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Just thinking out loud. Fiberglass class c rv into greenhouse.  RSS feed

 
Posts: 157
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bike greening the desert trees
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Long story short, I'm currently renting my house out and living in an old rv.  I'm sick of it, and the rv isn't currently running, and since it's a 78 it's not got much value to it anyway.  It is insulated okay, and It does have windows.....it basically looks like every class c rv ever made.  It's already got a sink/running water.  It's hooked into my sewer, and of course it's tapped into the main house's (I'm running two 15 amp circuits to it) electricity.  It's parked east to west on the southern side of my house, so it gets sun all day long.  Not so much for a summer greenhouse, but just for a simple colder months one.
I just googled it, and there are plenty of school buses I've seen, but I didn't see any class c, or other types.

Pros/cons?  Suggestions?
I don't want to cut any of the exterior up, so no new windows/roof, but I have no problem gutting the inside for tables/more functionality.
Just looking for links or pictures if anyone has anything valuable.
I might also start trying to grow microgreens inside with supplemental lighting (that was my original thought).  Better than dirtying up a room in the house which was the thought I had before the greenhouse thought.

The rv is basically useless to me when I move out, and like I said, it doesn't have much value as far as selling it goes.  I have the room, and was considering building an attached greenhouse to the house exactly where the rv is currently parked anyway.



 
Posts: 108
Location: Cave Junction, Oregon
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Also thinking outloud.. I'd think of the rv as a shed room and build the greenhouse off the south side of the unit.  That way you have power and a place to organize all your garden items/tools. Link is
from google images
Here is what I mean.. sort of.  Could be less elaborate but covering the unit could prove to be worthwhile. Such a large roof could collect plenty of water too.
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/00/36/c7/0036c76d6b01f39ca92a0683b60069bb.jpg
 
S Tenorman
Posts: 157
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Roxanne, yeah, I like that idea, actually.  No way I'm building that type of structure (I wish....I could, though), but like you said something more simple.  Even a half a hoop house made of the cattle panels/or pvc pipe seems like it would be simple and cheap.  I did want the ability to roll it around if I needed to move it, so I'd lose that, but it probably wouldn't matter much.  I could still use the rv for the microgreens/shed/storage which would be nice.
Without cutting holes in the rv to allow more light in, I'd guess there'd only be a small area of space I could put things so they'd get enough light anyway.

I'm stuck living in here until January, so there's plenty of time to think about things.  I doubt I'd even tackle anything until late spring of next year at best.
As for the roof collecting water, I really need to install a gutter on my homemade roof, lol.  It's all set to collect right now.  It's ghetto......I know.  lol



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pollinator
Posts: 194
Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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I'll join the crowd and think aloud.

It looks from the pictures that not much light is going to get in there. Cool season microgreens will probably do okay, but have you considered mushrooms? And no, I'm not talking magical ones.

Here is an example of how mushrooms grow in RVs even when people don't want them to. With a permaculture mindset though, that's an organism's way of telling you what conditions it likes best. The nice thing is that you can buy a roll of poly and easily create a sterile area for an inoculation room. I haven't done any grows in my house for a year or two because it's just too hot and dry which is opposite of what mushrooms like. I've contemplated this RV idea before as old trailers are on the classified for $500 all the time. 

From what I've seen in your scenario, there is:
-Running water
-A huge fan for good air circulation
-Access to cattle panels, so you likely have access to large amounts of straw I would assume.
-A huge tin roof on the RV which blocks extra heat from going in there

You won't need to do any permanent alterations to the RV and it's for a cool season growing area, so I can't see a better use for it. Mushrooms can be grown in modified potting containers, 5 gallon buckets or even laundry baskets. Best of all, you could still build the exterior greenhouse if you wanted to and have both setups for year long growing in the RV area.

Scott Tenorman wrote: It's ghetto......I know.  lol



These pics are from my first grow with a single 5 gallon potting container 3/4 filled with straw. It was not the finest setup by any means. As long as stuff works I usually don't care how it looks lol.

5 days after I moved them from jars to straw

A few days later (as you can see, using old water damaged shelving from a garage lol)

Harvest

 
pollinator
Posts: 2016
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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At first  I thought you were  talking about an RV inside a greenhouse.
Building a hoop house off it or all around it would give you more living space plus it could double as.a low mass  heat gathering sunspace.
 
Posts: 214
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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That RV looks like it's in pretty good shape. I like the idea of turning it into workspace -- use the existing cupboards and counters and storage. Move out bulky stuff like mattresses and couch cushions, fill that space with shelving, and you've got a nice sheltered heatable space for seed starts. I wouldn't gut it beyond that, tho -- you won't gain much space and you'll lose its functionality as an emergency house. Make your greenhouse portable and butted up against it, and take advantage of its thermal mass and that you can move it to best catch the sun.
 
S Tenorman
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@ Jaret,

Thank you for the reply.  I hadn't thought about mushrooms.  The climate here is not good for them in general, humidity in the low 20's to teens year round, but in a closed up box, maybe it could work.  The bathroom area could easily be sealed off and made to be humid/dark, and there is a fan built into a skylight that could be used for its airflow.  I know nothing about the specific conditions mushrooms like, but it might be too hot in here even in winter.  Even with 100% of all the natural light blocked from the windows right now, it's still getting into the mid 80's F in the afternoon inside right now.  I have to assume it would be in the 90's F if the light were coming in.  I do have a fan/homemade swamp cooler to cool in here.  It rarely got above 90 F inside the rv in the summer with the fan/cooler running (June through September is 100+ F on average outside).  I'll have to look more into it.  Thank you for the idea.  I have had a few wild mushrooms growing out in my woodchips, so IT CAN BE DONE!  I've seen it.  Thank you for the pictures also.  I love pictures! 
Your observations are correct.  Although I live in a "residential" area, there are still family farms/cattle ranches within walking distance.  I'm a hound when it comes to looking for good deals in craigslist's farm/garden for sale section.

I figure I'd be using some fluorescent lights for the microgreens, and stuff them in the cabinets.  It's kind of already built, other than hanging the lights.  If I ever try to sell microgreens (doubtful) this rv seems like it would be an awesome space for growing a good quantity in (and again, keeping it out of the house).

Also, now that I've thought about the attached greenhouse on the rv.....it's not looking like it will work unless it's really small.  I'd have to come too far out into my driveway, and it would prevent me from getting my little utility trailer back into the yard.  It's already a squeeze to get passed the rv as it is.    I still like the idea, though.

Just as a side note, I LOVE the idea of a greenhouse that's attached to the house, and is used to heat the house.  The master bedroom to the house is directly on the other side of the rv, it would be sooooo easy to punch a hole in the wall, and vent the hot air from the greenhouse into the main house............I might even try to run a couple of small ducts from the house into the rv using a fan to keep the air flowing to and from both.  It would heat the house in the day, and heat the rv in the evening.  I'm not sure how practical it would be, but it makes sense in my head.   I just try stuff, it fails more often than not.  lol  It doesn't matter.

This is random, but I have built a greenhouse before.  Here's my first attempt and I gave up on it and turned it into a chicken coop..........I have too much free time sometimes.....it worked, but the problem was it was inconvenient, and it required a fan to cool it even in the middle of January.  It was hard to keep the temperature under 85F even with a fan blowing, and outside temps in the 40's.  (I stole the idea from gardenpool.org).



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Small in ground swimming pool.
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A rare snow event. Almost a foot of wet snow, amazingly the plastic held up.
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It was so hot inside on sunny days, I had to pull stuff out.
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Trying to use the water to keep the temps stable. lol I know nothing!
 
Rez Zircon
Posts: 214
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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Speaking from a lot of experience with RVs/travel trailers, which are structurally similar (lived in one for 24 years myself, both in the northern wastes and the high desert)...

The only reason that RV stayed livable during high summer and 100 degrees outdoors is because of the secondary roof. Without that or A/C running full time, you'da cooked. If you attach it to a hole in the house you'll find that in cold weather heat leaves the house -- no matter how well insulated an RV is for an RV (and the old ones didn't have much), it is never even close to the insulation in even the most poorly-insulated house.

I would not attempt mushrooms inside the RV -- I think you'll find it grows a lot of mold inside the walls and floor and begins to rot, as the RV itself will suck up water as fast as you can add it. The frame under the fiberglas is probably fir, and while fir is fairly resistant to dry rot, it absorbs water like a sponge, and once it starts to wet-rot it'll disintegrate rather quickly. And the kind of mold that grows under such conditions is a health hazard. I would use the RV for storage and workspace, and for enclosed starters, but I wouldn't try to turn it into a greenhouse/mushhouse (new word).

I really like the idea of using the pool's mass of water and concrete for thermal mass inside a greenhouse. Even if you have to vent it in hot weather, and use a tank heater in winter -- it might be stable enough for most growies. Higher roof and western shade would help with the overheating issue.
 
S Tenorman
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Thank you Rez,

Umm, I'm not sure about the roof.  It helped, but I didn't install it until about the middle of July.  It was hitting about 105 F when I put it up, and with the 18" X 18" single cooler pad in front of the fan in the picture, it was getting to about 85-88 F inside.  After I installed the roof, it was maybe a 5 degree difference (and I'm probably overstating that because it was a pain to build it by myself, and I'm wanting to justify the effort.....not fun baking on a hot tin roof!  haha).  It certainly kept the heat from radiating off the ceiling so much, but I had the swamp cooler running 24/7, and it basically exchanged all of the air fast enough that I don't think it made it necessary.  I wouldn't build the roof over it again, knowing what I know now.  With a real swamp cooler, with three pads, a squirrel cage fan, and a 1/2hp motor.....I'm certain it would have been in the low high 70's to low 80's without the extra roof.  The setup I made was rather inefficient at pushing through the pad with the water, but it worked.  It could have been much more efficient.

Yes, the mold issue is a real concern.  I have an almost full size bathtub in the bathroom that's made of fiberglass.  The entire bathroom is maybe 5' X 4' and could be sealed up easily with plastic, including the floor.  I think condensation would be the problem when it got under the plastic.......but it's so dang dry here.  It might be worth trying.  I do seem to have a chronic cough from shoveling moldy woodchips.........so maybe that's a bad idea.  hahaha

I might have to make a sign for the rv.  Mushhouse.  lol  Nice. 

Ugh, I had such high hopes for the pool greenhouse idea.  I even had a small pile of compost to the right of the stairs under the tarp in one of the pictures to try to put a little heat out after the sun went down.   The problem was it would still freeze at night inside, and then hit over 100 F the next day.  More effort on my part could have made it work.......but I lost interest, and I couldn't justify the huge amount of space for the little amount that I actually needed.
Currently the pool has tons of woodchips in it.  They're putting off a good amount of heat (with the help of 12 chickens/ducks......and yes the ducks love the swimming area at the deep end), and I just planted a citrus tree in a planter out in the middle of it all.  I'm hoping with the heat they're putting off, and by covering the citrus with a small frame of plastic, it'll be enough to keep it alive during the winter here.  It rarely drops below 20 F, but it did get down to 1 F once, and stayed in the teens for more than a week. 
The plastic is off the hoops on the pool now, and it's covered in hardware cloth.  I think with the amount of wooodchips currently in the pool, and with the water at the deep end, it would stay nice and toasty if I ever decide to cover it back up.  I think I'd use a swamp cooler for a fan during the day, and it would heat itself at night..........  I'll go snap some pictures of it right now.

 
S Tenorman
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I'm waiting for the other pictures to upload.  In the meantime.  Here's the simple swamp cooler.  I did upgrade the fan, because the one in the picture just wasn't able to push enough volume through.
The plastic tote under the fan (where it's next to the rv in the above pictues) is the water reservoir, and where the pump is located.  Super simple, super cheap. 
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S Tenorman
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Okay, so here's the pool as of today.  There are thousands upon thousands of pounds of woodchips surrounding the entire pool now.  (I had to wheelbarrow them up three steps to get them to the pool, ugh).  It varies between a foot and six inches now, and that's after they've been settled.  They were probably 18" deep when I first put them up there. 
I had been putting compost in the pool initially, no woodchips.  So, at the deeper part next to the rocks is a beautiful enriched humus/compost that's been awesome for the garden.  Also, when I fill the deep end for the ducks, I run the water at the highest point and let it pass through all of the compost/woodchips making a "tea" that then gets further enriched by the duck's poo.  I pump that out with a bilge into the gardens.

It's a pink lemonade tree in the planter, and I just potted it up about a week ago.  (Home depot had all their citrus half off otherwise I wouldn't have tried.)  I still need to build a little frame over it so I can cover it.

Sorry to get off the original topic so much.........lol

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Rez Zircon
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Sounds a lot like where I lived in the high desert -- freezing at night, over 100 during the day. Trust me, that roof was a lifesaver. It's not so much the temperature difference as the amount of heat that radiates down from above, and by August your head would have melted.

I've done that sort of poor-man's swamp cooler too. The reason it doesn't work as well as the box type is that the air doesn't have enough time to cool down relative to the surface area, and there probably wasn't enough air exhausting through the RV either. Using the foam pads (double-packed so they hold more water) helps. You could swamp-cool your pool-greenhouse that way -- might even be enough cooling for it, if you add an exhaust fan that's not impeded by the filter.

Be careful with wood chips close to your house -- in the desert, it'll draw termites, and they'll get into everything they think is edible with unbelievable speed (they love lawn clippings too). I'd keep all compostable material as far away from the house as you can get it.
 
S Tenorman
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@ Rez, thank you again for your reply.

For the sake of accuracy, my temps here in the winter, during the cold, crisp, sunny days, were not getting much above the 40's F.  Inside the greenhouse/pool when it was covered at that same time (with no fan), it was hitting 90+ F easily at that time (I considered putting a couch and tv in the pool...........it was so pleasant to go in there while it was cold outside, lol. 
Nights it would basically be a few degrees warmer than the outside temp which would be mid 30's to mid 20's.  I was taking the plants out at night and putting them in my living room, lol.  It was a pain.  I'd hoped the water and the small compost pile would be enough to warm it......but it wasn't nearly enough to keep it above freezing.

So, I totally agree with you about the woodchips and termites.  Except, I've heard the exact opposite (I'm not sure if it was from Paul G (back to eden guy) or Jake Mace).  One or both of them said it's not an issue from their experience with using woodchips...........
common sense tells me that's wrong.  All of the yard near the house (there are technically three zones to my back yard) is concrete/rock/grass.  Termites aside, I hate bugs.  The woodchips are full of bugs, it's awesome (for nature), but I was raised in the city, haha.  If I dig down in the chips a few inches, there's an army of sow bugs, cockroaches, spiders (black widows everywhere), and all kinds of other creepy crawly stuff I don't care to share space with in my living quarters. 

Again, the roof wasn't that helpful.  I'm certain from experience.  Had I not been running the cooler, I couldn't have lived in this rv, secondary roof or not.  Maybe blocking the entire front/sun facing side of the rv so it was also shaded might have been better......but even then, with no cooler, I don't think I personally could have withstood the heat.  I was at my max threshold for heat with the cooler running 24/7.  Even my neighbor who has lived here his entire life told me it wasn't worth the roof considering I had the cooler.  The air was being completely exchanged within minutes (maybe even seconds), so even heat radiating from the roof would have been pushed outside before it had a chance to radiate into  the actual rv.  I have three roof vents, and a screen door that were all open, so airflow wasn't a problem.  I'm just saying, I saw it, and lived it with my own eyes, sense of feel, lol.  That's for this particular location, about 3,000 feet and very low humidity.  I don't know what it's like anywhere else.  As far as I can tell 105F in July is the same as 105F any other time of the year?  There would be no difference given the same humidity levels.

If I do the pool greenhouse again, I'd definitely use a swamp cooler (a commercially made one).  The airflow is tremendous compared to what I made.  My only problem with it, and I thought this when I actually was using the pool as a greenhouse.....what if the belt breaks, or the power goes out, or the motor burns out, or the water is interrupted for some reason.........A total loss if I'm not here to immediately fix the problem.  Winter, it might be okay for a while, but any other time of the year here.......everything would bake/die within an hour I think.  It just wasn't worth the risk, and I certainly didn't want the expense of making a redundant solar backup (which in the event of a water interruption, it would still fail).  Those events are rare, and I have never had a water problem, and power outages are few and far between here.......but.......it just seemed like a lot of risk, and still does.  That being said, the gardenpool.org people seem to be pulling it off, and that is inspiring to see.  I do believe their climate is hotter than I am here.



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zone 1, the house/lawn/rock area.
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zone 2, the raised pool with woodchips (old pic before woodchips).
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zone 3, rv/driveway/(now fruit tree orchard).
 
pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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Can you pick up a pool cover roller and make an insulated cover to pull over the wire mesh at night and roll it up in the morning?  Basicly you need maximum ventilation in the day and maximum radiant heat retention at night.

A shade fabric from the fence to the house on the south side would be good and then gradually replace it with grape vines for cooling shade. Problem: to much insolation on the south side. Permaculture solution: turn it into leaves for biomass and fruit and shade for the inhabitants.
 
S Tenorman
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The pool cover is a good idea, and it seems like that would be the perfect solution if I ever did try to use it as a greenhouse again.  The pool is a really weird shape, it's kidney shaped, with a rock waterfall (that I also covered), so fastening the side opposite the roller would be either a pain to do daily, or require some additional framing.  Totally doable if I put some time into it.  The other problem would be the hardware cloth already on it.  Sliding a cover on and off regularly would shred it up quickly.  Again, fixable, but lot's more work on my part.  Thanks for the idea, I hadn't considered it before.  The thing is, I just don't need that much space as far as a greenhouse is concerned.  A small one (rv sized) would be perfect! 

I'm not sure if I understand the second suggestion.  Not sure if you're talking about the actual house, or the rv as far as the shade fabric from the fence.  Neither the rv or house have a fence to the south of them.  I intended to put shade cloth up blocking the southern exposure on the south side of the rv but never got around to it.  I also considered making another shade canopy out of the metal roofing tin that extended out enough that it would shade the whole south side of the rv.  Again, I just never had the energy to get around to it.



 
pollinator
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I have not read everything here but it sounds a lot like growing stuff in containers. It's being done here.
The point is that the container is more or less isolated from its environment.

These guys are crazy enough to be on the money. Perhaps some ideas they apply work for you. https://urbancropsolutions.com/
 
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