The first time we installed polycarbonate was in 1993. Our “cell” phones were called transportable phones. It was about like hauling a suitcase around. There was no internet. No way to search for instructions on how to install polycarbonate sheets. No YouTube videos! Can you imagine. So, we had to learn the hard way by trial and error. Thank goodness we have more sophisticated tools available now. Most people will have a lot of questions when installing polycarbonate for the first time. It is not all that difficult. I think it is just the fact that it is a new material.
Written by our own Tammy
What is Polycarbonate?
Polycarbonate is a rigid plastic. The polycarbonate used for greenhouses is typically a multiwall. This means that there are 2 exterior walls, possibly some interior walls, and ribs that run between these walls. You cannot see clear through this like looking through glass.
Looking at a piece of polycarbonate is kind of like looking down the end of a cardboard box. A sheet on the outside, a sheet on the inside and a rib running between them. If you peel the layers apart you will see that they are all clear, but the rib that runs in the center is what distorts your view.
What parts are needed?
• Polycarbonate sheets – they are available in 4′ or 6′ widths and in lengths anywhere from 6′ to 48′ if needed.
• U channel – sometimes called J channel. This is available in either aluminum or polycarbonate. It is used to seal the channels at the top and the bottom of the sheets. You will drill 1/8″ holes every 1 – 2 feet on the bottom U. This is so that any condensation in the channels will be able to drain.
• Screws with neobonded washers – You will need screws to fasten the sheets to the framing. You will also need to use a flat washer that has a neobonded side for this material.
• Tapes – There are aluminum or foil and vent tapes. You place the foil tape under the U at the tops of the sheets and the vent tape under the U at the bottom of the sheets.
• Side by side fasteners. This is the part that joins the polycarbonate sheets side by side. There are several different options for this.
1. Polycarbonate H – this is the part that slides between the sheets and fastens them side to side. It is made of polycarbonate and is a one part system. You install this by installing your sheets loosely and sliding this from the bottom of this joint all the way to the top.
2. Polycarbonate base and cap – This system consists of 2 parts – a base and a cap. The base is screwed down to the framing. The sheets are placed over the base. The cap is “snapped” into place using a rubber mallet. The base and cap have an interlocking mechanism that keeps it tight. This is considerably easier to install on longer sheets.
3. Aluminum Base and Cap – This is the same as the polycarbonate base and cap. The exceptions are that they are made from aluminum and the cap screws into the base rather than being “snapped”.
1. Make sure that you have purchased greenhouse polycarbonate that is UV protected on at least one side. This is the side that will be out toward the sun. The UV protection is what gives the polycarbonate its extended life. Polycarbonate sheets with UV protection will carry a 10 – 20 year warranty. Expect at least a 15 year lifetime out of this material.
2. Make sure that you have ordered all of the materials you need. Polycarbonate ships on Common Carrier and it can get expensive if you have multiple shipments.
3. Do be prepared to unload when the delivery is made. You may have a forklift, or you may have ordered a power lift gate. Just remember, you are responsible for unloading. It is the drivers responsibility to get the package to the back of the truck.
If you are going to open the crates and hand carry the sheets, make sure you have the tools to do this. The bulk of the weight is in the crate. The sheets are lightweight and easy to handle. I recommend having a pair of tin snips (in case the crate is banded), a hammer, a crowbar, a drill with screwdriver bits, and a helper. This goes better with 2 people.
4. Do not store your sheets in direct sunlight. The protective film will melt into the polycarbonate panels. You will never be able to remove it once this happens.
5. Make sure that you have built an adequate frame for your weather conditions. You should have rafters and purlins in your roof structure. The manufacturers have charts that will show you proper spacing.
6. Do not remove the protective shipping cover until you are ready to install. This will have the label telling you which side is UV protected. Once you remove this film you will not be able to tell which side should go to the sun. If the sheet is flipped over you will not get the longevity out of the sheet.
7. Do not stress over cutting these sheets. They cut much the same as a sheet of plywood. Leave the protective film on so you don’t scratch the sheets. Mark your chalk line. Cut with a skill saw, table saw, etc. If you get filings down in the channels you can use compressed air to blow them out.
8. Do not ever run the ribs horizontally, EVER! There will be no way for any condensation which may form to escape. This will result in the moisture accumulating between the ribs and eventually getting moldy.
9. Do make sure that you have purchased sheets that will reach the entire length that you need. Don’t ever try to splice sheets with a horizontal H. NEVER! The structure will leak at this point. Also, you will end up with the same moldy mess in the H profile because your water has no way to get out.
10. Do be sure to allow for contraction and expansion. You should allow 1/8″ per 3′ for contraction and expansion.
11. Do be sure to predrill your screw holes slightly larger than your screws. This will also allow for the contraction and expansion of polycarbonate sheets. Using the neobonded washer will keep your structure from leaking at this point.
12. Do not install polycarbonate sheets on a flat roof. A minimum of a 1 on 12 roof pitch is required. If you do not do this you will have leaks at the H profiles.
13. You can bend polycarbonate sheets, but there is a minimum bending radius. Manufacturers will have charts letting you know what this minimum bending radius is.
14. Do not silicone all of your joints. Polycarbonate needs the freedom to move due to the contraction and expansion of the material.
15. Do not try to cut angles for both gables out of the same sheet unless you have room to cut from the same side. Many builders will make their cuts on plywood and then flip the one side to install to save on materials. If you do this with polycarbonate sheets (UV on one side) you will have one side that is protected and one side that is not.
Polycarbonate may be confusing at first, but if you follow these few simple steps you will end up with a professional installation that will last you for years. Relax and enjoy your new greenhouse, patio cover, fencing (use 2UV for this) or swimming pool cover!
Greenhouse Growing – The Good, The Bad and The Bugly
Diseases, pests and good bugs in the greenhouse
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I love to spend time in my greenhouse. It is like my personal oasis. I turn off my phone and go in and get lost in the comfort of my plants. Unfortunately there are some diseases and bugs that may desire this warm, friendly atmosphere as well. If you are diligent in your efforts to monitor for this and keep your greenhouse environment clean, you may never have an issue at all. A healthy environment is critical for your greenhouse production, be it for pleasure or profit.
The Good – Do these to prevent diseases
Keeping it clean – The best way to fight disease in the greenhouse is to keep everything clean. If you are reusing your soil it should be sterilized. If you are purchasing new soil or soilless mix you should be certain that they are pathogen free.
Always keep your tools, bench surfaces and floors clean. Clear all debris from previous crops out of the greenhouse. Many of the diseases will go dormant in these dead leaves, etc just waiting for the proper conditions to reappear.
Bugs such as thrips, whiteflies, and aphids may find a home in weeds that have been let grow in the greenhouse.
Circulating Fans – This is an often overlooked greenhouse accessory. They provide many beneficial features to your greenhouse. They should be running 24 /7 in the spring, winter and fall. These fans provide a slow, steady air flow to the greenhouse. They will help to avoid any hot or cold spots in corner, etc. They help to keep condensation down, therefore curbing back on disease. They mimic a gentle, blowing breeze which will increase the strength of your plant stems, giving a stronger, healthier plant.
Greenhouse Circulating Fan
Bumble Bees or Honey Bees – These are both excellent pollinators. Bumble bees are least aggressive and require smaller colonies. Also, if you use honey bees you have the added task of taking care of the honey that is produced.
Yellow Sticky Traps – These are used as early detection for adult whiteflies, thrips, adult leafminer flies, fungus gnats and aphids. Early detection is critical for elimination of these pest. Hang these in your greenhouse around your active crops.
The Bad – Diseases of the greenhouse
Botrytis – Botrytis is a fungus that can affect any plant in a greenhouse. It presents as a gray, fuzzy mold. It usually appears as a Spring or Fall issue, as it grows best in temperatures of 55 – 75 degrees F. Excess humidity can cause Botrytis to appear. To avoid this, keep the greenhouse clean and remove any plants which appear to be affected. Make sure that your plants are not overcrowded. You need good air circulation. This is where your circulating fans come into play. Water only in the morning. Avoid placing plants where water is dripping from the roof.
Tobacco Mosaic Virus – This may affect petunias, tomatoes and tobacco plants among others. It may affect up to 350 species of plants. Some plants are carriers but show no sign of the disease. This virus can stay active for long periods of time in plant debris and even on surfaces such as greenhouse floor or benches. You can spray the affected plants with a 20% nonfat dry milk mix. This will coat the virus and inactivate it. This presents as a mosaic pattern of light and dark green on the leaves. There is no chemical cure for this virus. Discard infected plants.
Bacterial Blight – This is incurable, so the best way to handle this is with prevention. The most obvious sign of this is wilting of the leaves. The root may appear rotted, but not always. If you over fertilize you may see similar symptoms. Make sure to differentiate. Be sure to sanitize all tools and surfaces. Affected plants must be destroyed and removed. The soil should not be reused.
The Bugly – Good bugs and bad bugs
Biological control – To me this is a fancy way of saying good bugs. There are some bugs that will naturally prey on other bugs. This is a whole lot better than using chemicals. The most important step, once you have found you have an issue, is proper identification. You must pair up the proper predator with your pest.
Parasitic wasps will control aphids. Aphidius wasp.
Ladybugs are good for spider mites and aphids.
If you have a mite issue there are predatory mites.
Parasitic wasps will control whitefly. Encarsia formosa.
Parasitic nematodes are for controlling larvae or grubs of some beetles and weevils
The early detection is very important. Once a pest has been established it is harder for the beneficials to completely eradicate the problem. This is because the beneficial bugs have a hard time reproducing as fast as the bugs already in residence.
Well, just as there are good bugs for the greenhouse, there are bad bugs as well. They can cause a whole lot of damage in a greenhouse. The best way to keep this under control is to monitor your plants for signs of bugs on a regular basis. Also, the yellow sticky tape mentioned earlier will help you to monitor your bug situation.
Caterpillars – The easiest way to keep these out of the greenhouse is to keep butterflies and moths out of the greenhouse. They will chew holes in leaves. You should be able to spot these with regular monitoring. They can be manually disposed of.
Thrips – Thrips are small slender insects. They have wings, but do not fly well. They may affect plants such as onions, beans, carrots and squash. They feed by cutting the leaf and drinking the sap. They spread tomato spotted wilt virus. The leaves will have stippling and discolored flecking. Insecticidal soap can be used to rid your plants of these pests.
Aphids – There are many different types of Aphids. They are relatively small and may or may not have wings. They prey on the plants by sucking the juices out. Their population will increase exponentially. You can manually remove the infected leaves to help curb these bugs. Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators.
Whiteflies – These pests are appropriately named for the color of their wings. They are small and moth like in appearance. They lay their eggs on the bottoms of plant leaves and suck the sap out of the plant leaves. Immature stages are more difficult to see and locate. The Whiteflies can transmit several viral diseases. Yellow sticky cards will help to monitor this situation, but they are not really effective as a control measure. Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators.
The best way to keep a healthy greenhouse is to keep a clean greenhouse. If you are unfortunate enough to run up against one of these issues make sure to properly identify first so you can take the appropriate measures.
How to Select the Perfect Topsoil for Your Home Garden
Topsoil for Your Home Garden
If you’re thinking about planting a garden this spring, it’s important you select the best top soil. Selecting the perfect topsoil for your home garden is the first step in ensuring that your garden will be all that you want it to be. Topsoil is crucial in having a plentiful garden. The nutrients in topsoil allow your plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables, and even grass to grow. With the right selection you’ll have topsoil that’s going to make your garden shine.
The Darker the Better
Topsoil is typically considered the top 2-8 inches of soil. It’s the part of the soil that is the richest and most-life giving for plants. It’s made up of mostly various silts, decomposed plant matter, clay, and sand, and that’s why it’s so good for your plants. This is the part of the soil that will make your plants grow.
The best top soil is always the darkest. Choose a topsoil that is really rich in a dark brown or black color. Typically the darker the soil, the richer it is in organic matter which means it’ll contain life-giving food for your garden plants. Earthy dark soil is the first step in the process of creating a lovely home garden.
Choose Loose Topsoil
Not only should topsoil be dark in color, but it also needs to be a variety that is loose and easily permeable. The topsoil is where worms, bugs, and other critters like to burrow and dig and this allows plant roots to grow deeper and lets water seep in. Choose a topsoil that feels loose in consistency so your watering efforts will be effective.
Too much lumpiness and you’ll have an uneven garden bed and ineffective soil. The soil should be loose and easily tilled. Tilling your topsoil is important for a productive home garden. If it’s too hard or clumpy, tilling won’t be as easy and you won’t yield your desired results. When you’re gardening, the right nutrients need to be able to easily glide through the topsoil and hit the roots of the plants.
Don’t Settle for Cheap
There’s a lot of topsoil varieties that come at a cheaper cost because they are mixed with other debris that won’t help your garden. Avoid topsoil that have small rock particles, other plant roots, and substances. This will interfere with the healthy growth of your garden.
Invest into a topsoil that costs more but will make your garden grow and flourish. You can easily find topsoil at most home repair and garden stores. Ask a garden associate to help you decide which topsoil is best for your garden. Some topsoil bags will be labeled with different information to help you decide.
Know How Much You Will Need
Topsoil is an important resource for the health of your home garden. Make sure that you know how much topsoil you will need. You can do this by making sure you have taken the proper measurements of the size of your garden. If you’ve just planning on having a small garden or flower bed, you won’t need as much soil. If you’re looking to yield a plentiful harvest and expand your garden, having enough topsoil is extremely important. Know your dimensions and work from there.
Although topsoil is normally considered the top two inches of soil, again it can range all the way to 8 inches deep. Most gardeners will use more topsoil than just the standard two. Your garden can use topsoil that is 7-8 inches deep which means you will need to factor in the amount of topsoil to be purchased. If you’re just looking to grow your grass, then you can use up to 6 inches of topsoil.
Topsoil is sold in bags and in bulk. Usually with bulk orders you’ll have to make special arrangements. If you do buy topsoil in bulk, it is not priced like regular bags, but rather by the cubic yard. Also, varying topsoil is available based on factors like the area you live in, and a particular soil availability in that area. Sometimes the town or village office locations will occasionally leave bulk piles of topsoil for local gardeners for free. Look out for these opportunities in spring and summer.
Take Lawn Edging into Account
When it comes time to plant your garden and use topsoil, be sure to take account of any lawn edging around your garden bed. Lawn edging creates crisp and clean lines around your garden so it’ll be separated from the rest of the lawn area. It’s a great way to ensure that grass won’t reach in and mix with your topsoil. Because grass, weeds, and shrubs grow very quickly, make sure you have enough topsoil to continue proper upkeep of your home garden.
There’s a lot of different lawn-edging landscaping techniques. You could choose to surround your garden or flower bed with sidewalk pavers, steel or aluminum edges, or plastic edges. When using metal edges, make sure to wear shoes when you’re walking around your garden or you could easily get a cut.
You can install edges around your garden by digging a trench all around your garden as the first step. Next, you will want to use stakes and the materials mentioned above to secure the material into the ground so it’s not easily uprooted. Be careful not to create garden edges too closely to where you have planted roots. Skilled lawn care workers can also easily install these edges for you or you can look on the web for tutorials on proper installation.
Your lawn edges will need maintenance as time goes on. When trimming overgrown or unruly grass around your garden, it’s inevitable that some pieces may fall into the topsoil and mix. It’s important to have topsoil on hand to refresh the top inch or two after trimming. Having a lawn edge is definitely a great preventative method but you still need to make sure you’re maintaining the edges of your garden when necessary.
If you hire a company to take care of your lawn and garden, make sure the workers know to replenish topsoil. Have them use topsoil that’s of high quality, dark, rich, and free of debris.
Topsoil Top Points
To summarize, select the perfect topsoil for your home garden by choosing dark and nutrient-rich soil. Make sure it’s loose and easily tillable. Invest in soil that may cost more but will have better long-term effectiveness. Know your garden dimensions and have enough to cover the necessary depth. Lastly, upkeep your garden with lawn edging and replacing topsoil after trims and lawn work.
Best selling gardening tools – we participate in affiliate programs
Best Selling Garden Products
As winter is coming to a slow end, I am getting more and more anxious to be out in the sun working in my garden every day. You may have seen me say this before, but I just don’t do well in the cold, dark, sunless days of winter. I have managed to sneak out and get a few things planted. I have snow peas, radishes, cilantro, lettuce and carrots starting to grow. But that is all for now. So, I spend my time inside still wishing for Spring to hurry up and get here. I have my seed catalogs so worn out from perusing them and wishing that I decided to take a look at what some of the best sellers in gardening categories are online. I went to Amazon and went to their best sellers list. I went through the gardening categories one by one. I eliminated pest control and items like that and have come up with a list of best sellers of the most interest to gardeners. I am going to go out and take a good inventory of my tools and see what I need to replace this year.
Composting Category – This is the number 7 best seller – Garden Compost Bin Tumbler
I have never used a tumbling composter. I just use a homemade wooden bin type structure. But, this has a 4.3 out of 5 rating on Amazon. I have read the reviews and most people seem to love it. It appears that the instructions aren’t the best, but most say it tumbles easily and it makes compost faster than a bin does. Also, several people mentioned that this cut down on pests such as flies and gnats. Anyone have any experience with one of these? If so let us know what you think in the comments.
Gloves and Protective Gear – This is the number 1 best seller – Thick Kneeling Pad
Now this is something that I can relate to. My knees always hurt when I garden. This pad has great reviews. It has 4.6 stars out of 5 with 1335 reviews. That says a lot for it right there. Although I do prefer the pads with stands to help you get up and down. Any gardener with hurting knees should have one of these.
Greenhouses and Accessories – This is the number 2 best seller – 4 Tier Mini Greenhouse
We sold the Juliana 4 tier racks for over 10 years at www.advancegreenhouses.com. This is a different brand as the Juliana stands are no longer available. But, I can tell you that everyone who had one loved them. We would have reorders year after year. It wasn’t because the stands didn’t hold up. People just wanted to add more and more stands to their porches every year.
Gardening Tools – This is the number 1 best seller – pH, Moisture and Light meter
It is very important to know the pH, moisture content and sunlight level for your garden. If you have a problem and you aren’t sure what it is it will be harder to fix. With this meter you can pinpoint your issues and work to correct them.
Outdoor Gardening Carts – This is the number 1 best seller – Collapsible Cart
Gardeners always need a cart. And what better than a collapsible cart for easy storage. Pull your garden tools, plants to be put in the ground, even the kids in this great cart. This is top rated at 4.6 out of 5 starts with a whopping 3759 reviews.
Plant Covers – This is the number 2 best seller – Tunnel Garden Cloche
These are great season extenders. Get a head start on the growing season in the Spring, or extend the growing season in the fall.
Pots and Planters – This is the number 1 best seller – Grow Bags
These grow bags give your roots plenty of room to grow. The pots are breathable so they keep the plants warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. They are easy to move around and will last a good long time.
Potting Benches and Tables – This is the number 1 best seller – Kneeler Seat
These are great. As I mentioned before I love these kneelers that double as a sitting bench. I find that the support from the “legs” help me to get up and down easier. And, your knees will definitely thank you for this extra support and protection.
Lawn and Garden Watering – This is the number 2 best seller – programmable timer
I am all about timers and automating things like watering. No need to rush home from ball practice or some other special event in order to get your garden watered on time. Plus, your garden and plants will thank you. They are happier with regular timed watering. Inconsistent watering can lead to problems such as blossom end rot.
Watering Cans – This is the number 9 best seller – Steel Watering Can
I much prefer to have irrigation systems set up, but occasionally you will still need a watering can. You may have one plant setting off by itself where it just would not be practical to run a system. Besides, I like the old fashioned look of this watering can. It kind of reminds me of something my Grandma would have had.
Tools are a necessity for our gardens. Please be sure to take good care of your tools by cleaning them and placing them back in storage after finishing with them for the day. Time to go out and check the potting shed and see if you need to replace any for this years growing season.
Today we will be doing a product review of one of the greenhouse kits that we offer for sale – The Evangeline Greenhouse. We have been selling this kit since 2002 and installed quite a few of them before we stopped offering installation. This is a quality built greenhouse that is available in either a freestanding or a lean to style. We are also able to do a gable end attached with this model.
The heavy duty aluminum extrusions are 6063-T5 or T6 and the sheets or plates are 209. Due to the extra strength of the aluminum you are able to hang a 50 pound hanging basket off each purlin. Our standard models are rated at 32 psf snow load and 85 mph wind loads. We are even able to supply stamped engineering with the stated loads. If you are in an area with a higher load requirement we can meet up to 100 psf snow load and 140 mph wind load. That’s a heavy duty frame! And it is backed up with our excellent warranty. If any part is found defective in manufacturing for the first year it will be replaced free of charge to you, we even pay the shipping. After the first year up to the lifetime of the greenhouse we will send you the part for free, but we will ask you to pay the shipping.
Our standard colors are white, brown and green. Most people find that one of these matches their house nicely. But, some chose to custom match the color of their greenhouse to the color of their home. I have even had some sports fans make their greenhouse their teams color. This can be done by simply providing us with a color number from a major paint manufacturer. We are able to custom match to their color. So, the sky is the limit. Yeah, blue is easy.
The glazing is available as 6mm twinwall polycarbonate or 5 wall 16mm polycarbonate. We are not able to offer the 16mm in the curved style, but the twinwall polycarbonate is available in either curved or straight eave. This quality polycarbonate has a ten year warranty that it will not lose more than 6% in light transmission. That’s just a fancy way of saying it won’t get brittle or yellow. The actual lifetime expectancy for the sheets is between 15 – 20 years. The sheets also have a 10 year warranty against hail damage. There is only one negative in my opinion regarding polycarbonate. Actually, it is not a negative for me, but I hear a lot of people with these concerns. You cannot see clear through the sheets like looking through a piece of glass or a window. There are ribs running between the exterior clear sheets and they will break up your view. You will be able to see colors, but not forms through the panels. If you feel like you need a clear view I would recommend our Acadian greenhouse line. Actually, it is a “sister” greenhouse to the Evangeline. It is made with the same framing materials.
This greenhouse is available in a curved eave or straight eave as previously mentioned. It is available as a freestanding greenhouse, or as a lean to greenhouse. We can do a standard lean to with a shed type roof, or we can build a gable end attached greenhouse with a gable style roof.
Evangeline Polycarbonate Greenhouse
Evangeline Polycarbonate Lean To Greenhouse
INCLUDED WITH THE GREENHOUSE
These greenhouses come with the pre cut frame, the pre cut polycarbonate panels, the appropriate number of roof vents and one door. The roof vents are oversized at 20″ x 48″ and they always come with a solar powered opener. These openers require no electricity. They have a wax cylinder that works on contraction and expansion. When the wax gets hot it expands pushing the vent open. When the was cools it contracts and pulls the vent shut.
There are so many customizations for this greenhouse it is hard to list them all. With lean to greenhouses many people have the issue of their roof being too low for the greenhouse to attach. We are able to accommodate this need in two different ways. We can do a lower roof pitch on the greenhouse, thus giving it a lower attaching height. Or, we can build it so that it attaches to your soffit of your home. This is a common problem for people with ranch style homes or people who want a large projection (the measurement going away from your home).
We can customize the width of the greenhouse, the length of the greenhouse, the sidewall height, the door size and what type of door. We have custom Victorian trim for the ridge. Optional ventilation items include side vents with solar powered openers and motorized exhaust systems. We are also able to add a second door. We can upgrade the standard combination storm door to a commercial storefront door.
We can do custom jogs to get around obstacles that would be in the way during installation. We can even do an inverted roof (this is a really expensive customization, but we can do it!).
Inverted roof lean to greenhouse
We are able to adjust the door in the greenhouse to accommodate your site built knee wall. This is even a free option. No charge, just let us know how many inches high you are going to build your wall. We will supply you with a foundation sketch once an order has been made. This will enable you to go ahead and get your site work done before the greenhouse arrives.
This greenhouse will come Common Carrier. Everything is securely shipped in wood containers. We suggest 2 people for unloading. Turnaround time is dependent on the current workload, but is usually 4 – 6 weeks depending on the time of year.
This exceptional quality greenhouse is a great investment for anyone, even if you don’t need all of the customizations. It is quality right down to the components used for manufacturing. This is truly a once in a lifetime greenhouse that will last for years and years to come. I personally give this greenhouse 2 thumbs up.
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