5 Benefits of Growing Your Own Food in the Conservatory

Organic vegetables and fruits being grown in conservatory or greenhouse.


Starting Seedlings in Your Conservatory

The price of things seems to be higher these days, particularly at the supermarket, which is at least a weekly journey for most families. But what if I told you that you could skip those checkout lines entirely or at least reduce your bill by growing your own food?

Don’t have the time, the space, or the desire? Take a look at these 5 benefits of growing your own food at home; they may persuade you to reconsider.

1. Save money at the store

Did you know a packet of seeds is less than a dollar? You can also preserve, dry and can some of your summer crop to enjoy the whole year round. Watch as your grocery bill gets lower and lower as you begin to fill your kitchen with fresh produce right from your own greenhouse.

2. Improve your health

It’s a pretty well-known fact that eating fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things you and your family can do to stay healthy. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals that not only improve your health but can even prevent disease. Have a supply of fresh food right on hand increases the likelyhood that you’ll grab for them when you’re considering what to eat.

3. No more worry about food safety.

Imagine the world where you can trust that your food you are feeding your family is safe and healthy to eat. When you grow your own food, you are in complete control, you don’t have to worry about any recalls, exposure or contamination that could have happened on that tomato’s journey from the farm, to the factory, to the grocery store; to your table… You simply grow it, pick it and enjoy!

The perfect environment in a greenhouse or conservatory produces perfect tomatoes.

Perfect Greenhouse Conditions Grow Perfect Tomatoes

4. Reduce your carbon footprint.

Growing a garden is not only good for you; it is also good for the planet.

Think about how many miles your food has come to get from the farm to your kitchen table. By growing at home, you are drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels and the resulting pollution that comes from the journey of fresh produce that could come from across the world by planes and refrigerated trucks.Home gardening helps the planet in many ways. If you choose to grow organically, you will also save the earth of any air and water pollution that comes from pesticides.

5. WOW your taste buds

Nothing tastes better than fresh fruits or vegetables straight off of the plant. Although they will probably not be the perfect shape or the perfect color, get ready for a taste explosion that will have you vowing never to eat those rosy red commercially raised tomatoes from the grocery store again!

Having a conservatory, greenhouse, or garden room provides a place for you to grow your food year-round while having complete control over the growing environment. You’re no longer dependant on the weather, or having to worry about wildlife and pests destroying your hardwork. So whatever your reason for creating your indoor garden, rest assured that your body, your wallet and the planet will thank you!

Interested in how we can build you a conservatory or greenhouse that uniquely fits your home and your style? Contact us today, and we’ll help turn your dream into reality!

Conservatory Building: 5 Decisions to Make Before You Begin

The materials, the style and many other factors of building a conservatory can help or hurt the environment.

Conservatory Construction Techniques Can Fight Global Climate Change

The natural resources of the world, though abundant, are being threatened by climate change and global warming. As a result, people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint; how much energy we consume, the environmental factors in which their food is grown, and how to incorporate it all into our everyday life. A conservatory or greenhouse is where lifestyle meets practicality and sustainability.

When planning a home renovation, consider a conservatory or greenhouse. Traditional orangeries that originally functioned only as a place to grow plants and flowers have evolved into truly unique spaces in which to live. Conservatories and greenhouses are as custom as any other room addition; specialty muntins, hand woodworked details and stained glass makes each crystal palace one of a kind. Temperature control features keep the room comfortably tempered, without adding to electricity bills.

Read the guide below for the five decisions to make before you begin building a conservatory, or any home extension:

1. Know your goals.
Before anything else, you need to determine what you’re using the space for. Understand the size your property can accommodate, and how the design will work with the existing structure of the home.

2. Create a plan.
Now that you know what you want and what purpose the addition is for, you need to map out your plan. Communicate openly and regularly with your builder; make sure that all payment installments are in writing, and that expectation is set in terms of time to completion.

3. Set up a budget.
In setting up a budget, make sure it is realistic and within your means. This is a complicated process as the budget can restrict the whole process. Get quotes from several trusted contractors and understand the cost of labor in relation to the cost of materials.

4. Hire the right people.
Ask for as many references and feedback as you can before handing over any deposits. Check for negative feedback and complaints as well as certifications. Your choice will depend on your goals and budget, but there should be a long line of clients willing to offer a recommendation.

5. Prepare for inconveniences.
Because you hired the right people, this step, in theory, should be unnecessary. But the reality is that big projects with many details can run into unforeseen issues. Make sure to set aside a few extra dollars for unexpected problems.

Spring Planning for Your Outdoor Space

It’s early Spring. We have the itch we can feel it in the air, it’s time to get to work. Let’s start tagging, pinning and planning our outdoor spaces. This popular conservatory space will assist in providing inspiration!

Yes, it’s true while working on this project Illinois the homeowners provided us with enough Chicago style pizza that we brought home a few extra inches on our waists. This outdoor space made a lasing impression on us. The exterior walk up bar is the perfect spot to set drinks our your gooey slice of brick oven pizza.img_5012
How can you duplicate this space with your own backyard kitchen?

1) Plan your space. Get your ideas on paper. Talk to Landscape professional. Planning on the front end will save many headaches when under construction

2) How do you want your pizza oven to function?

Wood burning like this?

Wood burning ovens achieve a couple of dramatic effects:

  • Very high temperatures
  • Reduced cooking time
  • Thermal drafts in the oven from live wood create a natural current of warm air much like a convection oven so the pizza is cooked very evenly (this assumes that you use an actual, well designed wood oven).
  • Smoke from the wood infuses the crust with just a hint of live fire.

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Or gas?

Gas ovens are an inexpensive option.
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3) How do you want the space to feel?

Are you looking for and extensive hardscape project?
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Our conservatory project had 3-4 intimate spaces where people could sit, chat and munch on pizza. The hardscapes were designed with plants and people in mind.
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4) Now let’s accessories!

Lighting is an important factor to consider for any space but especially an outdoor one, where proper lighting can be easily overlooked. Accent lighting adds a decorative touch but one should first consider proper landscape lighting.

 

Furniture: The market is saturated with outdoor furniture. Be sure to select something that fits your space and can be easily stored in the off seasons. Comfort and fade-resistant fabrics are important too!

Seating: Smaller, more intimate seating area are great for conversation
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Prep Area: A great tip is to incorporate an outdoor pantry so you can save multiple trips to your kitchen. Granite is a great surface that can withstand exterior elements. A small prep area will save you from juggling at the table.
The Spring fever is really here and we are ready to go! And make a pizza…

Seed Starting in the Conservatory

The Holiday season is over, the decorations are down, the winter has a firm grip on life, and the mind begins to dream about the next season. Spring!

Last year was not a kind spring. Everything was late. I had to feed my poor bees until the third week of June before pollen finally was available in the typical spring blooms.

This year will be different. We are all hoping for that. So, let’s make a list and go seed shopping! Here are some helpful gardening tips that will guide you through seed starting in your conservatory.

Seedlings Emerge in the Greenhouse

1) Avoid the impulse to buy seeds at the ‘box store’. Nothing against box stores, but a lot against impulse seed buying. I did this for years and then after it was too late, regretted the plants and the harvest. You put a lot of time (all summer) into growing the plants, why not take a couple of minutes and study the varieties available and make good choices. The University of Minnesota is a great place to start. Check with your local Land Grant University for suggestions.

2) Be sure to stay ahead of the season. Or pay the price of expensive potting plants, with little variety to select from. Many garden centers spray growth inhibitor on the seedlings to they stay full, and don’t get long and leggy in the garden center. Problem is, they stay stunted and are poor producers. So there are several reasons to start you own seeds: cost, quality control and fun! Not all plants transplant well into the garden (beets, carrots). Make a calendar and plant your seeds by the clock!

3) Do not use seed ‘Catalogs’. The internet is a better source for a seed shopper. Avoid companies, just because they offer a sale. Not saying it won’t be a good deal, but seed quality is the most important. Note, I am not saying don’t buy seeds from companies who send catalogs, what I am saying is study the plants on the internet for full information. I recently looked at a seed catalog. It offered 9 seeds in the pack, for $3.49! After careful shopping, I was able to buy the same variety with 150 seeds in the pack for $1.49.

4) Design your garden. Impulsive gardens that result from buying plants at the nursery never work out. When in doubt, try ‘Square Foot Gardening’, but be sure if its vegetables or flowers, you have a plan on paper first. Go on Youtube and look at time saving techniques like ‘how to make your own seed tape’. It saves seeds and gets a fun project for the kids to do with you while you wait last frost of the year.

5) Organize. I make up a 3 ring binder and keep my notes in it from year to year. Plan the garden and follow the plan! I have a mixed light exposure around the conservatory. Lots of sun, some morning sun and some shady. I love it. I have a full pallet to paint with.
Water plants in the morning. Keep the young tender plants out of direct sun.

There is Order and Relaxation in the Planting of Seeds

6) Coordinate. Look at plant options. I Google things like “purple flowers that grow in sun“. You get to see lots of photos of plants that inspire. Pick a plant. Let’s say you are attracted to Salvia, a great plant that has great cut flowers, grows in sun, and of course I selected a purple variety.
Now, Google ‘Salvia’ and many suppliers will pop up. Look at their options. Now you can compare various promotions the companies offer, and order your seeds.

7) Track. Start a chart either on a piece of paper or a spreadsheet. List the plant, where you are ordering from (I bought mine from Swallowtail), the length of time to germination, and instructions on germination. This is important and often overlooked. Some plants do best planted in the soil where they go through the process and send up shoots. However, due to hormones in the seeds, some plants germinate in light and require to be at the surface of the planting to be successful. Make this note on your spreadsheet.

I can’t wait to get my seeds in the mail next week. Gardening is an enjoyable hobby , but like the professionals say it is 50% planning and 50% luck and I wish you all the luck my friends!

 

Six Automated Window Systems and Five New Air Conditioners

Natural Ventilation for Modern Office Buildings

While traditional mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are still widely used, contemporary concerns for improving the environmental performance and “livability” of buildings has led to an increased interest in alternatives like natural ventilation and mixed-mode systems.

A major benefit of HVAC, particularly in deep plan and larger office buildings, is that they alleviate many of the problems associated with a naturally ventilated building such as noise, dust, insects, heavy winds, odors and uncomfortable temperatures.

However, there are some studies suggesting that a mixed-mode ventilation system of HVAC and natural ventilation, in combination with good passive design, can provide sufficient indoor air quality to keep occupants happy while reducing their reliance on mechanical air treatment.

Typically, a mixed-mode system operates in either of two modes and is best used for buildings’ perimeter spaces or for narrow planned buildings with good cross ventilation. The first is the natural ventilation mode that uses fresh external air from operable windows or dampers to cool the internal spaces and relies predominantly on the stack effect for hot air to be expelled through high-level exhausts. The second is the mechanical mode and sees the windows closed and the HVAC switched on and is used only when the external temperatures are too hot or too cold for natural ventilation, or when there is a heavy wind or rain.

Control of the operable windows can be manual or automatic and, in keeping with current trends towards automated buildings, we’re seeing more automated window systems come to the market that are compatible with Building Management Systems (BMS).

Some window manufacturers offer built-in automated systems that can be controlled by a BMS and that come with inputs for automated weather stations and sensors that detect smoke, rain, hail, temperature, wind, time, and smog. Others advertise that their products can be easily automated with add-on products like actuators and reed switches, and can also incorporate into a BMS.

These products render manual operation from building occupants—one of the most difficult-to-control influences on a building’s environmental impact—unnecessary, as the BMS detects when it is optimal to open and close windows and to operate the HVAC.

Some of the problems associated with the manual operation of a building’s HVAC and natural ventilation, like occupants leaving windows open with the HVAC on for example can, therefore, be avoided with automated mixed-mode air-conditioning.

Free Flight and Hotel Anyone?

 

The Hewitt Family Conservatory

We know that building a conservatory is a substantial investment and one that should not be taken casually. The cost of a conservatory compares to the cost of a luxury car (albeit a luxury car that will still be shiny and new thirty years from now), so we know the time and research that is required for you to make the right decision about whom to trust to build your dream conservatory.

So, what should you do when trying to find a reputable conservatory builder?

  • Make a list of possible conservatory builders – ask friends and relatives for recommendations on good experiences they have had.
  • Do online research – not only visit their websites, look at their Houzz profile, Pinterest page, Facebook page and Twitter feeds.
  • Do your homework – once you have your list of potential builders, how can you find out about their reputation? The only way to be sure is to talk with previous clients and conservatory owners with whom they have worked. We invite you to visit www.conservatorybuilderreviews.com to learn what previous clients have to say about their experiences with Conservatory Craftsmen.
  • Visit models and sale presentations – so you can see the quality for yourself. Meet the builders face to face and ask lots of questions, even if you already know the answers, to judge the builder’s honesty and knowledge. Look for builders who want to share information and educate consumers.

We are so enthusiastic about our product and are proud to show off the craftsmanship of our work in person. Therefore, we invite you to come visit us and our showroom here in Minneapolis. We will reimburse you for your flight and night in a hotel when you sign the design deposit for your new conservatory.

So, come join me, and my family, at my home. We can have a hot cup of tea in our lovely conservatory and we can answer all the questions you have about designing and building your dream conservatory.
Let me know when we should expect you.

Readying Your Greenhouse For Winter

This week is Daylight Savings Time, which means winter is right around the corner. Here are some tips from Mandy Watson of The Shields Gazette on getting your greenhouse ready for winter.

If you have a greenhouse, or any structure that you’re overwintering plants in, your number one priority is making sure it’s clean. Not only must it be frost-free, but pest-free.

Cleaning the greenhouse and conservatory is my least favourite job, but a necessary evil.

Here’s what you need to down to reduce the risk of pests:

1) On a mild day, take everything possible outside.
2) Scrub off any old shade paint from the summer.
3) Brush or vacuum surfaces to remove all debris.
4) Hose down the exterior and interior on a soaker setting, to loosen any pests/eggs and lichen.
5) Wash down glass with warm soapy water and a sponge. A breezy day will mean it dries out more quickly.
6) Spray all surfaces with Citrox, a powerful organic citrus extract disinfectant for cleaning greenhouses, pots, staging, tools, seed trays, bird feeders and bird baths. It doesn’t harm plants and it’s effective against bacterial and fungal diseases.
7) Glass is best done with an anti-bacterial washing-up liquid – it doesn’t streak.
8) Check that all ventilation panels/windows are working.
9) Finally, check over plants that you’re overwintering carefully BEFORE bringing them in – you don’t want them to be harbouring pests. Cut things like geraniums back outside first – and check pot rims and bases for hidden slugs, snails and vine weevils.

Wood vs. PVC: Materials Make All the Difference

We receive many requests from around the country to fix and repair previously built conservatories on homes. For the most part, these are vinyl (uPVC) conservatories that have been built with in the last fifteen years. Most have polycarbonate roofs, and in most cases, the polycarbonate has failed.

If it were just a matter of replacing the polycarbonate, this would be simple, but indeed the whole issue is quite complicated.

How to glaze a vinyl roof
The roof frame is assembled on top of the erected windows. This is a rafter bar that is attached on the bottom to the eave and on the top to the ridge. The polycarbonate panel is then set on the rafter, ridge and eave. Capping is friction fit over the polycarbonate. This capping is plastic, and co-extruded with rubber to create a seal against the polycarbonate. The capping has a center prong that friction fits down between a kerf in the rafter, and will not pull out again unless with extreme force. The ridge is the final cap and done in the same manner.

This is where the problem arises. The cap generally shatters when removed, and the older the cap is, the more UV deterioration has occurred making it even more brittle. Unless fresh new glazing caps are available to replace them, the roof will be unable to seal with the new polycarbonate.

Almost all companies that have built or manufactured these vinyl conservatories are out of business. They made a huge impact on the early market because of price, but were unable to maintain a place in the market when their structures began to deteriorate. In the case where the company may still be functioning, the extrusion has been replaced and updated (primarily because of the Kioto Agreement of 2008). Old extrusions are not available. Thus, replacement parts for these structures are not available. If we were to take the responsibility for the roof, at the point where materials are unavailable to repair the roof, we take on liability.

So, the answer is simply replace the roof.

Not so simple.

The windows below are glazed on sight (meaning the glass is installed after the room is constructed). In order for us to remove the glass on the vertical wall so we can release and replace the roof, we have to remove the glazing beads from the windows themselves.

Same story as above: The beads are plastic, they degrade and become brittle in the UV and they break upon removal or replacement. It is for this reason, the only response we have to repairing a conservatory roof made of vinyl (uPVC) is to replace the entire room. Our replacement is with aluminum, thermally broken and powder-coated. We have aluminum rooms that we have built 25 years ago, and yes, we have replaced polycarbonate. There is no problem doing so.

Aluminum is an upgrade to Vinyl, so we are unable to provide apples to apples estimate for the replacement value of the vinyl room. One may endeavor to find a company to provide and install a vinyl conservatory, but that is a daunting task. Glass roof is an upgrade to polycarbonate, but the reason for the initial insurance claim is the polycarbonate. It has a 10 year+/- life span, whereas glass is lifetime and permanent. However, glass is also an upgrade. As a further upgrade, customers may wish to have us build their rooms from Mahogany, wood, and these rooms are serviceable forever, as wood can easily be accessed and milled to fit. We are ready and available to answer any questions that home homeowners or insurance adjusters may have for us. Please don’t hesitate to call us to discuss them.

Water and Lighting in a Greenhouse

Water and light are crucial to enjoying a thriving greenhouse. Here are a few helpful tips for installing drip irrigation and some advice on the best lighting for a greenhouse.

Water and light are essential to plants, and in a greenhouse you’ll have to provide both. There are several different watering methods to choose from: hand watering, capillary mats that bring water up from below, overhead watering, and drip irrigation that delivers water directly into each pot.

ts-200391680-001_vines-growing-in-greenhouse_s3x4A drip irrigation system is easy to lay out and is very cost-effective. It delivers small amounts of water over long periods of time, so plants stay uniformly moist. Installation is fairly simple:

Be sure the mainline that carries water into the greenhouse is sunk underground at least four feet, which is below the frost line, to make sure the water in the line doesn’t freeze.

Use a 3/4-inch poly pipe as the water supply line. Position it to run down the length of the bench.
From the main line, connect lateral lines to run between pots.

Set the system on a timer to ensure regular watering.

Once the water system is in place, you’ll need to address any lighting needs. Although fluorescent lights are popular, they help the gardener more than the plants. This type of lighting is good to work by, but plants need more light, especially in northern regions.

A high-pressure sodium bulb does a better job of simulating sunlight to stimulate plant growth. A 125-watt bulb gives off plenty of light when hung at least three feet above plants or seeds. This is a good distance to avoid heat burn.

Grow lights help to lighten shady spots and propagation areas in the greenhouse. What you are germinating or propagating determines how long you need to leave the lights on, usually an average of 12 to 16 hours each day. If you are growing tropical plants, you may need to set up grow lights if the plants don’t get at least eight hours of sun each day.

From Phone Call to Finish: Building a Conservatory

We get a lot of phone calls from homeowners wondering how the process of building a conservatory or greenhouse works. My first reaction is to tell them it’s just like building any other home addition- only much more spectacular and in less time!

The truth is, building a conservatory is special. The crystal palaces that we custom design and build are one of a kind, and many clients tell us that their family time has been reinvigorated. Conservatories add value to a home that far exceeds a regular home addition. Another very reasonable question asked of us is about the cost of building a conservatory. I like to compare it to that of a luxury car: you can spend $50,000 or you can spend $200,000 depending on the bells and whistles.

Here’s what you can expect when calling Conservatory Craftsmen:

YOU CALL: We discuss your ideas and needs

FOLLOW-UP: You send photos and measurement

CONCEPT: We do a concept drawing of your conservatory NO CHARGE!

ON APPROVAL: We put a construction budget together for you

IF ALL GOOD: We come visit you at your home. Still NO CHARGE! Some companies charge up to $7,500 for this step.

CONCEPT DRAWINGS: Complete drawings prepared at a minimal fee, all applied to purchase

PERMITS: In Minnesota, our construction company gets the permit. Outside MN, you can get your permit, or your contractor will obtain it for you

ARCHITECTURE: Some municipalities require an architect to ‘sign off’. You can use your architect, or we find one for you. Same if stamped engineering is required.

ORDER PLACED: 40% of the agreed price is paid with the order. Shop construction may take 8 weeks.

INSTALLATION: Only by trained Conservatory Craftsmen team. Usually not more than 2 weeks at your home. I told you we were efficient! Instantaneous Construction!

WARRANTY: All warranty items serviced by Conservatory Craftsmen.

There you have it, the process of building a conservatory from phone call to finish.