This Instructable is for the proces of building my self-sufficient greenhouse dome, ment to inspire and encourage others to build one of their own.
Im a 25 years old industrial design student living in Denmark and in the spring of 2017 I felt like taking a break from a busy city life and getting my hands dirty. Therefor I decided to build a small greenhouse from mostly reclaimed materials and try growing my own crops, it didn't take long before this idea escalated and i spend half a year carrying out the project in my spear-time while being in a half year long internship.
Instead of making the steps in this Instructable in the order that I carried them out, I tried dividing it in to steps of the different elements the project contains.
I hope you will enjoy my Instructable and feel free to ask me any questions you may have!
Step 1: Planing the Build
Even though the process of build a projects this size is very dynamic and changing, try planing out as much as possible or think it very well through before starting on the project, this will properly give you a much more coherent end result.
I fund a lot of inspiration from previous dome/greenhouse projects through google.com and pinterest.com, this is also where I stumbled upon a russian website, where i could free of charge calculate plans for the dome, entering the intended size, method of joins and much more that i wanted for my dome. This website is called acidome.ru and all credits to the makers of this!..
For the location of my project, I was lucky enough to have an uncle and aunt whom bought a old farm only a few years ago. They gave me the freedom of not only using an old horse track for my project, but allowing me to live there in a separate apartment free of charge. This gave me the possibility of spending my money on the project instead of rent.
Step 2: Preparing & Getting Started
Since I didn't have acces to a table-saw / table router, the first thing I did in this project was to build these using an old handheld circular saw / router.
The next step was to start cutting up all of the wood for the dome construction using the geodesic dome planes I calculated through the website mentioned in the previous step. Using my table-saw/router workstation, all of the pieces was cut 6 times (into length and double angled ends) and then given rounded edges on one side (the one that faces inside the dome).
Step 3: Building Dome Segments
After having cut up all of the necessary pieces I started to build segments of the dome inside a barn, since the whole thing wouldn't have fit through the entrance and would have been to heavy to move.
I spray painted the different joins to keep track of the structure and how the segments would fit together.
Step 4: Painting the Dome + Content
For the paint I chose to use linseed oil paint, that would protect the construction for the longest time and let the wood "breath".
I painted as much possible of the dome while it was still inside so that it would dry as quick as possible (This kind of paint takes a while drying, depending on the weather conditions), but still a lot of painting happened outside as the construction toke shape.
Step 5: Raising the Dome
Raising the dome single handed is not an easy task I can now say, luckily I had help from friends doing most of it!
Remember to keep track of the different joins was not an easy task now since I painted over most of the segments and indicators, be aware of this while raising the dome and evt. make writings to keep track of this.
Another finding along the build was that the joins accuracy was actually not that important since its the distance between the joins that makes up the strength of the finished dome. Though its still really nice to have perfectly fitting joins for the visual!
Step 6: Covering the Dome & Instaling Windows
A lot of thoughts went into deciding what material to use for covering up the dome, i tried out with cutting glass pieces, but simply couldn't get enough glass without having to pay a lot of money, since most dealers dont sell triangle glass and therefor there will be a lot of waste material. In the end I chose to use transparent tarpaulin with rip-stop build in, witch was cheep and did the job remarkably well.
Following the shape of the dome i made 5 windows, simply hinged in one end and with automatic greenhouse windows openers in the other. These windows opens when it hot outside allowing the dome to cool down and closes when its getting cold outside, isolating the dome and keeping the heat inside.
By the way, thats me enjoying the amazing view from 4 meters up ;)
Step 7: The Finished Dome
After covering up the dome, instaling windows, making a door and instaling the chicken coop (see the step "Chicken Coop" for more info) the dome itself was finally finished and i could start focusing on the inside elements of the dome.
Step 8: The Water & Irrigation System
Since I wanted the system to be completely self-sufficient i installed gutters on a nearby building (old smithy) and installed three 1000 liters tanks inside the building for storing water when i was not raining. two of the tanks are on ground level filling up simultaneously and the last tank was raised 2,5 meters up the contain water and provide me with 0,3 bar of pressure, pushing the water through tubes out to the dome. This pressure also allowed me to use electric valves instead of pumps to distribute the water inside the dome, saving a lot of electricity since the system was going to run on solar power.
To raise the water from the two ground level tanks to the raised one, I made a simple Arduino system controlling this by having a sensor for when the bottom tanks was empty and if the raised tank was full, if none of these sensors was on a submarined pump (600 liters/hour) would start pumping water to raised tank until it was full.
Getting the water to the dome I used 3/4" pex tube that i buried 30 cm in the ground.
Inside the dome the water spreads out to the outside water hose, faucet, chicken fowls and irrigation system.
For the irrigation system i used two electric valves to control the watering of the plants, respectively for the whole year plants in the middle and the one year's plants in the edge of the dome. The tubes goes from the 3/4" tube to 1/2" tubes going to the different planter boxes and therefrom to 7 mm tubes spreading out the water inside the planter boxes, with dripping heads that can be manually adjusted for each plant area (this system ended up reminding me a lot of how blod venes spreads out through the body).
For next year I bought an automatic analog manure mixer for the irrigation system that connects to the tubes just after the electric valves automatically dosing and spreding out the manure equally.
Step 9: The Planter Boxes
Looking into the planter boxes they can be separated in to two main groups, the ones inside the dome and the ones outside the dome.
The boxes inside the dome has been made to follow the shape of the dome, while the ones for outside the dome are simple pallet collars placed accordingly to the shape of the dome. For all of the boxes goes that they have been covered with a thick plastic on the inside of the boxes as to protect them from moist and thereby last longer.
I filled the boxes with a mixture of soil from our fields, horse manure, sand and compost soil from a nearby excavation.
In the begening the project the idea was to have a aquaponic system in the middle of the dome. This idea was based on that i could grow crops faster in this system, the 2000 liters of water in the middle of the dome would work as a thermal battery and simple an interest of trying such a system for myself. About 5 month into the project i decided to change to system to just another planter box for year round plants, since the system need to much of my attention. That said the aquaponic system was up and running and worked in the short run, so dont hesitate to try it out for yourself!
Step 10: The Potting Bench
For inside the dome I made a potting bench which would work as the main console for the Arduino system etc. as well as a storage unit, workspace and place to clean the crops before putting using them.
Step 11: The Chicken Coop
This was a big concern of mine since I was working with living animals, I asked a lot around for experience before designing the coop and making it. The coop consist of the inner part where the chickens eat, drink, sleep and lay their eggs and an outer part that extends outside the dome, where the chickens always could go out if the door fails to open automatically or any other thing should go wrong. on the end of the outside part I installed a door that automatically opens/closes accordingly to a calculated sunrise/sunset times, based on my geographically location.
For the eggs i tried making a roll away system that would let the eggs roll into a box where i then later could collect them if i was gone for a longer periode of time. This unfortunately didn't work ass planed and i had to place hay on there to make the use the system, which didn't allow for the eggs to roll into the box.
For water supply i used chicken fowls that automatically fills up. For the chicken feed i had a tube going into the coop with a hole in it and a barrel on top of it, containing about 25 kg of feed that also automatically filled up.
In the summertime the chickens are fenced in so that they dont eat the crops around the dome and in winter time when the crops are mostly harversted the fence is open and the chickens are free to go wherever they desire. The species of chickens I've choose was Icelandic chickens, whom are very good at finding their own food, unfortunately they are also very good at flying and even though I cut their flying feathers of on one side the thin ones of them are still able to escape the 1,8 meter fence sometimes and a game of cat and mouse is on.
Step 12: The Chickens
As mentioned in the last step I've got my hands on Icelandic chicken which has has their advantages and limitations, they get most of their feed themself and are good at flying, but only lays around 120 eggs per year/chicken. Ive got one rooster and three chickens which gets me around 360 eggs per year/almost 1 per day and they are good at laying eggs all year round.
For the outer fence in the chicken yard I used a good quality fence with 1" holes in it that also will keep in the newborns. in theory you could just use this 1" fence in the lower part of the fence and then 2" fence above, but i got a good deal on the fence from a private person having it laying around and unused.
Usually you would probably dig down the fence in the soil to keep predators out, but since our neighbor has 25 chickens walking freely around the whole year and had no problems with predators in several years i choose focusing on keeping the chickens in instead of keeping predators out.
Step 13: The Arduino System
The Arduino system was a large project along side with the dome project itself, since i had very limited experience with Arduino previous to the project.
I won't go into details with the system, but more talking about what it does.
As you can see in the photos for this step, i tried to work a lot with the logic of the system at what parameters should tricker what actions.
I made the whole Arduino system (beside the water tank refill) based on one Arduino Mega, which ran a real time clock module in the background triggering different events at different times of the day, based on a variety of inputs.
The system also features the following elements:
- A GSM module that allows me to communicate with the system via SMS to/from my mobilephone.
- A speaker that trickers on entry and tells me of the greenhouse status.
- A switch that allows me to manually turn on/off the watering system for part year/year round watering of plant.
- A potentiometer that allows me to manually manipulate the watering by 30% more/less.
Step 14: The Solar Cells
Since solar panels are expensive I thought I would try to build my own ones from a kit.
This was not a easy task but a challenging and exciting task, getting to know and understand how these panels work and operate. To mention one thing on the build, i found a perfect sized glass that i would use to mount the panels on, but after having applied silicon to make it watertight the tensions created by the silicon, broke the glass into to pieces. Still working though!
For adjusting the output of the panels i used a step up module to give me 12V, which i then put into the PWM Solar panel charger, that controls the battery and regulates the output to a stable signal.
Step 15: Plant Life in Dome
The next couple of steps are ment to inspire and give and idea of the output of the project, the crops! As well as how i used the harversted crops and plants.
Step 16: Plant Life Outside the Dome
Step 17: Harversting & Dinnertime
Step 18: Refections and Special Thanks!
Building the dome was and still is an ongoing process, with continuous upgrades and changes as my experience keeps growing. It has been an amazing experience and learning process since i never had a simple greenhouse before, kept chicken or any experience with growing crops.
At the end of any project there is always things you would have done differently, below i have listet three of the things i would have wished i knew before starting and done differently:
- Keeping chickens and growing crops is easy! keep it simple and dont try to overdo it..
- KEEP IT SIMPLE! again whatever you do, dont over complicate it, challenge yourself but quality over quantity..
- Take your time, dont compromise when you dont have the right tools/material/knowlage etc. Get the right tools, materials and necessary information you need, that way you dont have to redo things, they will last longer and you will love yourself for it in the end!
Niels Fulgjyr Mikkelsen & Jeanette Würtz - Allowing me to build the dome on their property
Kaj Mikkelsen (grandfather) - Donating wood + diverse..
Tue Bjørn Nielsen - Help constructing the Arduino system and building the dome
Niels Sylvester Rasmusen - Helping raising the dome
Helle Koed Paulsen - Providing Icelandic chickens
Anders Kiilerich - Documenting the project with drone recordings
Step 19: Part Overview
The whole project cost me around 3.000DKK (400€ / 475$), but it has to be taken in to consideration that i had all the wood for free from my grandfather, whom separated all of it from 4 meter long pallets and removed all of the nails from it and bought or was given other thing. At the same time I bough rather a lot of unneeded electronic parts etc. since this whole project was an experiment and dynamic process along the build.
Linseed outdoor oil paint
Hinges (door, windows and chicken coop)
Chicken fence 1" holes / 1/2" squares
Transparent tarpaulin with rip-stop (dome covering)
Plastic cover (plant boxers)
THE ARDUINO SYSTEM(95% of all electric and irrigation parts has been bought through eBay.com)
PCB Terminal blocks
PCB Female pin header strip
5V Relay board module
Mini MP3 player module + Micro SD card
DHT11 Temperature & humidity sensor
DS3231 RealTimeClock memory
HG7881 H-bridge module
L298N Duel H-bridge module
SIM800L GPRS modul board + simcard
MT3608 Step up module
LM2596 Step down module
Digital thermal sensor
Digital thermal sensor probe
Soil hygrometer module
+5V Voltage regulators
10K Ohm potentiometer
Resistance kit (600pcs / 30 values)
Rectifer diode kit (40pcs / 8 types)
Thermal adapter board for Arduino Nano
Expansion board for Arduino Mega
Dupont wire cables for Arduino
DC Converter regulator 12V to 5V, 3A
Toggle switches on/off + on/off/on + on/off/(on)
Male DC power plugs / Female DC power socket
Reversible high torque worm geared DC motor, 100RPM
Wire 20 AWG (black/red)
12V PWM Solar panel charger, controller and battery regulator
DIY Solar panel kit (20pcs / 5*5") 50 watt
THE WATERING SYSTEM
1000 Liter water container +
12V electric valve
12V submersible underwater pump - 600L/H + Filter
Liquid water level sensor switch float
Irrigation PVC hose 4/7mm (50m.)
Irrigation hose tee splitter
Irrigation micro flow dripper
Irrigation fertilizer kit
Automatic fowl drinker for chickens
3/4" Pex tube + fittings
1/2" Metal tubes
First Prize in the
MikkelHMikkelsen made it!