A glass house will enable you to raise fresh veggies into the cold season. Ours is constructed from windows removed when we installed double glazing. The rigging on the lid is left over from years of messing about in boats. By positioning the glass house on our front, south facing verandah we are able to utilize the thermal mass benefits of the concrete slab and brick walls to store heat into the night. This effect is enhanced by using clay pots instead of plastic and large quantities of soil. As it is not yet winter a method was needed to enable us to limit overheating thus the lid is hinged to allow ventilation. The degree to which is sealed against drafts will determine the length of time it allows growing to take place into the winter. It is also designed to be removed once we get past the last frost next year. Your design will be customized to your location and available materials. Your materials list will differ as a result.
What You Need
a box of 1.25" deck screws
misc scrap 1x3
insulating and sealing materials
2 hinges per section of raising lid
4 screw eyes,
2 pad eyes and cord
3 pulleys; 1 double and 2 single
As many old windows as you can scrounge.
1. Measure your windows and determine a location that the amount of windows will cover; against a south facing wall, on a south facing verandah, or perhaps on top of a raised bed.
2. Draw a sketch planning out your structure based on the amount of materials you have. Pay particular attention to egress into the glass house and a method for varying the ventilation.
3. Use the scrap 1x3 and deck screws to connect the window frames creating a panel of windows that will enclose the given area, leaving enough windows for the lid and sides. Be sure not to strip any of the screws or set them such that they will be hard to remove when it comes time to disassemble next year.
4. As you place the windows pay attention to sealing the bottom edge. I used some scrounged foam strip normally used to seal and insulate underneath stud walls, but it could be scrap styrofoam packaging, weather stripping or even a strip of wood with duct tape to block air flow. This is important particularly if you are building on a slab or walkway as you want to keep the cold air from flowing in and cooling off your thermal mass. Sealing the gaps between the windows and around the edges can wait till you have more materials but since the underside would be harder to retrofit it is best to do this at the start.
5. Attach the lid, I used hinges with a rope and pulley rig to raise it. This is highly variable both in design and use. I only rigged the middle 3 windows as they are quite heavy and I wanted to make it easy to operate. Take notice in picture #7 that the double pulley is attached with a much stronger screw eye and is reinforced with plywood. This is because the weight on this pulley is doubled. Also notice in photo #6 that I have used a stout cleat to tie it off. The windows on each end can be raised independently of the larger lid section. I've attached two pad eyes, one of which is visible in photo #2, on the window joint at the access end to allow me to tie it up to the middle section.
6. Plant it up! I made the mistake of not building my glasshouse around my biggest potted plants. They were quite difficult to move into it as I had to lift them over the side window. This could be remedied by making a normal door type hinged section which would take more time and materials.
7. Be sure to closely monitor the conditions in the glasshouse and ventilate appropriately. If it is tightly sealed the plants could easily overheat.
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(Images: C Robb Worthington)