Winter in Santa Barbara is unpredictable. For some, with a little elevation, it is frost free. Unfortunately, for me that does not hold true. Most winters I get at least a few days of below thirty degree temperatures. I have found over the years that bringing my plumeria inside a greenhouse is the safest route. I started with one 10 foot by 12 foot greenhouse that I would put up and take down each spring. As my collection grew, I ended up with four of these, crammed into my backyard. It was a ton of work to put them up and down, and required many cords and outlets to accommodate the fans and heaters. A few years ago, I began to rethink the multiple greenhouse idea. Here are photos depicting what came out of those thoughts.
This is the space I decided I wanted to work with. It’s forty feet long from the gate in the front of the photo to the end. It is ten feet wide. This is a south facing wall, that helps the greenhouse retain heat during the night. We start putting it up in the second week of November. The structure takes only one day to install, once you have some experience.
Here is a photo of the frame being installed. It was build in sections that join with a pin in the hinges.
A bit further along.
The roof is pitched for water runoff. Since the original design, we have had to pitch it a bit more so that we have no pooling of rain water. Here we are beginning to cover the frame with plastic. The type of plastic you get at hardware stores lasts one year only.
These are photos of our first time putting up this house, and we didn’t allow for exit from out French doors coming out of the house. We have since redesigned as we missed being able to exit that way, and on a REALLY cold night, I could open our doors and help to warm the greenhouse. Since it is our bedroom, my husband has so far always vetoed that idea 😉
Here we have started to fill it up with the plumeria that have had their leaves removed.
Some years I put up the lights, some years I haven’t. The plumeria prefer it if I do. I have had some years when lights and higher heat have been used that I’ve had blooms all year long. If I do put up the lights, I run them about 12 hours a day. After all the plants are in, I spray thoroughly once with a miticide, and don’t have any problems at all with mites during the winter.
I use two space heaters, one at each end that have a thermostat set at forty degrees F. During the day, I open the doors in the morning as the sun begins to hit the plastic. It stays around 90 degrees F inside. On cloudy days, I don’t open it at all.
There are two fans, one at each end that run all day. I leave one fan on at night, set at low.
We now cover each section of the frame individually with plastic, instead of one big sheet, and use greenhouse plastic, as we get multiple years of use out of it. Any cracks between the frames have plastic tape applied.
As I fill the greenhouse I keep a path down the middle of the plants so I can watch for any problems and handle them before they get serious. I do water once or twice during the winter, but only enough to get them through to spring.
This is a pretty primitive set up, but it has worked beautifully for me in my mild climate. For most of the winter, the nights stay around 50 degrees F inside the greenhouse, and the heaters don’t come on at all. This structure comes apart swiftly in March, and the plants go back out around my swimming pool for the frost free months. The frame is stacked against the side of the house, where it takes up little room.
This method does require you have someone watch your house when you leave during the winter, so that the greenhouse can be opened and closed, but so far, we haven’t had any trouble finding someone who will!