A Plethora of Plants
Dale Plank is an enthusiastic, spry gardener who has been tilling the soil for over sixty years. He tends a marvelous vegetable and flower garden that spills onto a bike path through a bucolic suburban neighborhood in Corvallis, Oregon. Dale and his wife Beverly like to work with native plants. Attracting butterflies and hummingbirds with scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) to their garden is a top priority. Their side garden has a large collection of vegetables, vines and annual flowers. Strawberries line the public bicycle path where passersby can munch happily on their way while enjoying the garden views.
Dale harkens from Colorado where he gardened prior to moving to Corvallis. He had three greenhouse structures in the dry, arid desert environment. Two structures were mail order kits and one was constructed by hand. “I have used twin wall clear polycarbonate, double pane and thermal pane glass panels in the past”, Dale said, “Had I known about Solexx™, I would have used their translucent greenhouse panels instead.”
“The other materials made it hard to keep the inside cool.” he continued explaining, “The white panels transmit a softer, whiter diffused light which allows the plants to grow healthy, stocky and not one plant has burned ever. I’ve never seen such great growth before. I would never go back to any other material.”
Is it as Good as They Claim?
Dale researched local greenhouse manufacturing companies when he decided to build a greenhouse at his new home. He found Solexx panels online then visited the office in Brooks, Oregon. While there, he queried the staff on the insulation value and light properties.
Initially, he considered using windows from Habitat from Humanity to build the structure, but once he saw the insulation numbers on the Solexx panels there was no other choice. Dale wondered if it was as good as it sounded and he exclaimed with a resounding “Yes, they proved to me it is! The translucency of the panels is suited to the things I’m growing.”
He constructed the 6’ x 6’x 8’ custom greenhouse on a warm spring day in April 2009. The foundation is made from Trex® and red clay bricks. The structure is constructed on the back of the house cleverly using a kitchen window and a muffin fan to circulate air throughout.
Lightweight yet Durable
Dale used 3.5mm twin wall on the walls and 5mm panels on the roof. The roof is covered with a shade cloth to keep the temperature down as well. The door is extremely lightweight and Dale removes it when the temperature rises above 80 degrees.
Putting it All Together
When building the walls, Dale was careful to follow the instructions provided by Solexx. He placed 6” centers on clear cedar support framing and secured the panels in 2’ increments with 1” white galvanized wood screws.
Dale used a router to create grooves to custom fit the panels inside each wood support. By creating the grooves and fitting the panels in plumb allows for expansion and contraction on hot and cool days so the panels can flex as needed. A closable base vent was added to the upper outside wall to assist with air ventilation.
Growing with Love
In early spring, Dale grew seedlings on shelves for outside planting in pots and flats. He used two beds to supply lettuce and salad greens. He is currently starting tomatoes, kale, beets and peas directly in the greenhouse beds.
“My goal is to grow tomatoes through the winter. I don’t grow anything exotic.” Dale further explained, “I garden by serendipity. I like to see what happens in the ground. I believe in intensive gardening with close spacing of plants to keep weeds down.”
Nasturtiums which is one of Beverly’s favorite flowers do not flourish in the hot Colorado sunshine. After moving to Oregon both Dale and Bev revel in our “lush” climate. “We can have dessert all the time here”, Dale explained with a gleam in his eye. “I’m really enthusiastic about Solexx panels and what we’ll be able to grow long term in our garden.”
Photos taken by Dawn Hummel.