Don’t let critters in your garden get you down, build an enclosed garden greenhouse to keep them out!
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I love to garden. In fact, some of my gardening posts are way more popular than my craft posts! Like this one to keep squirrels out of your plants. But I love how rewarding gardening feels. All that hard work can lead to such yumminess! I mean really, guys, nothing tastes better than a tomato fresh off of the vine.
Unfortunately it’d been a few years since I had the pleasure of having a fresh tomato from the vine. Between the birds and the squirrels, we weren’t getting any of our crop unless I picked them green and let them ripen indoors. And sometimes they would even steal the green ones before I could get to them! I tried multiple tactics to keep them away, but nothing worked. I even created a container garden to keep on our patio literally steps from the back door, and the squirrels STILL stole tomatoes!
I finally got fed up and told my husband I wasn’t growing anything anymore unless I knew my vegetables would be safe. Which meant a completely enclosed garden. I had found some fabulous plans for him to work from and finally talked him into building it for me!
I used to have a couple of above ground vegetable gardens here that were built when we first moved in ~15 years ago. One was made of wood and had started to rot. The other was small and made with stacking flower bed pavers so we set those aside to use later.
Next came construction! We based the design on plans from Ana White’s DIY Greenhouse but altered the roof line (I love the barn look!) and some of the supplies since we wanted an open air “greenhouse.” But the design plans are stellar and include ALL the wood and tools you will need for the framework so we knew exactly what to get.
Hubby used fencing for the outside of the greenhouse and trimmed it as needed. It was a lot cheaper than buying wood planks. All 3 of my boys (hubby and two kids) worked on the greenhouse. You can see my then 9 year old drilling screws in the photo above.
Once all of the construction was complete we sealed all of the wood to protect it from the elements. Hubby also had added metal flashing to the raw ends of the wood to help with exposure.
We built containers for above ground garden beds along the inside of the greenhouse. Prior to adding dirt, we lined the inside of the beds with landscape fabric to keep wet dirt directly off of the wood. The beds themselves are 2 1/2 feet high (the outside walls are 3 feet high). We added at least 2 feet of dirt.
I don’t remember how many trailers full of dirt we brought in but it was at least 3, maybe more. We got the good stuff: a mixture of half good soil and half mushroom compost. We ALL worked to get that dirt into the greenhouse. It was quite the chore! Hubby would shovel it in from the back of the trailer, little boys would shovel from the front of the trailer to the back where their dad was, and I spread all the dirt out as it was added to the beds.
We used a 1/2″ wire mesh on all of the open areas. No way a squirrel or bird is squeezing in there! Hubby put all of the edges of the mesh between two pieces of wood to be sure it was secure. Some places, like the very top, where more than one sheet of the wire mesh was needed, we overlapped the sheets and used a piece of wire to thread them together so there would be no places squirrels might try to slip in.
The very back of the greenhouse, between the long raised beds was reserved for potato bins. They are split into two bins, and the front pieces are removable as are the center pieces that split the bins. You can see along the left and right that hubby made notches for the planks to slip into to keep them in place.
With potatoes, you want to be able to plant them low then add dirt as the plant grows. Then when it’s time to harvest, it’s easiest to get access directly to the dirt from the side rather than digging your way down. So I can remove the front pieces, put down a tarp to collect the dirt, and harvest the potatoes. We keep a metal bin outside the greenhouse for “spare” dirt which is just for adding and taking away from the potato bin.
We also grow sweet potatoes which are planted the opposite of russet potatoes. You want a bin already full of dirt and the sweet potato will grow down. So when we harvest the russets, we can also harvest the sweet in the neighboring bin.
We had some leftover pavers (because we bought them in flats) so we added a front patio area to the front of the greenhouse. Once all of the pavers were in place we added sand to all that were left exposed inside the greenhouse and on the patio.
Hubby built a simple door to match the rest of the greenhouse and it stays closed with a simple latch hook.
And because I want to attract pollinators, we got a couple of large, inexpensive plastic pots for the front patio. They are filled halfway with recycled plastics then topped off with the “good” dirt. The plastic helps keep them lightweight if I need to move them around and helps with drainage. As you can see, I also stuck some pumpkin plants in them.
For the “back” side of the greenhouse, which is actually the side that faces the street, we used the flower bed pavers from the old above ground vegetable garden and created a new flower bed. This was a great way to bring in more pollinators AND make the greenhouse have more curb appeal. It was also filled with the “good” dirt.
To save money on flowers we used seeds to start a wildflower garden. It takes patience for them to grow, but was totally worth it and we had SO many flowers!
Here you can see the difference between 2 weeks of sowing seeds versus 5 weeks. After 5 weeks they really started to take off!
The greenhouse was built over several weekends in May, so the actual gardening was started about a month later than you normally would start. But you can see the difference just a month and a half made from early June to late July! WOW! I also stuck a couple of pumpkin plants in this flower bed.
Have you ever seen a bee take a nap? Now you have. I caught this guy sleeping on the job one evening. Poor thing must have been exhausted!
In 2018, the first year in the greenhouse, we planted:
Beefsteak tomatoes (several varieties)
We had at least 3 of each type of tomato plant. And all of the above list was in the greenhouse beds except the baby pumpkins which were grown in the flower bed, pots, and the bucket in the center of the greenhouse.
We had a great crop, and I’m pleased to report we all ate a TON of tomatoes!
I had the boys help me in the greenhouse whenever possible, watering, harvesting, caterpillar hunting, anything to get them in there and learn the value of growing your own food.
This photo is from this year. We pressure washed a few places on the greenhouse and need to reseal a couple of spots, but it was ready to go come late April when I was ready to start planting! I planted the baby pumpkins way too early last year (they were ready in early September!) so I’m going to wait a few more weeks before starting them. Then I’ll add them to these pots and the flower bed in the back.
In 2019 we are growing:
Beefsteak tomatoes (several varieties)
Cherry tomatoes (some reseeded from last year, some new)
Cucumbers (ALL reseeded from last year)
This year I’m growing all of the tall plants on one side (tomatoes and cucumbers) and the shorter plants on the other (eggplant, peppers, and herbs). So far everything is thriving!
If you have the space and the means to build a structure like this, and you have a critter problem, be they squirrels, bunnies, or deer, I HIGHLY suggest trying a garden like this! These days my biggest nemeses are caterpillars which I can totally deal with.
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