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He Built A 20 By 36-Ft. Greenhouse For $5,000
"I built it for my wife. She really enjoys working in it all year long," says Harry Benjamin, Shelby, Montana, who recently sent FARM SHOW photos of a 20 by 36-ft., climate-controlled greenhouse he built from scratch.
  He used mostly salvaged materials. It's built stronger than most commercial greenhouses since it's anchored by a concrete floor and the frame is all welded together. It'll hold up in the highest winds," says Benjamin. "I spent about $5,000 to build it but most of that was for new Lexan panels that cover the walls and roof. A commercial greenhouse of comparable size would have cost at least $20,000, and it wouldn't be nearly as strong."
  The greenhouse is fully heated during winter by a natural gas space heater and "air conditioned" during summer by a big squirrel cage fan built into one end. The fan kicks on automatically whenever the temperature gets above 90 degrees.
  The walls mount on a base made from old railroad rails. The Lexan panels attach to a frame made from 2-in. dia. pipe. Inside, there's a 3-ft. wide raised bed lining the walls and a 6-ft. wide bed down the middle, with a wide alley on either side of it. All beds are raised 3 ft. above the floor. Automatic waterers above the beds, operated by valves, deliver a fine mist to the crops.
  The greenhouse also contains a hot water tank, a sink, and cupboards. There's an awning decoration, built from scrap metal, on one end of the greenhouse with flowerpots hanging from it.
  Benjamin built the entire structure during the winter inside his shop and used a 2-wheeled trailer to move it into place outside. He mounted one end of the greenhouse on the trailer and used a front-end loader to pick up the other end, then wheeled it into place, set it down, and blocked it up so that it was all level. Then he put in the concrete floor. "The floor slopes toward the middle where there are drains, which makes it easy to hose down. The water drains into our shelterbelt.
  "My wife uses it to grow a wide variety of plants every month of the year except for December, January, and February. She can start gardening two months early, and last year she grew tomatoes all the way up until Thanksgiving. It's nice to have fresh food on the table almost all year long," says Benjamin.
  "She has arthritis and can't get down on the ground like she used to. In the greenhouse she can work standing up. She grows carrots, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, strawberries and raspberries as well as other crops. She has radishes, carrots, lettuce growing all the time. There are lights inside so she can go out and work at night if she wants to.
  "We brought in high quality soil from another area. The food that's grown in it has a superb taste. And when you open the door there's a wonderful smell of things growing inside - it's very therapeutic."
  Another benefit of the greenhouse, says Benjamin, is that food can be grown in a smaller area than it could be outside. "And there's no loss to raccoons, rabbits, deer, and birds."
  Benjamin designed a handheld rototiller that makes use of an electric drill. It consists of a 2 1/2-ft. long, 1/2-in. dia. metal shaft with several L-shaped metal "tillers" welded onto the outer 18 in. The operator uses his left hand to hold onto a short length of pipe that surrounds the shaft next to the drill. The drill's left handle was lengthened to 18 in., allowing the operator to hold it stationary with his elbow. He can dig up to 1 1/2 ft. deep in the soil, guiding the rototiller back and forth along the beds.
   Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Harry Benjamin, 10., L.L.C., 205 S. Devon Rd., Shelby, Montana 59474 (ph 406 432-2196 or 406 460-2196).

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2004 - Volume #28, Issue #5