Filling the greenhouse

When you put off a task until the last possible moment, you're stuck doing it under whatever conditions exist, whether they are ideal or not. This is especially true with outdoor projects, and as it turns out, most gardening projects occur outside -- at least until we all start living in domed cities with moving sidewalks and flying cars. I've known that a hard freeze was coming, and I assembled the greenhouse over the weekend when the weather was perfect for that sort of work.

Yesterday morning I filled the greenhouse with my potted bamboos. The weather was definitely not perfect for this task.


What made the conditions less-than-ideal? Rain, falling temperatures, a holiday-imposed time limit, and muddy ground. Actually, when I started this project in the morning it wasn't raining, but it was threatening. After a quite dry September and October we've had a couple of days of pretty heavy rain.

Although I don't have a rain gauge, I always have several buckets out and it looks like we've had about 6" of rainfall from these storms. So the ground is a little soft and spongy.

Regardless, the temperature will be falling all day (it was in the upper 40's F when I started) and the night's low is forecast to be 20ºF, so I need to get these plants protected.

My bamboo pots are scattered all over the place:

I could show a few dozen more photos of different potted bamboos, but in the interest of maximizing efficiency (I only have a couple of hours out here today) I won't. Since I didn't know exactly how many pots I had to cram into the greenhouse, I decided to move them all onto the lawn.

The wheelbarrow saved me a lot of extra trips:

After I had them all together in one place, I realized that it was going to be a tight fit in the greenhouse:

I didn't count the pots, but it must be between 50 and 100. Note that I'm not putting my large potted bamboos in the greenhouse:

Last year I mainly had the large plants in the greenhouse, but that was before they were tall too. Most of these are way too tall for the greenhouse, so I'll probably lay them down and tarp over them. You can see that some of them are eager to get onto the ground already.

I should mention that as I was putting the last few pots with the rest on the lawn it started to rain pretty hard. So on with the raincoat and no more photos. There really wasn't much to photograph anyway, since the job then just required me to determine which pots to place where in the greenhouse, then carry pot after pot after pot after pot inside.

Although I'm quite happy with how it's held up with these storms, the greenhouse roof does have one spot where water collects and leaks:

Luckily this was the perfect place to put my heat sink -- a garbage can filled with water:

Since the greenhouse is unheated, the water in this can will warm up during the day (on sunny days), then will slowly release this captured heat during the night, regulating the temperatures in there a little bit.

I do need to do something about that leak though, because it's going to quickly overflow. (The leak didn't fill the can -- I filled it to this level with the hose.) I can worry about that on another day though.

With all of the plants inside, the space is quite inviting:

I've left enough space so I can walk to the water pail, and that's about it. I think there's enough space for a small stool too -- I'll be coming in here once in a while to check on the plants and just enjoy the warmth and greenery, and it's nice to have something to sit on.

Although it will make a nice sanctuary for me, the important thing is it will provide enough protection from cold temps and wind to keep these plants alive and green through the winter.

It's important to note that these bamboos are cold-hardy already -- they're not tropical plants that I'm trying to keep alive. This unheated greenhouse could never do that. Although some of these would be able to survive the winter unprotected if they were larger plants in the ground, in pots or as young immature plants they don't have the cold-hardiness that they should yet. So I protect them, giving them the best chance of "sizing up" next year.

Here's a panoramic shot (click for larger version):

As you can see, it's pretty crowded, and quite lush. A nice place to spend a few minutes on sunny days in January and February, don't you think?

One great thing about this greenhouse project is that I won't need to move these plants again until late February or early March. That's good, because I need a rest. A towel would be nice too.

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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (November 26, 2010 at 11:51 AM)  

Excellent job, Alan! I love the end result--it truly is an inviting space (minus the cold). If I had the space, I'd build something like that for my marginally hardy plants.

Alan  – (November 26, 2010 at 2:25 PM)  

It's really nice in there on cold mornings when the condensation has frosted up all of the plastic inside. I think I'm going to get a wireless thermometer this year so I can monitor the temps in there without having to go outside.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (November 26, 2010 at 7:18 PM)  

It would interesting to know how much warmer the insider of your greenhouse is.

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