, this seems to be our modus operandi.)
I had it all planned. A greenhouse would protect my warm season crops, such as the tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and winter squash, all of which need heat and a longer growing season. These vegetables would enjoy an early start, grow all summer long in a naturally heated, well-lighted environment, would not have to struggle with cool mountain nights and slow-to-warm-up mornings, and they would have protection from the elements, like unwanted hail, late frosts, strong winds, and other unpredictable weather occurrences. I’d grow my potatoes, onions, and carrots outside in the small garden plot, but the tender, delectable veggies would have it made, living the easy life within a protected place. We might even get a harvest with the help of a greenhouse.
I researched greenhouse kits before I spent my money. I knew I wanted twin wall polycarbonate for the entire greenhouse, not just the roof, and after some investigation, I found what I thought I wanted. Better yet, the greenhouse came as a snap-together kit, so I figured, how hard would this be? It ought to go together in a snap, so to speak.
Before the greenhouse kit arrived, we had to construct some sort of foundation. My husband and I used railroad ties that we dug into the earth, then leveled and squared them, and secured them firmly in place. I figured, in my naivete, that preparing the foundation would prove the most difficult part of the project. After all, the kit snapped together so how tough could it be to erect this small 6x8 foot structure?
The greenhouse arrived in two large boxes and one smaller box. We opened the boxes, sorted the parts and the hardware, and turned our attention to the directions. The instructions turned out to be mostly illustrations, with very few written directions whatsoever. We rolled up our sleeves and began.
I should have known this would take longer than expected when we had to put the first side of the foundation pieces together twice. With no written directions, we had to guess whether the smaller sections went between the larger ones or did the two larger sections go between the smaller ones. Of course, we guessed wrong the first time, realized the side was too long, and had to take it apart. After carefully counting the number of pieces of each length, sorting them by size, and then snapping them together we achieved the proper length and width for our structure. So good, we got the foundation set, squared, and bolted to our railroad ties.
The greenhouse is designed with a hip roof, or gambrel roof structure, with straight walls, then two symmetrical slopes on both sides that form the roof. The walls went up easily, with the frames connecting to one another like I had pictured, and the polycarbonate slipping into place with no difficulties. I figured we’d finish the project that day.
However, the further we proceeded, the more difficulties we encountered getting parts to snap into place, aligning the walls with the sloped roof portions, and most importantly interpreting the illustrations.
The hardest part proved to be the roof. Have you ever seen that optical illusion composed of boxes that when looking at it one way the white portion appears to be the top, but looking at it from a different angle the white portion becomes the bottom? Well suffice it to say, some of the illustrations acted like stunning optical illusions. Looking at a picture the first time, it appeared that the ridged side of the piece in question ought to be on top, so that is how we put the vent frame together. However, it did not fit, so on closer inspection we decided the ridged part really belonged on the bottom. Considering we never put a greenhouse together before, I guess we did OK, but I hate to mention how many times we had to take a particular piece apart and reconfigure it the opposite way before it fit in its proper place.
Needless to say, it took us two days to put together a 6x8 snap and grow greenhouse. Tempers occasionally flared as we two old people got frustrated, particularly on day two when we had had enough of puzzles and illusions and interpreting illustrations. We persevered without coming to blows, however, and now we actually have a standing structure that so far has withstood wind and weather. At least we got it together before the snow arrived, but of course now I have to look at it standing empty for the next six months before I can see how well it works. Ah well, at least we have it in place, ready for spring and a new growing season.
I wonder what we will decide to purchase in April that we need for the winter months?