My Conservatory Soil Mix

There are times when my family thinks I am entirely nuts and they just go off to do their own thing until I am done. This is one of those times. A conservatory in the spring can be an intense place to start your garden for the year. I have about 45 flats of flowers and vegetables going in the conservatory, for outdoor planting when the weather is right.

Keep in mind, I raise bees in the backyard, and also am a huge supporter of Monarch butterfly revival, so I plant a garden that is compatible to all three of us: bees, butterflies and me!

Zinnia is a huge fan with all three of us and so easy to grow. I have Tudor for the tall and also planted shorter varieties like double white double cherry. All the good guys like Heliotrope, Impatiens, Four O’clock, salvia, more perennials like Monarda Last fall, I collected milk week and put it in a jar in the garage over the winter. I put raw sand in the jar this spring and shook it up. This removed the seed from the cotton and scarifying the seed. Great germination.

Do you know that monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed? I am planting a lot. And the rest are all our favorite vegetables, which I am anxious to enjoy.

But first the soil: I have been following a site that endorses the hydrophilic properties of diapers to improve basic things, like potting soil! I admit I was embarrassed to buy Depends at the store, so I ordered a case on Amazon. When it arrived, I was so happy and that is when the family decided they had errands to run. I raced to the garage with a utility knife and cut open all the ‘nappies’ and put the stuffing into my Homer (Home Depot bucket if you are new to the planet).
From there, my trusty cordless drill hooked up to my paint mixer and the stuffing turned to fuzz. My soil selection is a good potting soil in a bag but avoid the soils with coconut and other additives. I tried them, fruit flies love it. Add a slow release fertilizer.

I went to Gerten’s, a local garden center, but you can use Osmocote. Three bags of potting soil, 3 pounds of slow-release fertilizer, 1 case of diaper stuffing and hit it with the paint mixer. Voila! Best soil mix ever. The diaper mix holds 400 times its weight in water; the fertilizer will be there for the roots when it’s needed.

Spring Gardening: Tips from the Botanist

Gardening is good for the mind and the heart. It is a very therapeutic activity, and those with a conservatory or greenhouse are fortunate enough to be able to do it year round. Nothing adds more color and texture to your surroundings than plants and flowers, and in those cold, dreary months it almost feels like you’re living outdoors.
Now that spring is here once again, have you thought of what would you do with that vacant patch of soil outside of the conservatory? Spring is a great time for growing plants because the mild weather aids in their growth and development.

Here are some springs gardening tips to help you get started.

Prep your yard
Before you set up your garden, make sure that nothing would impede the growth of your plants. Remove any tree limbs that overhang structures and cut down last year’s perennial foliage. Take note offences, steps, and pathways that need to be repaired or replaced and be sure to refresh mulch in planting areas after soil warms.

Choose what to plant
After preparing your yard, the next step is to determine which plants you’d like to grow. Do you want to grow your own vegetables so you can have access to organic produce? Perhaps fresh flowers are your thing. Do some research on the spring flowers or vegetables you’d like to plant; this way, you’ll know exactly how to care for them and ensure their optimum growth and development.

Test the soil
Before you start planting, don’t forget to take a soil test to determine its pH or acidity levels. You can do this with the help of a home soil test kit. Be sure to take several tests to get an accurate reading. Depending on the result you’ll get, you can raise the soil’s pH level by adding dolomitic lime or lower it with elemental sulfur. If you’re unsure, a local nursery will be able to show you the products you’ll need.

Prepare new beds
Once the soil has the right pH level for the flowers or vegetables you want to plant, make sure to sod the soil and remove weeds and debris left by winter. Spread a four-inch layer of compost over the soil and cultivate it to a depth of 10 to 12 inches with a spading fork.

When planting, experts recommend doing this task on a cool, cloudy day if possible. If you need to transplant container-grown plants, this should be done anytime except during midsummer when the heat is stifling.

Water your plants
Watering frequencies usually depend on where you live. For instance, if you are living in rocky and mountain areas where the soil is most likely to be fast-draining, you should water your plants more often.

Generally, you should start watering your spring plants sometime in mid-April, about once every seven to ten days. When the weather starts heating up, you should increase your watering frequencies to about once every five to seven days.

Conservatories Built and Designed in the U.S.

There are many conservatory design options to consider.

Conservatory Craftsmen has had a busy year, traveling across the U.S. in our trailer, getting to know our customers – and each other – quite well! We’ve had the chance to document some of our work, which allows us to appreciate the planning, the human connection, and the beautiful results once a project is through. Here’s a premier project we completed in Pennsylvania.

See more on our new website. There’s lots to see and appreciate through our gallery and design options. If we can help answer any questions regarding building or enhancing a conservatory or greenhouse, please reply to this email and we will be in touch to schedule a call.

You may also reach us by phone any time: (888) 345-7915

Outdoor Living without Insects

Retractable Screens to the Rescue

Motorized power screens offer sun and shade protection at your fingertips. Our screens are unique in the industry, made in the USA, and offer a perfect solution for the garage, patio and oversize doors and entryways. Invisible retractable screens tuck out of sight when not in use and with 11 colors to choose from plus custom colors they will seamlessly blend into your home’s décor. Retractable screens are the perfect rainsolution for keeping out bugs with the added bonus of not covering up your beautiful doors and still being able to enjoy your spectacular views.

Adding power to your patio shades and bug screens are the ultimate in convenience and elegance, with custom sizes big enough for your garage, patio and oversized entryways and doors, they are truly unique in the industry.

Learn more on Retractable and motorized screens here.

Top 3 Outdoor Rooms on Houzz

This week in our Best of Houzz series we are falling in love with some seriously fantastic Outdoor Rooms from some seriously fantastic architects and designers – we are loving this category so much we may even give you 3 more next week.

1. Contemporary Outdoor Room

Contemporary Exterior by Austin Architects & Building Designers has architects

2. Outdoor Kitchen

Contemporary Porch by Sydney Architects & Building Designers Danny Broe Architect

3. Classic Outdoor Room

Traditional Patio by Huntington Architects & Building Designers MJW Architects (Michael Jay Wallin)

Top 3 Sunroom Ceiling Fans on Houzz

Number 3 in our series of our Top of Houzz, this week we have our Top 3 Sunroom ceiling fans from some very clever architects that we think fit and enhance each space so seamlessly.

1. Industrial Ceiling Fan

Traditional Porch by Cambridge Architects & Building Designers LDa Architecture & Interiors

2. Plantation Style Ceiling Fan

Traditional Dining Room by Jamestown Architects & Building Designers Ellen McKenna Design

3. Architectural Ceiling Fan

Beach Style Living Room by Lakeville Architects & Building Designers alley architecture + design, LLC

Top 5 Home Additions on Houzz

In continuation of our series of some of our favorite things on Houzz, this week we have our Top 5 Home Additions that we have fallen in love with from some highly skilled and brilliant architects and designers from across the country. Enjoy!

1. Kitchen Addition

Transitional Exterior by Philadelphia Architects & Building Designers Krieger + Associates Architects Inc

2. Sunroom Addition

Traditional Exterior by Philadelphia Architects & Building Designers Krieger + Associates Architects Inc

3. Outdoor Kitchen Addition

Modern Exterior by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers modern house architects

4. Contemporary Glass Wall Addition

Contemporary Family Room by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers Feldman Architecture, Inc.

5. Farmhouse Addition

Farmhouse Exterior by Philadelphia Architects & Building Designers Wyant Architecture

Top 5 Screened In Porches on Houzz

To celebrate Houzz selecting us for our 2015 Best of Houzz award, we are returning the favor. Conservatory Craftsmen are going to be doing a series of blogs featuring our some of favorites from Houzz.

We are kicking it off with our Top 5 Screened in Porches from some very talented architects and designers from across the country. Enjoy!

1. Farmhouse Porch

Farmhouse Porch by Millbrook Architects & Building Designers Crisp Architects

2. Traditional Beach Front Porch

Traditional Porch by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers Nick Noyes Architecture

3. Contemporary Porch

Contemporary Exterior by Saxtons River Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio (JMMDS)

4. Outdoor Fireplace Porch

Traditional Porch by Johns Island Architects & Building Designers Christopher A Rose AIA, ASID

5. Eco-Friendly Porch

Rustic Exterior by Chicago Architects & Building Designers Burns and Beyerl Architects

Blinds and Shades for Your Conservatory or Greenhouse

The appeal of a conservatory is the flood of natural light that sweeps over the room. No other home addition can offer a space where plants grow, humans live and the surrounding landscape is brought indoors.

But sometimes the heat from the sun can cause room temperatures to skyrocket, making the room feel like a sauna. Conservatory roof and side blinds reflect the sun’s rays with a unique aluminum backing to provide the ultimate in heat reflection, each pleated blind whisking away the heat. They also provide year long comfort, because the pleated fabric is also efficient at retaining warmth during the cold winter evenings.

Conservatory blinds offer different levels of translucency to give you a choice of shading options, and turns the harsh glare of the sun into a soft, dappled light. Custom-made to ensure the perfect fit and ease of operation, even in the most complex conservatory window shapes can be fitted. The wide versatility of all our pleated blinds are ideal for conservatories, bi-fold doors, skylights, roof windows and patio doors. They are available as free hanging or tensioned inside the window beading.
Our pleated conservatory roof and side blinds are available in a wide choice of colors to meet every taste and match every décor scheme. Duette Pleated Blinds are similar in appearance to classic pleated blinds, but have a double-layered honeycomb construction that provides a stylish, yet functional window covering with high insulation properties. This fabric layer is designed to deflect excessive heat during the summer, and provide insulation during the winter with a 60-80% thermal barrier.

Conservatory Craftsmen also offers Alu-Pleat® blinds, which is specifically designed to reflect heat. In fact, Faber Maunsell, a leading international environmental consultancy, put our exclusive Alu-Pleat® climate control fabric to the test. The findings show that on a typically hot day in July, the temperature in the conservatory peaked at a stifling 109 degrees Fahrenheit when no conservatory roof or side blinds were installed. With Appeal’s roof and side conservatory blinds in place, the peak temperature was reduced to 90 degrees.
For homeowners looking for a more natural look, Pinoleum is crafted from the lightest quality reed, which minimizes the need for support wires in the roof. Consequently, using fewer wires gives the blinds a neater and more uniform appearance without sagging, while specially developed polyester stitching and acrylic edging also promotes longevity. Pinoleum blinds are complemented by a variety of operating systems, including pole, cord or remote controlled, for convenience and ease of use.

Conservatory blinds and shades create a relaxing ambience all year round and protects your plants and furniture by effectively controlling the room temperature and greatly reducing the harmful effect of the sun’s UV rays.


Kitchen Conservatory, Illinois

This client was planning a large kitchen renovation and wanted to create a visually dramatic transition from the outdoor entertainment area to the new kitchen in their beautiful home in Chicago, Illinois.

Designing an addition for the ‘inside L’ of a home can be very tricky, and requires design knowledge to ensure proper drainage for when it rains and snows. We decided on a 5 bay mahogany conservatory with 18 ft. ceilings to ensure maximum light into the homeowners’ new kitchen, with big French doors that lead out to the patio.

The same hardwood floors that were used in the kitchen were used for the conservatory, which created a seamless transition into the space.

Roll away screens on the windows allow ventilation in the summer months, keeping the room cool and comfortable.

On the outside of the conservatory we added a granite bar with a built in grill to the high knee wall, which visually tied the new structure to the outside entertainment space.

The roof was glazed with LowE tempered glass. The tempering provided a solid, sturdy roof while the LowE reduced the radiant heat from the sun.