Question and Answer Time Part 2

My son Adam enjoying the Greenhouse!

I received an email yesterday from a long time reader Richard, who asks;

Hi Gavin,
I think it was during the Sustainable Homes day that I visited your place and saw your greenhouse. It took me a few months to get the motivation to set it up and a further few weeks to finally bolt it all together but it’s done. As you inspired me, I tried to find out some more information on the greenhouse from your website, but I couldn’t find anything. Can you please give me some pointers?
Firstly, the four feet at each corner of the base, did you just jam them into the soil so the base is flat on the ground? What’s the base of your greenhouse covered in, crushed rock or recycled crushed brick?
Did you seal the polycarbonate sheets with silicon along the aluminum parts?
With the shelving did you buy separate portable greenhouse shelving and put them inside?
With your seedling labels, have you found any ‘eco-friendly’ ones or just the plastic paddle-pop things from Bunnings?
With your fruit trees, what made you decide what to buy?
As I’ve only got a 1kW PV system installed, would you add another more powerful system? How did you decide on how many panels you needed?
Sorry to ask all these questions, but it’s frustrating doing it all myself.


Thanks for your questions Richard.

Answer #1.  The base of the greenhouse was bashed into the hard clay that we have in this neck of the woods, so it did not need any concrete.  The base did have spikes that were about 30cm (1′) long and it has not moved since.

 After it was hammered into the ground with a rubber mallet, I made sure it was level.

Answer #2.  The ground was already covered in crushed rock, which I simply pulled back from the frame, then backfilled when in place.  It has kept it very sturdy.

Answer #3.  Walls.  I did not seal the polycarbonate sheets, and have only had one pop out because I was silly enough to leave the door open when it was very windy.  They are a pain in the bum to put back in!

Answer #4.  Shelving.  I bought the shelves separately, and re-purposed an old one that I had.  They are just cheap small greenhouse frames, that would normally have a PVC cover over them.

Answer #5.  As for eco-friendly labels, I simply cut up an old ice-cream container into strips and marked them with a permanent marker.  When I am finished with the label, I wipe it with a bit of methylated spirits to remove the writing, and store it back in my seed box.  Otherwise, I use old wooden ice-cream sticks from iced lollies.

Answer #6.  Fruit trees.  I asked the family what they liked to eat, bought those varieties on dwarf root stock, and planted the deciduous trees (stone-fruit, apples, pears) in the front yard which is north facing so that sunlight still warms up the house in winter, and planted the evergreens (citrus) to the south and west of the house.  Where I couldn’t source dwarf roots stock I planted them in pots.

Answer #7.  Solar PV.  It all depends on your consumption of electricity.  If you are energy-wise, then 1kW will be sufficient, however if you are like the average Australian family and use over 16 kWh a day then it will only reduce you power bill by 25%.  You can read about how I went about reducing my electricity consumption at the post titled “Eco House Challenge Electricity 1“.

Answer #8.  Just remember it is cheaper to save a kilowatt than it is to make a kilowatt of electricity.  I sized my system based on 75% of my energy usage of an average 12 kWh per day and I was way over generous.  I now produce 120% of my energy needs, as two children have left home since I installed the system back in September 2007.

Well, I hope everyone got a little something from Richard’s email, as I certainly enjoyed replying to it.

Ask and you shall receive!

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