Setting up Raised Beds In Greenhouse to maximize planting space for an extended growing season in windy Wyoming.
The high plains around Cheyenne WY sit at an altitude of 6500 feet above sea level. At this altitude, the air is drier and the winds blow harder across the open rolling hills and valleys. For a long time, this was the domain of ranchers raising cattle and sheep. However, with modern pump wells, wind turbines, and solar energy panels, vegetable-growing is now possible. Better still, build a greenhouse to protect the vegetables from the cold and wind.
You may have read that we recently moved into our ten acre lot in Wyoming after 15 long months of construction. It was a trial to get the project completed as we faced material shortage, inclement weather, and patchy labor availability. We thank God that we were able to overcome all these challenges and built, not one but two separate buildings. The greenhouse is part of the barn structure to ensure that it is sturdy enough to withstand hail and snow.
A Two Section Greenhouse
The greenhouse measures 32 feet long and 16 feet wide and is sub-divided into two sections. The larger section on the southeast side is 20 feet by 16 feet. It holds the raised beds which we intend to insulate and heat for the winter with possibly a pellet stove in the future. The small section is 12 feet by 16 feet and will be left unheated to allow for small fruit trees to chill in the winter inside the protection of the greenhouse. This section will also be used as a nursery for new plants.
Raised Beds In Greenhouse To Maximize Planting Space
We wanted raised beds in the larger section to maximize planting space and decided to build them from scratch. We used 2×4 wooden studs and corrugated steel sheets purchased from our local DIY stores for the construction of the boxes for the raised beds. The use of steel sheets helped us to form the sides of the boxes quickly and reduced the amount of wood needed as the latter has become expensive in recent days.
Building The Raised Beds In Greenhouse From Scratch
We started by cutting the 2×4 wooden studs into the required lengths. The miter saw made cutting the studs speedy and easy. We attached vertical posts to the long side of the two base pieces. Then, the two short sides were attached perpendicular to the two long sides to form a base rectangle with four upright posts. This step is very important as we needed to form the corners of the box, and they have to be properly perpendicular to each other.
Attaching The Steel Sheets To The Raised Beds In Greenhouse
The next step was to cut the corrugated steel sheets to size for the four sides. We used 8-foot long panels and minimized the need to cut the sheets by using the full 2-foot width as the height of the sides for the raised beds. A steel-cutting circular saw made quick the work of cutting the steel sheets to size. The steel sheets were attached to the wooden frame using steel panel screws.
Boxing In The Steel Sheets
Once the steel panels have been attached, we reinforce the top rim with another set of wooden studs. These helped to firmly frame the steel panels in place while providing a rim for our hands to rest on when working around the raised beds.
Making A Top Frame For Hanging Frost Cloth
Lastly, we attached another set of wooden studs around the top of the four posts to make a frame for hanging frost cloth on cold nights. Since this greenhouse is currently not heated, the idea here is to created a greenhouse within a greenhouse for better protection on wintery nights. Hopefully, we can put in some insulation boards in the fall and that should help. The pellet stove will be next year’s project. The top frame will also serve as a place to hang shade cloth in the summer if necessary.
For those interested in building similar raised beds, we are planning for a tutorial feature in the coming days.
Pavers Around The Raised Beds
Unlike the main barn area that has a cement floor, the greenhouse floor was left as dirt. We decided to add concrete pavers around the raised bed boxes. These help to provide a solid surface for us to step on and reduce the dust in summer from the exposed dirt. This project is still ongoing and time permitting, will be extended to the smaller “orchard” section
Irrigation and Plumbing
Our landscaper did supply the greenhouse with a single 3/4 inch irrigation tubing from the sprinkler valve manifold. During grading around the barn, the guy did accidentally dig up and cut through the tube with the bulldozer. They got someone to put a coupler for us several feet away from the greenhouse.
We had to trench a path from the coupler to the wall of the greenhouse for the connecting supply line. A small hole was dug under the wall of the barn for the tube to emerge on the inside of the greenhouse. While we had the hole there, we also put through a draining tube for the two intended faucets in the greenhouse. On the inside of the greenhouse, the irrigation supply line separated into three branches controlled by spigots. The 3/4 inch supply tube was stepped down to 1/2 inch distribution tubes into each raised bed, complete with their own spigots.
Please note also that the base for raised bed is lined with steel mesh to prevent burrowing creatures like prairie dogs, and moles from getting into the boxes.
Dirt, Dirt, And More Dirt
Things should get simpler now, right? Unfortunately not. Filling the boxes with dirt is a simple idea, but the reality involved a lot of elbow grease. We ordered a big truckload of good soil to fill the the raised beds.
Filling the boxes themselves was definitely a huge exercise in “dirt logistics”. First, our John Deere tractor collected a big scoop of soil from the soil pile and was driven to the entrance of the green house. Then, we shoveled the dirt from the front loader into carts to the raised beds. It was hard work and even Rollo, the dog had to “help”.
Other Things Besides Dirt
The inside of the boxes were not only filled with dirt. Since these raised beds are counter height, we filled the bottom 1/3 with mulch leftover from the landscaper and (un-colored) red cedar mulch. The other 2/3 are layers of dressed soil, sphagnum peat moss, and pearlite granules. The latter two are to help with moisture retention and for prevention of soil compaction. With so much effort, those veggies had better grow!
Setting Up The Partition Wall
As mentioned earlier, the greenhouse is divided into two separate sections. The barn builder came back to install a partition wall made with studs and several huge pieces of plywood. He also put in a storm door between the two greenhouse sections. We added a decorative window to break the expanse of plywood and also a shelf to hold coils of spare irrigation tubing and other planting supplies. The storm door and decorative window allows in more light for both sections of the greenhouse.
Each section of the greenhouse has its own “sink”. We started by installing brass faucets that are really 1/2 inch branch lines from the main 3/4 inch irrigation lines. Then, we built either a wooden base or adapted rustic metal stands to act as the holders for the sinks. The sink basin themselves are re-purposed galvanized steel tubs with holes punched into the middle for drainage. The “drains” themselves are re-purposed oil funnels connected to drain hoses. And they work really well!
To tidy up the space, we whitewashed the plywood partition wall, installed solar-powered retro-farm lights, and we are all ready for the vegetables.
The common wisdom here is to plant after Memorial Day which usually falls at the end of May and is this weekend but I will start planting outside today as the weather has warmed up after the last snowstorm. Yes, we have a very short growing season here in Wyoming. I did start sowing some seeds in the greenhouse raised beds and they have sprouted but that is a story for another day!
Similar Tools Used in This Raised Beds In Greenhouse Post
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Metabo HPT 10-Inch Miter Saw | Laser Marker | Single Bevel | Compound | 15-Amp Motor
Hydro-Rain No Glue Needed PVC-Lock Coupling, 3/4″
Behrens Tub 9 Gal Round Galvanized
Behrens Hot Dipped Galvanized Steel Oval Tub, 4 Gallon
Update: October 17, 2022
After more than 4 months, our greenhouse has more or less “settled down” and is currently “occupied” by plants. We have finally finished paving the entire space. While it is not perfect, the space is dry and comfortable to work in. I look forward to going there every morning, especially now that the weather is cooling down.
Three of the raised beds in larger section have a second round of plants in them now. We are new to cultivating plants in a greenhouse and the learning curve is steep. It is a long story but the first round of plants did not do well. The napa cabbage and cauliflower I planted grew big and juicy but were attacked by aphids. The baby bok choy and yu choy sum were spindly. Perhaps it was too hot in there. It was very frustrating. I think the controlled environment in there is better now with the weather cooling down and grow lights providing supplemental light.
Sadly, the two miniature peach trees I brought with us died after transplant. Perhaps it was due to transplant shock. We have since replaced them with two Veteran Peach trees which we are pruning to keep them small and compact.
Cabbage, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, and Tomato in The Raised-Beds In Greenhouse
Thankfully, the cabbage, marigolds, nasturtiums, and tomato plants are doing well.
There is also ginger grown from store bought ginger and turmeric which have not sprouted yet because I only remembered to grow some very much later. They do take a longer time to sprout but hopefully they will at some point. Since the thyme I tried to sow from seeds failed miserably, I bought some lemon thyme from the garden center and they are thriving.
I have also brought in all the baskets tomatoes hanging from the raised beds frame outside and they are more beautiful than ever in the greenhouse. They look like jewels and are super sweet.
Here you can see the cabbage plants forming heads which I am excited about as we do love cabbage. The daikon that I grew outside were attacked by aphids and bolted and so I am starting new ones in here with more carrots sharing the other half of the raised bed. Hopefully, this time I will succeed with the yu choy sum.
The Smaller Section of The Greenhouse
We enter the greenhouse on this side and so I have a small working table here where I sort through the harvest from both the raised bed garden and terraced vegetable garden. It also functions as a nursery of sorts for all kinds of plants that interest me.
Rori-San’s bonsai plants and my galangal are also sheltering in here at the moment. The peanut plants in the foreground are getting bigger. Not sure if they will produce peanuts but it is a fun experiment.
Since the wing beans and long beans in the terraced vegetable garden did not do as well as I had hoped for, I started some seeds of each kind in the pots close to the windows. Maybe a little too late in the season for them to bear any fruit because they do need a lot of sun and heat to thrive.
I picked up two blueberry plants from a nursery and since blueberries require acidic soil, I am growing them in pots for now. Our soil here is very alkaline. I did not realize that their leaves turn a beautiful red color in the fall which is such a bonus. I also sowed some bok choy seeds in the two empty pots. They mature quickly and I am hoping for a quick crop before it turns really cold in here.
Next Phase for These Raised-Beds In Greenhouse
We will be insulating the larger section of the greenhouse with the raised beds next week. I will update this post again a little later in the season.