Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pop Goes The Greenhouse

As winter finally approaches here in central Texas, I typically move a few select potted plants into the house and the majority into the garage.  But this means my vehicle no longer fits in there and must sit outside - which makes me grumpy on the morning drive.  So this year I decided to build some type of structure to house the larger potted plants that need protection from freezes and thus free up my garage for the vehicle.

Ideas were pondered, plans were made, and a trip to the lumber store ensued.  And...holy moley!...wood is expensive.  This was to be a temporarily-used structure primarily to trap heat, but my plans were gonna cost at least $80.

I had given up on getting a pop-up plastic greenhouse cuz I thought it was too expensive.  But, after lumber sticker-shock sent me researching the price again, I discovered I could get one slighter larger than my construction plans on sale for about $25 more - and I'd be able to collapse it down and store it when it was not needed.

Thus I recently became the owner of the Flowerhouse Planthouse 5.  The collapsed structure & components fit inside a 3-foot circular tote for storage.

The carrying case contains the plastic pop-up greenhouse, poles, stakes and twine - everything needed to put it up (except a hammer for pounding stakes into the ground).

The greenhouse unfolds easily and springs into shape with minimum effort.

At this point, the structure doesn't really stand up by itself, but it at least gives the idea of its future size and shape.  (Sidenote: at this stage, be careful moving around inside, pushing on the walls in an attempt to get it to stand; it is possible to get one's feet tangled with the lower portion and promptly tilt it and oneself  over onto the ground...not that such an me).

The poles which hold the structure's shape are much like camping tent poles.  Each pole is segmented into three parts which contain an elastic cord that binds it together and allows for sections to be pulled apart for storage or snapped together when building.

The shorter, top pole was the most difficult to insert.  The pole must be flexed to get each end to fit onto its respective small pocket.  But, as it is the shortest pole, bending it is a little tricky.  Velcro fasteners are then used to further secure it.

In the same manner, two poles are placed on each side in a crossed form to lend support.  Because of their greater length, bending these to get them to fit is not a problem.

At this point, the structure has its final shape.  Each end has zippered plastic & screen doors so that you can open either or both for ventilation/entry.  There is no floor to the structure.

A shade cloth is also provided and can be attached using Velcro strips.  As I will likely have more warm days than cold days, I decided to use the shade cloth (though this is my sunniest garden area, the greenhouse will not be receiving too much direct sun).

Stakes are provided, but their 12 inch length seem a little extreme.  Ain't gonna happen in my rocky environment; one is lucky to achieve even six inches of soil penetration before encountering limestone.

So I had to cut the stakes down to a more reasonable six inches.  But when used, some of these still had to be hammered in at an angle as they ran into either limestone or large roots.

 The plastic and screen doors each have Velcro straps so that the doors can be rolled open and secured.

Per recommendation, I also purchased a ceramic heater to go inside for those cold nights.  On sunny days, the greenhouse will be plenty warm, but at night, its temperature will drop to match that of the outside air - so additional warmth will be required (just got to make sure nothing is in a position to start a fire).

Last step was to start filling it with plants.  As most of these plants are large, they fill the 5x5-foot floor space rather quickly.  I hope to create some type of support bar so that I can also put a couple of hanging pots inside (need to take advantage of that unused vertical space!).  I also suspect that there will be some leaf burn on the plants that are near or touching the sides.  But in the past, when the plants were stored in the garage, they usually had some damage (likely due to not enough light) - so I figure that will be alright.

Will be interesting to see how this works.  And whether I'm ever able to get it back inside its tote bag next spring (things that spring out from small containers never do seem to fit back inside).


  1. Sounds like a good flexible solution. I currently do the garage dance myself, but since we have so many toys and other stuff in the garage, I never can park my car there regardless.

  2. Looking forward to hearing how it holds up through the winter...My husband is a firm believer that BOTH cars should fit in the garage so we have built a make-shift greenhouse but it's very primitive and I need more space...

  3. Oh to be able to park in the garage! But where would the patio furniture, lawn mower and garbage/recycling/yard waste containers go?

    Nice compromise! Our little heater did a good job of keeping our "greenhouse" warm during our last cold snap. If we get anything worse I might have to get a 2nd one and have dueling heaters!

  4. Car in a garage? Is that what they are for?
    Just kidding,fortunately for me I have always lived in temperate climates where the 45 is cold. I sympathize with my fellow gardeners up north.
    I do like the portable greenhouse though and with a heater too. Good luck keeping your babies warm this winter.

  5. I have the same problem. Potted plants and frost. Unfortunately my garden is to small for this solution, so I keep searching. I am sure your plants will be happy in their new home.

  6. Pam: Here's hoping it works.

    Whimsical: Will let you know how it does.

    Danger: Mine is pretty small, so I'm thinking one heater will do for me (rated for medium room - whatever that means).

    Rees: Thanks - here's hoping that inside it stays at your lows of 45!

    Denise: Have seen some that are really small (more like tiny tents/covers for individual plants); might look out for those.

  7. That looks like it will do the trick, and what a bargain. Let me know how that heater works. Thermostat? I have a milk shed heater but am not very happy with the way it keeps switching on and off and would like to find something better.

  8. Lancashire: I was pretty happy with the price. The heater lacks a true thermostat; it's simply a cheap heater with two fan speeds and a temperature range of warm to hot. But I think it will work for me.

  9. Great find! I'm curious to see how it works out. Still looking for a good winterizing option for the large potted tropicals.

  10. Amy: Was pretty pleased with the sale price. By winter's end, will post how the plants did. Really hoping it works, cuz I get tired of hauling heavy pots in/out of garage.