Building a greenhouse, pt. 6. Ready?

The final part of setting up the Juliana Compact greenhouse kit involved fitting and fixing the actual glass parts. This was pretty simple and straightforward in theory: if the base structure is correct in every regard, then one just needs to place the tempered glass pieces into the right holes at the aluminium frame and lock them into place. In practice this was not quite so easy, of course. The sealing of glass into the frame requires using either silicone gun or weatherstripping (stips of soft thermoplastic rubber) to provide an elastic base, and then applying the plastic lock strips (“M strips”) to lock glass sheets into place. (The lock strip plastic hardens in low temperatures, so this was a rush against time – setting sun and dropping temperatures would make the installation impossible.) We decided to use the weatherstripping option, which proved to be a good choice – even while the base and aluminium frame appeared to be pretty straight, there was still need to carefully move each sheet of glass several times during their installation attempts, and this would have been really difficult to do with messy silicone hardening and complicating things up. We decided also not to use acetone or any other strong solvent to clean the aluminium strips of grease, even while Juliana’s instructions told so (we were tipped by an expert that acetone actually ruins the cover paint from the frame, so using it would be a bad idea).

The need for repeated moving and fine-tuning of each glass related to the final precision test required by the Juliana kit: the “M strips” used for locking glasses need suitable, c. 1 mm insets or slots that go down all the way on both sides of each glass sheet, otherwise the M strips do not lock into place. That evenly distributed one millimeter tolerance proved to be rather tough challenge to reach. In our case we got majority of glass sheets installed with only moderate trouble, but in few, last glass installations we had to use tricks like matchsticks as holders that kept glass in place, while two persons – working in sync – both gently twisted and pressed powerfully inwards two M lock strips at both sides of a glass sheet, moving from top towards bottom at even pace, so that the 1 mm gap remained evenly distributed at both sides even while M stips tended to press and move glass sheets sideways. There is a picture below that hopefully illustrates this – there needs to be a suitable gap between the aluminium profile and the edge of glass sheet, while the glass sheet must rest on top of the weatherstipping, that is fixed very close to the inner edge of aluminium profile. At one point we were simultaneously fine-tuning three large sheets of glass, holding them with one hand in place, while pressing the M strips into place. And we did it!

There are so many pitfalls waiting in both printed instruction guidelines and online Juliana guides that it is perhaps surprising that people actually manage to put these things together, in more or less satisfactory manner. Apparently many customers actually end up either calling the importer for help, or order a professional to set things up. Which might be a good idea. But: if you do all this yourself, it will be a real-life 3D spatial and problem-solving challenge and a good way to spend several days (or: weeks) of your precious free time – so why not enjoy it?

When the final sheet of glass was locked in place, it turned out that the door did not work properly any more (framework had tilted or shifted slightly during the glass installation, so that the door now slightly grinds against its frame when closed). But I do not care so much any more, no doubt we will find some solution to that also, eventually. I am already thinking of the next summer, and how to monitor temperature, humidity, and how to maintain the correct irrigation level in my chili pots. I have already the Blumat automatic watering system, and there is now also an extra wireless Netatmo sensor unit set up in the greenhouse for testing purposes, plus a solar cell powered led lights for some ambience and night time illumination of this “glass box”. – Thanks for reading, and I hope you have enjoyed your garden of summer, too!

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Building a greenhouse, pt. 5

The actual greenhouse construction has been going on for some time now (myself again more in the assistant roles). I must admit that there are times when I am getting tired of the entire project, even if I am not even carrying the main burden. There are several issues in the Juliana greenhouse kit that make things more complex, confusing and difficult than they need to be. The instructions leaflet is one thing: it might be that all the aluminum parts are indeed painted black, but it is not optimal to print everything as black in the instructions with small details and bars with complex profiles. There is too much guesswork in the construction now. There are mysterious gaps in the instructions, where you just need to make a guess how to get from phase A to C,  and trial and error is not good in system that is put together with soft, aluminium nuts and bolts – fastening and loosening them just a couple of times can lead to threads of nuts breaking and bolts getting stuck. Also, if there is a gap between parts in one part of the aluminium framework, it is often very hard to figure out where the source of problem is, when there are dozens of parts that connect to each other like a giant ‘himmeli’. – But, we are making slow progress, pictures below.

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Building a greenhouse, pt. 2

The method of building the foundation for our greenhouse has proved to be a bit more demanding than perhaps some others – hopefully the final outcome will be worth the extra labour. The tricky part is casting concrete into long pipes, that go down into 80 cm depth – i.e. beneath the soil frost line. These concrete pipes, or pillars, need to be cast so that the the steel plinth (base) that will provide the basis for the actual greenhouse will be exactly square shaped in horizontal X & Y directions, while simultaneously also exactly at right even level (Z) so that there will be no tensions into the glasses of the finished greenhouse. The actual freezing protection will be provided by several layers of gravel and sand, separated by filter fabric layers, plus a couple of layers of Finnfoam (extruded polystyrene foam – XPS – thermal insulation). The tricky part is that those pipes I mentioned need to go through all of those other layers, and they need to be made and fixed in pretty much their correct, final positions first, before any other elements of this foundation have yet been built. From the photos underneath you might get an idea how our ambitions have met with the reality so far.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that there of course need to be also underground drain pipes, so that all rain water will not turn that big hole in the clay earth into a swimming pool? And that those pipes need to be installed at the right angle of bank.

Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-16)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-16).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-16)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-16).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-16)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-16).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-19)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-19).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-22)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-22).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-22)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-22).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23)
Greenhouse foundation work (2015-08-23).

Building a greenhouse, pt. 1

Digging in the dirt (photo).
Digging in the dirt.

The building project of this summer has been to make a greenhouse – for my chilli peppers, as well as other vegetables for the family. Construction of proper foundation for a rather sensitive small building that will mostly consist of sheets of glass and thin bars of aluminium is important; however, July was mostly rainy and we also were travelling a lot, so most of the digging was still to be done in early August. Now, in mid-August, the hole in the ground is almost deep enough (in Finland earth can freeze in quite deep during winters, and our garden is on top of several meters of clay, which expands when it freezes; thus – a lot of showel-work). Since our backyard is a bit on the small side, there was a narrow spot where the entire construction had to fit into. But the hole is now there. Have I mentioned that going down into solid clay is somewhat heavy digging?

In other news, our pick for the greenhouse kit manufacturer was Juliana: http://juliana.com/en/products/juliana/

I have also already got the watering system (that I have also already used during our travels for my chillies), from Blumat.

Next steps will probably involve some concrete and a lot of gravel. And a shovel and a wheelbarrow.

Some filter fabric (photo).
Some filter fabric.

(To be continued.)

Chillies, 2015

Chilikirja / Chilli book & seeds, from Fataliiseeds.net
Chilikirja / Chilli book & seeds, from Fataliiseeds.net

It is germination time again: this post lists (most of) the chilli pepper varieties I have selected for this season, with links to the Finnish Chili wiki and other sites:

Happy chilli season!

Summer is here

Summer is here
Originally uploaded by FransBadger

The exact point when summer starts is hard to define, weather and calendar both playing their tricks. When your summer vacation starts can set a fuctional entry point for most purposes.

There has been more administrative and various reporting & statement writing work dragging into June than ever before. I am really looking forward to a break; no word that I would be using my hard- earned vacation days for writing my own research, like in so many summers before. That means that I wont be publishing anything, but – that is academic reality this year. My personal goal is to cut radically down administrative duties during the next academic year and work my way back towards doing my own research more. Lets see how that will work out.

Meanwhile, still a couple of days in the office, and then – off we go!