This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
It may be interesting to some who are not blessed with ranges of "glass-houses," and whose wants exceed their means, to have a trifle of the experience of one, who for three short years enjoyed a very small span-roof house, (only 12x 12) and from which he gained not only much pleasure and recreation, but also a deeper knowledge of floriculture than constant reading would have given him in thrice that time. The green house was situated in a large city, where yard-room is an expensive luxury; and few would have thought that so many plants could be grown successfully in so small a place. For six months before building the writer had contemplated a house, but his ideas, like those of most amateurs, were on a much larger scale than his plot of ground would allow. But finally he built a house which was so erected that, by taking out one end, it could easily be enlarged. The wood-work beneath the benches was double, so that no heat should be lost; three inches empty space between the outer and inner boarding. Although a filling of sawdust was recommended, it was never found necessary. The house was heated by three rows of four inch pipe, carried from a Smith & Lynch boiler, capable of heating 150 feet of pipe.
The boiler was at first placed in a trench in a corner of the house and worked from the outside ; but as this was found to be not only inconvenient but also unpleasant to work in severe or stormy weather, and as it was also difficult to keep water out of the trench, the boiler was finally placed in the cellar of the dwelling; the flow and return pipe being laid in a wooden box beneath the pavement. This arrangement worked admirably, although there was considerable heat wasted, but that was a small matter when we consider the ease with which the fire was run. In the winter of 1880 and 1881, which was as constantly severe as Philadelphia has experienced for many years, only two-and a-half tons of coal were burned, the thermometer ranging from 40° to 50° Fah. at night, and from 60° to 70° during the day. The fire was usually covered at eleven P. M., and not looked at until seven A. M.
At first the writer - like many other beginners - tried to grow anything and everything, but he soon found out that such a course was by no means practicable. Camellias and Azaleas did not enjoy a heat suited to Begonias and Marantas, or, in other words, plants that luxuriate in a temperature ranging from 50° to 65° could not be placed alongside those that enjoy stove treatment. So in the course of two years Camellias, Carnations and Roses gave place to Azaleas, Amaryllis, Geraniums, etc. And it may seem almost incredible to the readers of this article, who have had no experience with a small greenhouse, when the writer says that he had at times upwards of 400 plants in his house, some of them by no means small, but every inch of space was brought into requisition by means of shelving and iron brackets. The plants were kept from being drawn only by constant turning and rearranging, and although that pest, the green fly, would occasionally appear in the early spring, yet a couple of careful tobacco fumigations would be sufficient to smother him.
The writer thinks that there are few who have five times his space who could boast of such a blaze of Azaleas, Amaryllis and Geraniums, the last named plant constantly in bloom from the first of December until time for bedding in the spring. The average time spent in this house for watering, repotting, etc., was one-and-a half hours a day.
Fearing that this article is already too long for a corner in the Gardener's Monthly, and that the editor may think it an old story, which has been told too often, the writer will conclude rather abruptly, at the same time hoping that his experience may cause some one else to try a small house, and enjoy it until he is able to build one of larger proportions.