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Experimental greenhouse build. Looking for suggestions.

 
Brian White
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I have nearly completed the brick walls around it,  but the internals are still to be decided.  Ground is higher east and north of the greenhouse,  and its 9 wide by 12 long. Ill have the whole floor covered in concrete paver slabs to prevent rodents burrowing under. Brick or wood for the inside walls of the planters?   The back wall will have a "dripwall"  (water dripping down on sunny days to capture heat and bring it under the soil)  there will also be abut 6 inches of water under the planter in and this water will be circulated around the planter.  (I use an airlift pump to move the water).  I also plan to pump air through a 3 inch gravel filled pipe to under the soil in the planters  with a computer fan powered  by a solar panel.  This is to capture heat from the warm air for the cold night and also hopefully to condense moisture from the air onto the gravel.  Roof will be 5 glass panels.  2 longways and 3 sideways so it can have the steeper slope to the north or to the south,  which is better?    Experimental greenhouse
Thanks Brian white Victoria BC Canada
 
Lisa Sampson
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You are probably better off doing something like a solar water heater to capture heat and circulate it into the greenhouse. Having constantly dripping water seems like an invitation to either algae or mold or both.  

If you can avoid wood contacting soil, then I would recommend doing that. Wood+soil+water=insects and other pests.  Most treated lumber is either treated with something nasty like creosote or arsenic or it has been treated with a copper solution that does not work as well and is a skin irritant, not really what you want in small area like a green house where you will be touching your planting beds a lot.  

If you do not mortar cinder blocks into place, they can be staked into place to create beds.  They are inexpensive, re-usable, and should hold as long as they are not more than 3 or 4 cinder blocks tall.  
 
Mike Haasl
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Your link just goes to the Google. Might you be able to attach photos from your computer or phone using the "attachments" tab at the bottom of a new post?

Where are you located in the world?  What works in Arizona may not work in Minnesota...
 
Brian White
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Sorry, I haven't been here in a while so things have changed a bit.  I popped in a few pictures of the work so far and a diagram of the planter layout in the greenhouse as attachments.  I used to be able to do images in posts ( I thought).   I was really hoping to have a working greenhouse by Christmas but it has been a bit rainy.  Anyway,  here goes with the photos.  
Brian
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The original plan for the planters and for the roof angle.
The original plan for the planters and for the roof angle.
 
Brian White
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Here is the roof question. Which is better,  the steep side of the roof to the north or to the south?  
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Mike Haasl
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Where are you located in the world?  Snow load, latitude and winter cloudiness all come into the equation...
 
Brian White
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Mike Haasl wrote:Where are you located in the world?  Snow load, latitude and winter cloudiness all come into the equation...

Hi, Mike, Victoria BC  About 48 degrees north. I'll be putting on the roof pretty soon, (if the weather dries up for a day). I'm currently thinking of putting the steeper side facing south.  I think snow will slide easily off the glass. And if not,  I'll be out there with a broom.
 
Mike Haasl
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I like that idea as well.  Shedding snow from the sunny side is a good idea.  Plus if the snow sticks to the flatter North slope it gives you more insulation.  I presume you might be cloudy a fair bit in the winter?  If so all the glass will be helpful.  In a cold and sunny area, limiting the glass on the north side (and E/W) helps to give more insulation and less heat loss.
 
Brian White
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Mike Haasl wrote:I like that idea as well.  Shedding snow from the sunny side is a good idea.  Plus if the snow sticks to the flatter North slope it gives you more insulation.  I presume you might be cloudy a fair bit in the winter?  If so all the glass will be helpful.  In a cold and sunny area, limiting the glass on the north side (and E/W) helps to give more insulation and less heat loss.


Thanks, Mike,  the north side is a few feet away from my boundary fence.  It will have a higher wall before the glass (around 3 and a half ft and then glass).  Because the lower part is not going to get light easily anyway.  I put on a ridge board just to see how high and the slope on the north side is 20 degrees and on the south it is 30 degrees. I was maybe going to put the roof on first and then the final windows but I changed my mind.  Windows will go in first then the roof.  I'll silicone them into their frames and it will stiffen up the structure Plus there's wood framing  at roof level above the windows so it is much easier if its done first.  Tomorrow is another rainy day,  but perhaps there will be gaps in the rain.   Thanks for your input,   I ended up putting the steeper side to the south.  
Why do people put saw tooth fancy stuff above the ridge? Is it to deter birds or just to look pretty?  
Thanks Brian  
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I put on the top ridge board just to visualize how high and what slope the glass on the roof is.
I put on the top ridge board just to visualize how high and what slope the glass on the roof is.
 
Mike Haasl
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If you mean the fancy spikes like on this greenhouse, I suspect you're right and it's to keep birds from pooping on it and possibly it's pretty...

 
Lisa Sampson
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The traditional victorian ones were often tied into lightening strike grounding.  The ridge decorations were often metal and tied to ground through the lightening rods/fancy finials that were tied to ground straps on the old metal and glass greenhouses.  Stopping the birds from pooping was a side benefit.  Since the original Victorian designs were often tall, warm, and metal so they were quite the target. They were large and elaborate and used to grow everything from citrus trees to tea shrubs to orchids.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/15058979976449202/
 
Brian White
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Here is a diagram that will be pretty close to the plan for my taller (North) planter.   There will also be pipes or tubes in the soil to circulate solar collected water (like a radiant floor)  and also some pipes in the soil or water chamber to send warm air from high up in the greenhouse,  to extract the heat and store it overnight.  
planters-utube.png
The planter design
The planter design
 
Brian White
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I've been a bit lazy and weather is horrible so I haven't got much done. However, I did this little drawing to show how the heat storage might work.  Its probably mostly to capture afternoon heat and put it into the soil or water both to prevent heat stress in the afternoons, and to provide the equivalent of a "warm bed" overnight.  Figures are close to correct for my  as yet unbuilt greenhouse.  I'll power it with a computer fan connected directly to an old solar panel.  
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Jamin Grey
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Lisa Sampson wrote:Most treated lumber is either treated with something nasty like creosote or arsenic



With the exception of railroad ties and telephone poles, most treated lumber doesn't used creosote anymore, thankfully. It's still something to be wary of when using reclaimed wood though.

or it has been treated with a copper solution that does not work as well and is a skin irritant, not really what you want in small area like a green house where you will be touching your planting beds a lot.



My personal experience with ACQ (a specific copper treated method) is no skin irritation for me or any of a half-dozen people who's interacted with my garden beds, and the beds have lasted for at least five years so far, and look like they'll go much longer. A few screws have come loose from softened or slightly warped wood, so now I'll use longer (3 1/2") screws and more of them. Essentially, from 40 rectangles of 2x10s or 2x12s, about five corners came undone over five years (5 corners out of 160 corners).
I'm excluding a garden bed that was hit by a tractor (-_-).

Mine aren't in a greenhouse where moisture is trapped, but they are filled with dirt on automated irrigation, and I get a decent amount of rain in spring and fall, and plenty of heat in summer.

Other copper treating methods vary in quality. For example, I've yet to see how well AC2 works (Menards) but bought a decent amount for an arbor. EL2 (Lowes) sounds scarily poor quality. I'm really happy with ACQ though. Different big box stores use different treatment methods (depending on the lumbermills they source from), and we have to watch out for the distinction between "ground contact" (good) and "above ground" (poor) treatments. They usually make that distinction on their websites, e.g. "intended for burial or direct ground contact" or "not intended for direct contact with ground".

I'm super not happy with Coronovirus literally more than doubling the cost of wood, though! Seriously it's lke 250% the regular price near me, so I'm putting off some projects to next year.
 
Brian White
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I will be most likely using pallet wood for the insides of the planters, I'll only use wood from new pallets and it'll be marked HT, (Meaning that it is made with heat treated wood), and any wood I mess up breaking up the pallets will go in the fire as soon as its dry.  Its likely all the inner walls of the greenhouse planters  will be made of wood. (I almost ran out of used bricks). They are sacrificial.  I don't mind if they slowly rot in place, because when they do, they will end up in the compost bin or buried under a vegetable patch.   There are so many ways to transfer heat from the air above to the water under the greenhouse,  I'm a bit at a loss to figure out the best ways.  Maybe, I should do a reply with a rough diagram of several alternatives?    One is having some sort of  "radiator"  near the apex of the roof (inside) and pump cold water through it in a circuit that also includes a run of copper or alu pipe under the water in the chamber under the planter.  Something on the roof like a reused automobile radiator? and it'll still need a computer fan or bigger to blow air through it and it'll need something  to wick away condensate and also probably an inline rotary pump to run the water through it.   Any thoughts?  Also, how hot will a 10 sq meter  (107 sq ft) greenhouse  typically get?   Anyone have their shaded thermometer readings from a small greenhouse?
 
Mike Haasl
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I think I like the idea of moving the air down and running it through either the soil or the water via a corrugated air-tight tube.  That seems simplest.  If you use a radiator up high, then you need to pump the water up there and you'll need a beefier fan.  
 
Brian White
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Pouring rain all day today so I was looking up more things to experiment with  and adding CO2 to the greenhouse is a big one.  If the daytime CO2 levels can be raised from 400 ppm to 1200 ppm in the greenhouse, then there will be a major boost in plant growth.    So, my greenhouse is 10 sq meters and the task for the day was to internet research how to do it.  The plants in this size greenhouse likely could use up to 0.2 Kg of CO2 in Winter and around 0.3 kg of Co2 in the Summer.   Here are some of the ways to get 0.3 kg of CO2 into the air in the greenhouse. 70 kg human resting in the greenhouse for about 10 hours.  Or  Burn 200 grams of wood,  or have an enclosed compost bin attached to the greenhouse and add about 3.5 kg of yard waste to the compost every day in the summer.  Chickens or rabbits in the greenhouse  or in an enclosed shed attached to it, are other options,  or  maybe a kennel for the local raccoons. (they exhale as they sleep), so just suck air out of the kennel into the greenhouse.  So,  I'm not sure if I can get 3.5 kg of weeds per day.  Also,  I haven't put all the glass in the north side of it,  and maybe I can put a blue barrel composter in one section instead of glass.  (Can't be wood because the rodents will make holes to get in).  I'll take a pic of how I do compost in a blue barrel,  maybe tomorrow.  Another idea might be a sheet metal compost bin on the north side. (Again,  necessary to be both rodent and air  circulation proof.   (Because the CO2 from the compost must be directed into the greenhouse not into the outside air).   Anyways,  what do you all think?
 
Mike Haasl
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I did the compost in my greenhouse for two years with the aim of getting heat from it.  I didn't get that but I did get a bunch of smells and possible questionable gasses.  So if you get CO2 you'd also be getting other gasses that you might not want to breath.  Plus more rot organisms.

The raccoon house would be very creative.  Allow them into a box that is within the greenhouse but blocked off from it.  Then you might get some droppings for fertilizer as well.  Maybe a cat or possum or other critter would want to live there instead - no biggie.
 
Brian White
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someone just suggested mushrooms in another place where I posted about the greenhouse.  So, I'd probably do that in a sealed box outside the north wall.  and pipe the greenhouse air in and the mushroom gasses out. Anyone know how quick mushrooms decompose wood and give off  CO2?
 
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I know nothing about greenhouses, but I do know about wildlife poop! I would highly recommend to NEVER use wildlife feces for "manure" and exclude any meat eating pet (cat, dog, ferret etc.) feces.

Raccoons and most wildlife carry parasites. In particular a roundworm called Baylis ascaris can, in very rare instances (must be incubated at just the right temperature for 17-21 days - green house would be perfect - and accidently ingested) can cause blindness and even death.  Cat species carry a host of zoonotic parasites that can seriously harm and yes, also kill a human - toxoplasmosis to name just one.

Manure from "vegetarian" (horse, cow, goat, rabbit, llama etc.) animals that has aged, for whatever reason, is viewed safe - I assume that the heat produced by decomp kills the nasty ones.

With it being so close to the neighbor, I would ensure water/snow runoff will not be an issue for the fence - replacing the fence once the green house is built could be challenging. Proactive replacement of existing fence section behind greenhouse may be wise. I suggest posts with elevated "feet" (concrete and saddles?) or straight metal posts faced with metal or other moisture immune material where the green house will shed moisture.

Don't forget to include ventilation for when hot in summer. Do build strong enough for our rare 2ft dump of nasty, wet, heavy snow - it would be a shame to do all this work and have it collapse and shatter all the glass.
 
Brian White
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I reached out to a few government organizations and professionals and one lady couldn't answer my questions about the CO2 output from Compost so she passed it on.  Turns out one of the organizations I asked is consulting with a large composting facility to implement pretty much the same thing on a far larger scale, of course.  (using the compost's heat and CO2 in a greenhouse).   They will be using Co2 monitors to keep their levels optimum.  Anyways, I feel a positive vibe because someone else is attempting the same thing.   I looked up CO2 concentrations in typical situations.  1200 ppm are typical in new LEED Platinum apartments according to one statistic,  Single occupant cars are in the 4100 ppm range. And classrooms are around the 1000 ppm range.  So, I think we are good! I guess it might be an idea to invest in a CO2 meter because it is experimental, after all, but more and more, it looks like CO2 from compost is doable, and pretty safe,  Just need to scale it right.  Probably have to process the air,  or send it under the planter straight out of the compost bin to filter the smellies out of it.  
 
Brian White
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Just a couple of pictures and  diagrams.    I wonder what type of sensors and data loggers aren't too expensive and can still do the CO2 humidity and temperature measurements accurately enough for this project. I was going slow, due to weather and also Trying to decide what is best for the compost/CO2 generator. I'll be using a different sheet of glass than originally for the back of the greenhouse. I'm now glad I took my time.
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