Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Bioneer's Greenhouse Part 1 - Overview

As a teenager, I discovered the joys of making terrariums. I started out trying to make a comfortable habitat for my pets, but it quickly became more about the habitat and less about the pets. That was the beginning of my love of engineering biological systems. As an adult, I realized that a greenhouse would be a terrarium for me and it became a goal to have one of my very own. But I didn’t want just any greenhouse. I wanted something intricately designed, efficient, self-sufficient wherever possible, and above all else, customizable. It would be a place where I could try out new ideas, tinker, and change things to make them work better.

A few years ago my wife and I bought a lot with the intent of building a house on it. Now that we are living in a rental unit on the lot next to our house and finally have our old house rented out, it is time to work towards building the new house. Naturally, the new house will include a greenhouse, though I suspect that the actual glazing will probably come along later. In the meantime, it will be a raised bed garden.

In the interest of making this a blog post and not a book, I’ll break up my design and intention for the greenhouse into parts. For starters, though, I’ll talk about the site layout.

The lot is kind of what we in Prescott call a “billygoat lot.” It is on a fairly steep hill and only covers 0.06 acres. Yes, I have the decimal point in the right place. The neighborhood is laid out with lots of open space and very small lots. That suits me just fine. As luck would have it, the lot slopes down to the south and the road is on the north side. I have about 15’ of fall from the front of the lot to the back. That means that when you walk in the front door off the street you are in the upper floor of the lot. Going down a floor and walking out the back still leaves you three to four feet above ground, just enough that I can put in a raised bed garden and still water it with greywater from the house. It also puts it in a good place to collect rainwater from the roof.

The greenhouse will be located on the southwest corner of my house and will be 10’ deep and 20’ wide. There will be a door into the house on the northeast corner of the greenhouse and the path into the greenhouse will start there with steps. There will be a 3’ wide bed all the way around the outside of the greenhouse, with a 2.5’ path next to it. On the inside will be a wider, deeper bed. There will be room for a bench as well.

Over the next several posts, I will cover the features of my future greenhouse, starting with water and drainage, then covering soil production and solar features, and finally ending with a discussion of some of the living systems I am hoping to build into the greenhouse once I get it fully built, glazed, and operational.


  1. Gardening Jones - I think you'll have to get in line ;)

    The new house is gonna be fun to follow - YOU'RE DA BOMB Ed!