This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Feeling sure that many lovers of flowers would construct conservatories for their own private use, but are deterred from so doing by the supposed large cost necessary for building and running the same, I propose to give as briefly as possible the results of several years' experiment, which will be particularly useful to those living in the Northern States.
First, how to construct a small greenhouse, especially adapted for practical purposes and at the least expense. In selecting the location great care should be taken to find the spot that is most sheltered from the wind, and conveniently near the dwelling. But the most essential point of all is to have an unbroken southern aspect.
Opinions differ in regard to the way of running a greenhouse, but where the land will permit, I should prefer to run it east and west, and think a "span house" is better than a simple southern slope.
The size of my house is 10 x 30 feet, and the method of construction is as follows:
Take twenty chestnut posts ten inches square at the top and four feet long; place one at each corner, six between on each side, and two at at each end. Set the posts so that eighteen inches will be above ground, and on the top place a four inch joist running all around except at the end selected for the door. Board up both sides of the posts with matched boards, and if you are situated far north, line the inside of the boarding with building felt, but do not fill the inside with saw-dust. Dig out the earth in the centre where the walk will come, two feet deep, and about a yard wide.
The whole is to be glassed over, except a space of five or six feet at the entrance; this is to be boarded over at the same angle as the glass (about 48°) and by covering it with cotton cloth and painting the cloth makes it perfectly tight. This part is separated from the hothouse proper by a light door, and is used on one side for a potting bench, and on the other as a furnace pit.
The best and cheapest way of making the sash, is to have the strips in which the glass is set of pine 1½ x 1¾ inches, and the grooves cut by machinery; these are mortised into joists, top and bottom, and firmly placed in position before the glass is set. I think the best size of glass is 10 x 15, and in setting do not lap the lights more than a quarter of an inch. Bed the glass in putty, but it is not necessary to put it on the outside, unless for looks.
There must be at least three ventilators, each about 2x3 feet, on the south side at regular distances apart and near the top. The end opposite the door can be made of sash or boarded up, at the option of the builder. If it is to be in a conspicuous place, some simple ornamentation will not be out of place.
We will next consider the heating apparatus and the arrangement of the interior. The boiler is quite small, one made for this special purpose, and is situated on the left as you enter. The door of the fire-box is in the small compartment but the boiler extends into the hothouse. The piping consists of a line of four-inch iron pipe going around the house and back. The pipe can be . laid on each side of the walk, and thus save excavating under the benches. The arrangement of the interior can be varied at the wishes of the owner and the plants it is desired to grow. I will mention some points of arrangement in another article on management.
The expense will vary according to price of glass, lumber, etc., and the facility for purchasing in different places.
Cost of hothouse complete, $155. Items: lumber, $27; glass and putty, $30; labor, $23; incidentals $10; 100 feet of pipe, $25; boiler, $15; setting boiler and laying pipe $15; incidentals, $10.
This shows in a rough way what can be done with a moderate sum. And I shall be pleased to answer any inquiries from those interested in regard to points not touched in this article, and shall at some future time give a detailed account of what plants to grow, and how to make a small private greenhouse pay all the running expenses, the cost of construction and leave a liberal margin for the purchase of new plants - and with an expenditure of time not exceeding the leisure of any business or laboring man.