Do weird things: Turning our pool into a Greenhouse
Do weird things: Turning our pool into a Greenhouse

Do weird things: Turning our pool into a Greenhouse

There’s not exactly a blueprint for this type of thing…we are converting our in-ground pool into a greenhouse. While there are pinterest posts with tips, no two pools or pool owners and their needs are the same, so we’re flying by the seat of our pants, which is TOTALLY up my alley and NOT up Farmer’s. He’s a plan guy. I’m the opposite of plans. It’s gonna be good. haha.

First things first, WHY would we want to turn a perfectly good pool into a greenhouse? I mean, we have had tons of fun in it over the last 5 years, and Creek even learned to kayak in the thing.

Well, honestly, it’s not a perfectly good pool. The liner is the original, and since the pool first shows up on Google maps around the year 2000, the liner was approaching 20 years of age. Estimates to replace the liner were $3,000 on the low end. We used Flex Tape to repair it last summer to put off the inevitable, but as you’ll see in my video, it wouldn’t have gotten us by another year.

So, $3,000. No surprise there. Everything we have done to improve it since buying the place has NOT BEEN CHEAP. We replaced the pump the first year. $350. The sand filter developed a non-repairable crack on year 3. $600. We replaced the salt chlorinator and controls on year 4. $1,200. We replaced the pump again last year, and had to replace the impeller and housing along with it. $500.

Let me tell you a little about pool maintenance. It costs us around $300 each year to get it opened up and clean and ready to swim. And that doesn’t include the cost of our time. It takes hours of cleaning, not to mention running the robot non-stop, to get the pool open each spring. Then there’s daily and weekly maintenance throughout the summer: cleaning the robot and running it every day; emptying the skimmer baskets; adding salt, shock and dropout (that crap costs $$$ too); cleaning the salinator monthly with acid to remove the accumulation of sediment from the water; skimming bugs, dead mice, leaves and pine needles off the surface; removing live critters like bullfrogs, snapping turtles and toads; troubleshooting when the salt level falls too low; troubleshooting when things just aren’t working correctly; and, coupled with running the air conditioner all summer, the pool pump makes our electric bill SUCK.

Watch my first youtube video in this series. It’s about me pumping the pool out and removing the liner. You’ll see in the background how all of our outdoor furniture and pool toys end up in the water ALL the time. The wind up here is no joke, and it makes pool maintenance way more difficult than it needs to be by scattering all our stuff in the water and picking up every grain of sand on our ridge and depositing them into the pool, which was a weekly nightmare to clean off the bottom.

A summer storm turns a totally clean pool into a nasty mess, complete with patio table on the bottom.

Whether or not we put the cover on the pool through the winter, it didn’t matter; there were thousands of leaves in there to scoop out and decompose and turn the water green. Being an in-ground pool, it invited mice, rats, turtles, frogs, toads and salamanders to come on in, with no barrier to prevent them from entering. Cleaning dead organisms out of the water was the least appealing part of getting the water cleaned up. And the winter cover was not of the design to prevent any of that from happening. If I was to have another pool, which I won’t, it would be above ground, which would prevent all those leaves and pine needles and critters from entering the water.

We don’t need a pool that sucks away our time and energy and doll hairs because GET THIS: we have a small pond less than a hundred yards from the house that stays cold and CRYSTAL CLEAR year-round without a cent.

Last summer, when my sister was here with her teenagers and their teenager cousins came out to hang, they didn’t dip so much as a toe in the pool. They swam in the pond.

So we want to put a little beach and floating dock out there and to heck with the pool.

Farmer wants to fill the pool in…I want to turn it into a greenhouse. I think if we fill it in, there will always be sinking spots that we will have to repair, and if we turn it into garden, we are going to have to buy a bunch, like several truckloads, of topsoil to fill the hole and make it work. We can build a greenhouse for the same cost as that much dirt.

I want to grow more of our own food. I like diggin’ in the dirt. I have greenhouse operations experience. The existing hole in the ground will help to maintain ground temperature inside the greenhouse, and heating it otherwise won’t be too big of a hassle.

We have a Hardy stove, so we just need to mount a second pump on the back of the stove and run another line underground to the greenhouse, which will have pex pipe in the sand floor, providing floor heat. I’d like to get solar panels to power the Hardy, any lighting in the greenhouse, and the sump pump I’m going to need to keep the ground water pumped out of the floor.

So, when we build this greenhouse, what will we do with it? I plan on growing veggies and native plants in it. I can sell any excess veggies; there are farmers’ markets in this area year-round that I can go to with the excess food. I have always wanted to grow and sell native plants. I have done it before and loved it. I want to start my growing season in the greenhouse in October, grow inside throughout the winter, then move ops to the garden for the summer, and repeat.

Do I even know anything about greenhouses? Actually, yes. I was a greenhouse supervisor for several years in Memphis. I grew cut flowers and native plants from seed. So it’s not like I’m TOTALLY getting into new territory. And I’m a Gastel. There’s practically fertilizer running through my veins. We’re pioneers. We adapt and kick butt.

My dream greenhouse was always similar to one that my friend Casey Jo propagated mums in at her job when she was in college: it was an underground trench with sand tables at ground level with a hoophouse roof over it, with hot water pipes under the sand beds to control the temps. So when my friend Steph sent me a pic of an in-ground pool turned into a greenhouse, I was like hearts-in-my-eyes “THIS!” THIS is my new dream greenhouse…and my imagination went wild.

I envisioned an underground dirt oasis, with terraced beds up to the pool decking, with a winding pathway down the middle.

That’s not what’s going to happen, I found when i removed the liner. I had no idea what was underneath the liner…I didn’t know if the fiberglass sides were also a fiberglass bottom, like a big shell in the ground…or if there were fiberglass sides with a cement floor…or if there was a sand floor under the plastic liner.

See, there’s no solid plan because it’s ALL new territory. It’s all a big adventure, which I TOTALLY DIG. ME, I got my work gloves on and am ready to get dirty. BUT, I can see the anxiety well up in my husband’s neck, then peek out above his beard, as he stresses out at the thought of dealing with the unknown. It’ll be fine honey. We got this.

Here’s the video I took on the cold day that I drained the pool and removed the liner. Enjoy. https://youtu.be/wlnH7qqcFKg

Stay tuned as I make progress on this project. I hope to have it complete in time to start early seedlings for the 2020 summer garden, and will be documenting the progress as we go.

p.s. I have a salt system for a pool for sale for a great deal. Check it out on facebook marketplace under ‘Hayward salt pool system.’

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