Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In the shop: The greenhouse trailer

So while I've been working on the trash can cart I've also got this greenhouse trailer project going.

We have some gardening challenges around here. Besides siting on a piece of property with a checkerboard mix of heavy clay, sandy loam, and gravel depending on where you try sticking your shovel in, we have a wide range of creatures that are only too willing to eat anything we plant 'for them'. On top of that we have a difficult climate where a location with full sun is great for spring and fall but not so good during the blistering summer.

Well it just so happens that we have an old 10' utility trailer we don't use anymore, so as a partial solution to our gardening challenges we decided to repurpose that trailer into a mobile greenhouse/garden that we can move around as necessary with the tractor.

Since this thing will never see the road we can make it a full 10' wide and we can get away with exceeding the 1 ton load rating without too many dire consequences because tagging along behind the tractor over our rough ground the thing will never see speeds of more than 1 or 2 miles per hour.

By designing the side walls to the proper height, a single strip of 4' wide 2x3 welded wire fencing can wrap permanently around the walls as protection from critters and we can fit clear panels in place, or even just staple on heavy clear plastic, if we decide to garden through the winter.

The roof will be permanently covered with clear panels because I'm not too keen on the idea of climbing up there a couple times a year to install and remove seasonal panels.  With the open walls there will be plenty of ventilation under that roof and if we find that parking the greenhouse under the trees during the summer does not provide enough shade the roof is low enough that we can hang shade cloth on the inside of the rafters. A guttering system will allow us to collect rainwater off the roof so we don't waste any of that precious resource.

The doorway will be closed off with a pair of 2' wide sections, one pined in place for stability leaving the other hinged and latched normally for getting in and out on a daily basis. If necessary you can un-pin the other section, swing it open on its hinges and have plenty of room for moving large stuff in and out. 4 foot was chosen because it's a nice round number and also leaves enough permanently fixed wall to either side of the door to keep that end of the structure solidly braced. The door opening is right at 6' high which is no problem at all for my wife and, as long as I'm not wearing a tall hat and don't try jumping rope in the doorway, I'll fit through just fine too. (By the way, jumping rope is something I shouldn't be trying anywhere!)

The first thing I did was cut a couple pieces of 1.5x1.5 square tubing from stock left over from the trash cart project and weld them to the trailer frame as suspension stops. (My reciprocating saw is some 40 years old and if it's been sitting for more than a few minutes I have to beat the crap out of it with a dead-blow hammer to get it to run, but it still works!!) Over the years that trailer has carried a few heavy loads and there are shallow fender-cuts in the tires where the suspension travel was just a bit more than the fender clearance. Since I expect this thing to get really heavy with a whole garden full of plants in it I didn't want to risk having the fenders slice right through a tire or two! I had hoped that the primer would hide my less than expert vertical welding, but it clearly didn't. . .

After ripping a single 2x10 down to a height that matches the distance from the trailer deck to the top of the top-rail, I screwed it securely right down the middle of the deck to act as a floor joist.

My original plan was to put a total of 4 lag bolts up through both top rails into each of the twelve 2x10 deck planks as well as screw the middle of each one down to that joist. After pondering on that a bit, mostly envisioning drilling 48 holes through the top rails, I decided that two lags per plank, one on each end, was plenty, especially since it wasn't like the greenhouse was going to be trying to fly off the trailer! I did all this rethinking when I was standing there in front of the bin of lags at the hardware store, so on the fly I quickly divided my original 48 lags in half and came up with 14 which I generously rounded up to 20. . .

OK, so; the project is on hold now until I can get back to a hardware store and pick up the rest of the lags I need, but in the mean time, if anyone finds a brain laying out there in the parking lot would they give me a call?? I seem to have misplaced mine. . .

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