Buying a New Greenhouse: Part 4 - Greenhouse Installation

White Cape Cod Greenhouse

Creating Your Dream Greenhouse Space

I am sitting in my newly built greenhouse as snug as a bug. The sun is shining, and I take my coat off even though it is a cool fall day. I am still dreaming of my final greenhouse layout and watching my little lemons grow. (Okay - that's an exaggeration - the lemons bloomed in August and the tiny fruit is still the size of my baby fingernail! They are growing slowly, but unlike the grass a June rain, I can't actually watch them grow.)

After waiting, planning and scheming about my newest greenhouse I can tell you this much: Sitting in the warmth of my greenhouse is foundational, beautiful and important to me. I am thrilled and I want everyone to be as thrilled with their greenhouse choices and decisions too. 


This is part 4 of building a greenhouse from design, to site prep, to building the foundation and now finally, to having the greenhouse built. It has been a long journey, partially because I did not build my foundation last year before the arrival of the actual greenhouse. This slowed the whole installation process by several months - almost a year. But let's not go there. Today is about celebrating sitting in the cozy warmth of my new greenhouse and dreaming about what the future will hold.


The Build Up: Hiring a Professional for Installation

If you have read the previous blog post, leading up to this big day of building my greenhouse, you will know the greenhouse has been in its packing crates in my garage since last October.

Since receiving the greenhouse, we have renovated our new house, sold our old house and relocated 1200 km (745 miles) away. This summer we held garage sales, gave away loads of "stuff", packed up what we are keeping, cleaned the old house and called the movers to take us away.

The movers arrive on August 25, load us up and disappear. We spend one last night in town and start the 1200 km journey - a two-day fourteen-hour excursion by car via ferry and highway. Wildfires are still burning close to the highways and a helicopter is scooping water out of a lake as we drive through the centre of British Columbia on our way to Alberta. We arrive at our newly renovated home in Calgary on August 27. The crew arrives to install our greenhouse the very next day.

This is my third greenhouse and there is no time for fooling around. I want it built and occupied as fast as high-speed internet. My own personal life this year has been full of delays and interruptions, and this is the one thing I want, and I want it now. So, I hire Stacey, of Garden Retreat in Calgary, to install my latest and greatest greenhouse. Described in writing as "10 x12 Straight Eave, Cross Country Frame Greenhouse Cape Cod Style with 12/12 Roof Slope" I rely mainly on the illustrations provided by my BC Greenhouse Builders Greenhouse Expert, Cassie, and the drawings are beautiful so I am confident the greenhouse will be too.

Installing a greenhouse is something Stacey does almost every day so there is no trouble getting right to work. Because he knows our build has been imminent for a while, Stacey does his due diligence by checking on our foundation earlier in the summer and gives it a passing grade. When he starts the build on August 28, I watch in fascination.

Now the build-up is behind us. With Stacey's help, we are primed to have our greenhouse up in a hurry and it is exciting to watch.

The Background: Designing The Perfect Greenhouse

In my old home, I has two greenhouses. The smaller 8 x 12 that we moved over mountains and across the ferry to Vancouver Island and a really grand 16 x 20 to boost our food production possibilities.

In both greenhouses I used the greenhouse space to grow food, lots of food. I only made room for a small chair in the bigger greenhouse because most of my greenhouse time was designated as play time. If you are not a gardener, it is hard to imagine, but seeding, transplanting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, picking and babying plants is so much fun that it really isn’t work, it is play time. I had plenty of play with my two greenhouses.


But now I am a bit older, and I plan to travel more and leave our house and greenhouse in the care of strangers or empty for chunks of time during the year. So, I want a greenhouse that gives plenty of space but less “play” and more sitting around. This is why I designed the greenhouse slightly wider than my first smaller greenhouse: we can fit a bench and chairs as well as plants. Also, my new lot is a smaller residential lot with an existing double garage, so the maximum width and length available for my new greenhouse is 10’ wide and 12’ deep so we order exactly this size of greenhouse.


The Build: Expert Tips for a Seamless Installation

Once Stacey arrives, he is all work and expects to have the whole greenhouse installed in a day. From past experience, we know this is quicker than we can do it ourselves.


Working with one helper, Stacey looks like he is going to hit his target until something goes wrong. He is on the phone to BC Greenhouse Builders and discusses the problem. Some of the pieces sent are wrong and will not fit the special double-wall glass sections we ordered for the south wall of the greenhouse. This is something he says a less experienced builder might have forced to fit. But he sees right away the parts need to be swapped out and he has them couriered overnight. We get back to unpacking our house and a day later Stacey is back on site with replacement parts.


The build starts with mounting aluminum strips on our cement-block foundation, putting up the aluminum corners, the side walls and the roof. Then he adds the polycarbonate glazing, the double front door and the special roof and wall vents. 


step one
1 Stacey laying the base of the greenhouse on our raised foundation wall.  This is the first step in bringing our greenhouse to life.
2 We watched impatiently as the gable-ends of the greenhouse started coming together.
3 The next step was for the door to be fitted into the greenhouse. 
4 We chose glazing that would provide extra insulation due to our colder climate.  Here is one of our polycarbonate sidewalls.
5 The final installed greenhouse! I'm ready to grow and get set up in this Cape Cod.


Finally, everything is caulked to get a good seal between polycarbonate and aluminum framing. We open the front door and pose! What a painless and fantastic experience for us. We are ready to move in.


Looking Forward: Customizing Your Greenhouse Space

A greenhouse from BC Greenhouse Builders is designed by the client for the client. No two custom greenhouses are exactly the same because there are so many options and ideas available. From a chicken coop to a fireplace or swimming pool, everything is possible inside your greenhouse. 

In my case we are building to expand our shoulder season in our cooler climate, but we also want room to start and grow vegetable seedlings and flowers, nurture our lemons and visit with friends over coffee.  Even in our zone 3 climate, in the fall we start spinach, which we expect to eat in spring. We are also sheltering our fragile plants until we move them indoors later next month. Meanwhile we enjoy the early fall blooms of our saffron crocus, moved from our warmer climate garden in their Caja pot. The bulbs, it turns out, are sweet and succulent for squirrels and apparently, we have a million squirrels at our new house. So, while there are still some bulbs left in the soil in our pots, we move them into the fall greenhouse where they are protected from rodents. Meanwhile it is time for decorating, plus calling an electrician and plumber to get us ready for fans, heaters and water.

We are considering flooring options, finishes for the cement-block foundation, wall supports for climbing plants and a propagation table built to fit my existing large seedling mat. These decorating and growing options will be discusses in part five, the next and final greenhouse extravaganza blog post.

The Importance of a Well-Planned Greenhouse

But while you are waiting for the final installation, I’ll tell you about Clare.  She was held up during one of the phases of construction and needed something creative to do. I suggested she shop for furniture for her greenhouse, with a measuring tape in hand so it all fit precisely, and then she also bought an all-weather rug to place under her furniture.  Finally, I suggested she ordered a fancy broom online. I mean we know in advance we've gotta sweep up those garden messes so why not install a fancy and decorative broom from the get-go?

In other words, no matter which stage you are at, you can start dreaming of the features you will add to your personal greenhouse.  Finalizing your order is only the beginning with your greenhouse especially for the creative gardener. Watch for Part 5, “Kitting out your greenhouse” next month.


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