Plants in the Alpine House or Cold Frame: Setting up an Alpine House
Started by: irwin johnstonGo to latest contribution by Margaret Young, 09 April 2009, 22:50. Go to bottom of this page.
As someone relatively new to alpine gardening (but a reasonably experienced gardner) can I seek some assistance from members on setting up an alpine house.I am based in the 'drier' east of England (Lincs) and at present I have an aluminium greenhouse approx 12 ft x 7.5 ft with two roof and one wall windows; and one door. I know I must increase ventilation and have read that read that it is a good idea to remove a pain of glass from the gable end (approx 6ft x 2.5) Is this a good idea? I appreciate that I probably also need some louvre windows in the sides. The problem is my side pains of glass are approx 4ft by 2.5 f. Does anybody know a way of incorporating a lourve window into pains of glass this size (and a source of 'cheap' louvre windows?
I already have fairly robust aluminium staging all round and was (at least at first)thinking of using plastic containers placed on them as plunge beds. My local garden centre has some made by Garland - size 1 m x 0.5 m and 15 cms deep. Would these be suitable and do they need a drainage hole drilled? If I use sand as a plunge material it is obviously very heavy. Is their any suitable material for a plunge bed - or can I incorporate anything with the sand to reduce weight?
Any suggestions gratefully received. I will probably have other queries once I get past the 'planning stage' but I am trying to get the basics right before moving on to plants.
Irwin, in the absence of other contribution hopefully this will give you a start and also prompt others to join in.
The single biggest problem I see with your plan is the weight, however robust your aluminium frame is, a couple of tonnes of wet sand with give it an extreme test.
Advice I have heard given relates to propping weight bearing elements on flat paving slabs...the old elephant footprint rather than the high heel shoe pressure point.
I don't know what your weight bearing elements are but from an engineering point of view these need to give direct support underneath. Any suspension principle will quickly pull the sides or the ends of the greenhouse in. A 3'*2' Slab on edge will bear a lot of weight, especially when resting on another similar load spreader as an inverted T.
Even if you can sensibly reduce the weight by incorporating Hortag or Perlite or somesuch, you are still going to face the same types of problem, just not so extreme. I'll let others comment on the Hortag and Perlite additions, I personally would think that less than perfect and there may be other problems introduced...Practical help anyone??
Your plunge beds sound a good start, very much depends on the depth of your pots, you really want to sink to the collar, to get the sand and compost levels about equal inside and outside the pot.
Remember and keep it all workable, arms length is difficult to manage when lifting heavy pots in and out of a plunge.
I do not believe drainage holes to be a necessity, again perhaps those with more practical experience could add their comments. You can always add a drainage hole later.
As regards the louvres etc, sorry cannot help, doors either end are a great boon, as is a net over the door gaps to prevent the cats and birds taking up residence, however temporary.
A water butt is an essential, or a good proximate mains supply, storing mains water for a couple of days before use deals with the clorination but not the impurities. Electricty is very helpful but not essential, fans, frostproofing, bottom heat on a propagation bed. As much light as possible in winter and shading in summer. I guess you have thought out most of this already.
Try http://www.greenhousesdirect.co.uk/ though I'm not sure whether they do Louvres etc as add ons.
Hope this helps and that others will chip in with their experience.
Keep us posted as to how you get on.
irwin,john seems to cover the major points for you,however if you can find a copy of an execellent book by royton e. heath called "collectors alpines"-their cultivation in frames and alpine houses,this will cover all aspects in great detail,with a plant index in it as well, i found it a great source of reliable info for the novice or expert.
Good advice, Simon. The Royton Heath book, Collector's Alpines is published by Collingridge. This is the ISBN: 0600367843 / 0-600-36784-3 www.abebooks.com are good for finding copies of these books at reasonable prices.... delivery is pretty speedy in my experience.