My new greenhouse – a cautionary tale

Photos courtesy of Alexandra Marks/The Christian Science Monitor
Getting started: Alexandra Marks grapples with installing the polycarbonate plates on her new greenhouse.

Have you ever considered buying a greenhouse? Monitor staff writer Alexandra Marks had thought about it for years before she finally ordered one online. We invite you to come along on her Greenhouse Journey. In occasional posts to Diggin' It, she'll relate what she's learning as a new greenhouse grower:

After years of battling deer, moles, groundhogs, and bunnies (yes, I’ve tried all the deterrents from Irish Spring soap shavings to dung and dog hair to organic garlic-and-peppermint repellents), I finally decided I had had enough.

Never again was I going out to the garden to harvest a carefully tended bunch of red leaf lettuce only to find a freshly chewed nub in the ground. No, I decided I was going to get a greenhouse.

Now, let me be clear. I know nothing about greenhouses. But I do know that fresh vegetables are a must for me. (What is summer, after all, without the sweet taste of homegrown lettuce, tomatoes, and basil? It’s just winter with warm weather. )

So, while the ground was still frozen (and the pesky groundhog in hibernation), I went online and Googled “greenhouses.” What I found was a dazzling array of sites (more than 1.2 million) offering everything from industrial-size commercial mega-houses to windowsill mini-kits complete with seeds. I was already in over my head.

But I persevered and clicked from site to site. I finally settled on because it offered 14 different brands, many of which I’d seen on other sites and here they could be easily compared.

Now, this is where I should have stopped and done some more research. But I didn’t. (More on that in a later post …)

I knew I wanted a greenhouse kit that was fairly small to start -- say, 6 feet by 8 feet or so. I had decided to spend around $1,000. I compared the brands EasyGrow to the Rion to the Poly-Tex to Juliana.

I finally settled on the Juliana Compact 6.5, which was advertised for the “the serious gardener who insists on the best quality greenhouse at an affordable price.”

But most important, the manual made it clear that the “assembly requires no technical knowledge.” Two people could put it together in two days, it said. You could even buy an optional foundation so you wouldn’t have to build one yourself.

It sounded good. It was a little more expensive than I had planned, about $1,200. But the shipping was free. And so I ordered it along with the base.

My significant other, who was away in California at the time, laughed when I told him about my purchase and assured me the final product, after construction and all of the unexpected extras, would end up costing three times that. I hung up in a huff.

Two weeks later, when the three large flat boxes arrived, I would rue the day I laughed...

Coming next: “Assemble a Greenhouse Kit? Easy….!”

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