Maybe 20 years ago while visiting family in Mississippi I got word of a guy, somewhat of a local character, who had a greenhouse for sale. The guy, the story went, had no lack of ideas and more money than sense. I, being a plant guy, didn’t have all that much of either one.

So I go to visit him and find long cardboard boxes filled with all sort of curved poles and connecting pieces. A greenhouse maybe 20 feet long and 10 feet wide in was waiting on the ground.

I had always wanted such a hoop house-type greenhouse, covered in two layers of thick plastic, air blowing between the layers, a propane furnace to heat it, vent windows and blowers to cool it.  (This was before I got deeply into the nursery business, so having my own greenhouse didn’t make any practical or financial sense. Anything I could grow in there was available at nurseries.)

But please note previous comment about being a plant guy.

The Mississippi guy and I agreed on a bargain-basement price. I went home to Indiana, rented a trailer for my truck, drive back to Mississippi – an 800-mile round trip – and come home with cardboard boxes filled with all sorts of curved poles and connecting pieces. My heated greenhouse.

Now what? I am not the least bit handy; ideas by the dozen, but no actual construction abilities. I did have neighbors handy with a backhoe who also could lay cinder block walls and then attach curved poles and connecting pieces overhead. Together we dug a hoop house about five feet deep in the ground – to take advantage of the steady ground temperatures of about 45 degrees. Add two layers of plastic, a small propane furnace and an automated sprinkler system.

Good greenhouses need good neighbors.

The sprinkler system running about 200 feet from the house – and, oh yeah, the water line to it – was laid by a good friend. It soon went to hell with our hard limestone water.

About the heater. In our home we’re on our third one. The first had died after about 15 years. The second was getting old and a actual handyman suggested we replace it and move the old one to the greenhouse. A bit of heater overkill, but it was free.

Yes, you are now thinking, with all that time and money spent on our greenhouse – and the insane rise in the cost of propane gas – I should have and could have purchased all my plants wholesale and saved money.

Truth be told, that first winter 20 years ago, when it seemed a good idea to keep the greenhouse at 72 degrees for 24/7,  its heating bill exceeded our house heating bill.

Learning curve.

Has it been worth it? How to measure? Let me just invite you inside my greenhouse on a cold,  wet late March and early April day when geraniums dug up last fall are in full cry, and hundreds of newly-planted annual flowers and milkweed leaves have begun to poke their heads above the soil.

Optimism grows here, too. Just open that greenhouse door, walk down those stairs and have spring staring you in the face. Smell the air. Touch a blooming flower. Believe.