2012-11-15 / News

The Island Garden

Fixing a greenhouse

It’s fall, and it’s time to make sure the greenhouse is ready for all the plants that it will house this winter. I’ve had one or two leaks lately, so it was time to climb up and fix them before I put the winter cover over the glass.

I put the ladder up beside the greenhouse and climbed. Mine must be the only greenhouse that grows grass on the top, as well as inside. So the first job was to remove the grass. In a scene that would have qualified for “America’s Funniest Home Videos” had anybody had a video camera, I lost my balance after stubbornly pulling harder on the grass after the first few yanks didn’t work.

Ever run down a near-vertical stepladder? I did, still holding the tuft of grass. My knees met the ground, giving a whole new meaning to knobbly knees.

That’s one job done – well, mostly. The rest of the grass can stay there. I’ll just cover it up.

The second job was to check the seals where the double-pane glass meets the support structure. Seals never break near the edge of the greenhouse – they break as close to the middle of the roof as possible. The nearest one was just beyond arms length from the edge. So, I stretched ... and stretched ... and then stretched a little farther.

Now with the seals checked, I had two jobs done – but how do I get off the greenhouse roof? To cut a long story short, I only broke one pane of glass. Of course, it is a double-pane piece so it is more than doubly expensive.

The next job is to clean the roof glass. In winter, you need as much light as possible, so cleaning is imperative. My wife recommends buying a plastic jug of Windex outdoor glass and patio cleaner. You simply attach it to the end of a hose and wash the entire thing down, she says. Of course, being male, I figured the best way is to spray the glass with a hose, then wipe the water down with a squeegee, then spray it with more water, and wipe it down again with a squeegee. Much better, I figured, and the windows would be sparkling clean.

This, of course, entailed climbing on the ladder – you’d think I’d have learned by now. So standing on the third rung from the top of the ladder, with a big bucket of soapy water at the bottom and the hosepipe in hand, I set to work. The job went really smoothly at first with one window after another coming out sparkling clean. It’s the danged middle of the roof that gets you – every time. So I sprayed, squeegeed, and stepped up a rung to get a little closer to the middle. I repeated that step until I went up too high – and then ran out of steps.

Well, the downward trajectory was softened by the bucket of soapy water. But on a 50-degree day, let’s just say it entailed a complete change of clothes. Did I mention that the metal hose spray broke another window? I finished the job and ordered four new windows from Jamestown Hardware. I also bought some Windex outdoor cleaner.

Now that the greenhouse was clean, it was time to move some plants inside. I don’t have normal plants like most people. Nope, I have trees: an orange tree, a key lime tree, olive trees, fig trees and lemon trees. Of course, they are in tree-sized pots up to 36 inches in diameter. Have you any idea how much dirt you can pack into a 36- inch diameter pot? Then add a tree to the dirt, plus the fruit on the tree, and you will see the dilemma.

Anybody smart would make their greenhouse the same level as the outside, but I decided that I needed headroom (to get all those trees inside), so I lowered the floor 4 feet below grade. Getting pots inside is not a big problem, picking up the pieces of the pot after it has descended 4 feet is, especially if the tree is an orange or lime with big spines.

Now that I got the trees inside and the roof was sparkling clean, I figured I could cover the greenhouse – as soon as I get the new windows, that is – and be set for winter. I’ll worry about how to get the pots out of the greenhouse next spring. I have all winter to think up a unique method.

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