DIY recycling: This Cayce greenhouse is really ‘green’

Russell Long in front of his greenhouse.Russell Long has taken the “green” in greenhouse to a new level. Look closely, and you’ll see most of the greenhouse Long has built behind his Cayce Avenues home is from repurposed materials. One expert says such DIY recycling is becoming more common.


By Taylor Estes
March 29, 2017

Tucked away behind Russell Long’s quaint white house on Karlaney Avenue in Cayce, a greenhouse glints under the sunshine.

Plants inside Russell Long's greenhouse.
Even on cold days, the warmth of the foliage in Russell Long’s greenhouse behind his Cayce Avenues home is enticing.

But look closer. What looks new isn’t. Almost all its parts have a past of their own.

The windows? Long says he found them on the side of the road as he drove down U.S. 1. “All in decent condition,” he says. “So I kept them.”

The lumber came from an old barn destroyed in an ice storm. The nails are from wherever he could find them at the Cayce junkyard.

“I’d really like to show people that there are so many things that can be repurposed and made into something of use,” says Long, who used to farm in western Lexington County before moving to Cayce several years ago.

More people are making greenhouses and other homemade agricultural buildings out of repurposed materials, says Emily Joyce, agriculture marketing specialist at the South Carolina Agriculture Department.

“When considering building a greenhouse, you have to think of the price,” Joyce says. “And what’s cheaper than free materials?”

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A greenhouse like Long’s could cost close to several thousand dollars new, according to prices on several online sites that sell greenhouse kits.

Long says his only expense was his time – it took him several months to build the greenhouse that he finished last year – and a couple hundred dollars for the glass roof that he purchased from Lowe’s.

“I wanted to make sure I had a sturdy, new roof for the structure. It’s a good investment in the long run,” Long says.

The greenhouse behind Long’s corner house is easily seen by passers-by on Kalarney Avenue or Ninth Street, and it helped turn Haley Clamp into a neighbor. She moved into the next block over in May 2015.

“That greenhouse is one of the reasons I wanted to move here,” she says.

Long estimates he’s given tours of his greenhouse to at least 20 neighbors and Cayce residents, including Clamp. He says he enjoys the opportunity to teach.

“They come over and ask me some questions about how best to take of their plants,” Long says. “I’ve let some people leave their plants in the greenhouse for the winter so they don’t die off in the cold, too.”

The Cayce Avenues Neighborhood Association invited Long to speak about the greenhouse and its construction in January. Long says he’s most often asked how and why he decided to make the greenhouse out of repurposed materials.

The various shelves at the back of Russell Long's greenhouse.
Russell Long’s greenhouse behind his Cayce home is filled with an eclectic mix of furniture and decorations .

“I look around, and I see that everything can be put to good use,” he says, motioning to the interior of the greenhouse around him.  Long’s gardening tools along with other materials sit in a large, repainted white cabinet in the back corner.

“Besides the fact that I got that piece of furniture from the trash on the side of the road, I’ve got some great fertilizer in there. I use the natural stuff – cow manure,” he says with a grin.

After decades of farming, Long took on the added job of Swansea’s mayor starting in the 1980s. Eleven years later, he decided to retire, move to Cayce and nurture his passion for gardening, though he did try an unsuccessful run for Cayce City Council in 2016.

“There’s just something therapeutic about gardening; it can make you feel good,” he says.

Long says he knew from the start he wanted to build the greenhouse from repurposed materials. He says he welcomes the neighborhood curiosity and enjoys sharing his glinting greenhouse and gardening knowledge with anyone interested.

“It makes me happy to see people take an interest in gardening and trying to find uses for repurposed materials,” Long says. “By throwing certain things away, you’re missing out on bigger opportunities.”


Test what you know about greenhouses.

You’ve seen greenhouses, and you’ve probably never thought much about them. But let’s see what you know. Maybe it’s more than you think.

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