Assemble a greenhouse kit? Easy...

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Getting ready: Most of the tools the greenhouse manual said were needed: a socket spanner, two screwdrivers – one slotted, one Phillips – and wrenches.
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When I first ordered my greenhouse kit, a top priority was the ease with which I could put it together.

Thus, I had settled on the Juliana Compact 6.5, which advertised: “… assembly requires no technical knowledge.”   Since my technical expertise is primarily limited to the realm of subjects, verbs, and objects in sentences, I thought it was wise to stick with a fairly simple design.

But when I opened the three large, long boxes (which arrived, by the way, via tractor-trailer truck too big to pull into my driveway), I knew there was nothing simple about what I was about to undertake.

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I was confronted with oddly shaped bundles of aluminum bars, bags of nuts and bolts, wire clips and glass holders, and various and sundry black plastic pieces about the size of my hand that I genuinely had no idea to what use they could possibly be put.

The manual was written in nine different languages, each of which gets only one page and contained detailed instructions like:  “Place the components as shown on the illustration and assemble in the order shown in the pictures….”

Yes, most of the 22-page booklet consisted of complex architectural drawings which, I guess, are supposed to show how easy the greenhouse is to put together.   To me, they looked like a geometry test that I know I once failed in high school.

But I was not to be deterred – at least not yet.

The first order of business was to build the foundation.  Fortunately, I had decided to order the optional base rather than construct my own.  The base frame was only $150, after all.  I unwrapped the long aluminum bars, corner brackets and nuts and bolts and puzzled for a moment.

I then turned to the manual (my one page in English) and slowly realized that this frame not only had to be assembled exactly right, it had also to be set in concrete poured into plastic pipes. And, most important, it had to be perfectly level.

At that, I closed the boxes and called my neighbor, Brian.  He not only has quite a bit of technical knowledge, but a backhoe and a son who needs to make money for college.

I figured that with their help (for a day’s wage) we could get the whole greenhouse up on a weekend.  The manual said that two people could do it in that time.  And the only tools we'd need – after the unmentioned backhoe, concrete mixer, and plastic pipes, of course - were fairly simple: a level, a socket spanner, two screwdrivers - one slotted, one Phillips - and a silicone pistol.

I had everything but the level.  I was confident that by the next weekend I’d be able to transfer the seedlings now crowding my living room windows to my new securely grounded greenhouse.

Let’s just say I was optimistic.

Next:   What “No Technical Knowledge” Really Means in Greenhouse Construction.

To read the first post in Alexandra Marks's Greenhouse Journeys – My new greenhouse, a cautionary tale –  click here.

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