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Do-it-yourself or pre-fab, an indoor gardening space is a great Oregon option

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Tempered glass walls are held together with an aluminum frame in The Cape Cod, a kit by Backyard Greenhouses of Dearborn, Mich. The 8-by-12 foot design ships in two to four weeks and sells for $5,150.When the weather turns here in the Pacific Northwest, we settle in for new activities. A lot of us spend the summer gardening, enjoying the simple satisfaction of a vegetable garden or a fine bed of flowers, but when Fall comes, most of us resign to a world of bare branches, dormant grass and a vacant garden.

Generally, the growing season here in Oregon ends rather abruptly in October. It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, your Fall home improvement plans could give way to a sort of eternal life for your garden. Yes, with the right project, you can turn your annuals into perennials.

Consider adding a greenhouse to your property. Not only do greenhouses give your place that “country estate” feel, they also allow not only year-round growing, but the ability to plan ahead. With a greenhouse, growing can happen through the winter, and starts can be, well, started for the spring. Also, there’s a specific joy, in the bleakest days of a gray winter, to spending some quality time in a plant-filled room that can maintain a temperature of 80 degrees. Perhaps it’s not the plants we’re cultivating with greenhouses. Still, a greenhouse is a quality tool — climate control is one of the most attractive functions of these growing structures — and with the ability to dial in the warmth of the room comes the freedom to pick and choose the crops we would like to grow.

But where to begin? How does the typical gardening enthusiast sort through all the possibilities, products and questions surrounding greenhouse design and choice? Luckily, our crack team of researchers has done the work for you. Read on to learn just how much or how little you can spend on a custom pre-fab greenhouse, how high-end they can be, and how complex as well.

Finally, we’ll show you the results of our team’s trip to the hardware store, where we designed and priced a do-it-yourself greenhouse that will not only do the job, but impress your friends and neighbors — all for a fraction of the cost of the pre-fab products.

Option 1: A superior greenhouse

If you’re one of those “no frills” greenhouse shoppers, but enjoy durability and function, then you might consider a pre-fab greenhouse from Superior Greenhouses, based in Reedsport on the Oregon Coast. This company advertises molded fiberglass, one-piece greenhouses they describe as “not the lesser quality, fall down, blow down, repair and rebuild every year type.” While these products don’t have the classic look of a fine garden greenhouse, they are long on function. The “Rancher” is their largest offering, at 16-by-8 feet. It features roof vents, a Dutch door, hooks for hanging plants and a “white roof, to prevent overheating.” For this one, you’ll pay $3,295. If that’s too rich for your blood, you may consider the “Hobbiest,” which is basically a 7-by-8 foot version of the “Rancher,” and retails for $2,295.

If getting into a greenhouse for essentially $3,000 does not seem like your idea of a good time, do not despair. There are other options that will enhance your winter and beautify your yard.

Option 2: Expensive but chic

Among their stable of greenhouse offerings, The Cape Cod greenhouse kit by Backyard Greenhouses in Dearborn, Mich., is billed as “an architectural delight, sure to create a stunning focal point in any garden setting.”

The Cape Cod is an 8-by-12 foot greenhouse that features a high peak roof, which affords headroom for hanging baskets and taller plants. The pitched roof will also spill snow more readily. It has an aluminum frame and tempered glass walls. It is also quite attractive, as greenhouses go. It comes equipped with automatic roof vents and a locking door. For the Cape Cod, you’ll pay $5,150.

Of course, you’ll also have to pay shipping for these products. The Cape Cod, according to the Backyard Greenhouses website, ships in two to four weeks.

We know what you’re thinking. These greenhouses are more expensive than some cars. Of course, if paying more than $400 for a greenhouse is out of the question, you could go always small. The Julianna, a mini lean-to greenhouse from Backyard Greenhouses, is 2 feet, 2 inches wide by 4 feet, 3 inches long with a 6-foot, 5-inch ridge height and 4-foot, 6-inch eaves. It’s made of polycarbonate panels, looks great against a wall and retails for only $249.

But, wait a minute. We’re in Oregon. We have a proud tradition of building things ourselves. We didn’t achieve our level of reputation as a rugged frontier state by ordering greenhouse kits from Michigan that retail for $249 and may or may not house a few geraniums and a tomato plant. No, no. We do not settle. We can have more.

Option 3: A do-it-yourself wonder

If you’ve managed to read this far, then you’ve made it to the end of the rainbow. Here is where we show you how you can have a quality greenhouse that does everything the pre-fab products do, is as large or larger, carries with it the pride of knowing you built it with your own two hands, and costs just under $300.

That’s right, it can be done. Our research squad, armed with a napkin sketch, descended upon Lowe’s Home Improvement store to locate and price the materials needed for a greenhouse that would measure 8 feet square, with a slightly pitched roof and a proper door. For the frame, we chose 1-by-3 studs, which retail for $1.72 apiece. Our design called for 16, making the cost $27.52. Next, we selected polycarbonate panel for the roof. This is a waved, or corrugated, clear plastic panel. At $21.62 each, we opted for five (four for the roof, one for the door). Cost: $108.10.

To shear the walls, we settled on two rolls of clear plastic sheeting, at $24.98 per 10-by-25 foot roll. Cost: $99.92. To attach the sheeting to the wood frame, we chose gorilla glue, at $10.98 a bottle. The frame would be fastened with a box of drywall screws that cost $6.47, and the hinge and latch hardware for the door altogether would be $8. Finally, we found a $4.98 spool of nylon cord to lash the structure to the ground in defense of high winds.

Total cost for our 8-by-8-by-7 backyard greenhouse: $257.97. That’s a savings of $2,037.02 over the “Hobbiest” from Superior Greenhouses, and it’s a whole foot bigger.

So when you consider the value and the possibilities of adding a handsome greenhouse to your backyard, get out your tools, do it yourself and ramp up to year-round gardening for under $300.

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