Raised beds inside Deb Emerson's repurposed above ground swimming pool are expanding the variety of what she can plant. Credit: Courtesy of Deb Emerson

Deb Emerson won’t be throwing a swim party any time soon. But after repurposing a damaged above ground pool and some old barn beams, the Piscataquis homesteader can certainly throw a garden party.

That’s because her old pool is now her new greenhouse and is full of growing vegetables and herbs.

Her 12-year-old above ground pool’s wall was punctured last summer when a lawnmower blade sent a rock through it. Then the filtration pump broke down. Emerson knew the pool was unusable for swimming.

But what to do with a 20-foot-diameter, four-foot tall pool?

Deb Emerson has turned her old above ground swimming pool into a greenhouse. Credit: Deb Emerson

“I looked at it this spring and knew it would take a lot of work to take it down plus there was like a foot of sand under it and sand is not good for growing,” Emerson said. “It was a lot of space and what to do with it?”

Emerson said raising a garden on her rocky property has always been a challenge and over the years she resigned herself to container planting if she wanted fresh vegetables or herbs. Then, while looking at the pool in spring, a lightbulb went off.

“All of a sudden I had this vision of making it into a greenhouse and putting a cover over it,” she said. “I had all my seedlings going anyway and so far, so good with things growing in there.”

Emerson cut out a portion of the pool’s side wall to make a door and cut a separate square to install an old box fan for air circulation. She used plastic PVC pipe and sheets of 8mm polycarbonate to fashion a dome roof. Then she took some old beams she had gotten from dismantling an old barn and built three raised beds.

She planted vegetables in the beds and put her herbs in pots she hung from the cover’s beams. After struggling to reach those pots to water them, she went to the Dollar Tree store and bought small pulleys. Now those pots can be raised and lowered at her convenience.

In all, Emerson said she spent $110 creating her greenhouse.

“I got up this morning and went out to check on things and water my plants and just stood there with a big grin on my face,” she said. “I am one of those people who really likes to reuse things.”

While Emerson never doubted her creation would work, she said her children and grandchildren did not share her vision at first. Now that it’s up and running, she said their opinion has changed.

Pots connected to a simply pulley system allow Deb Emerson to raise and lower her fresh herbs in her greenhouse made from an old above ground swimming pool. Credit: Deb Emerson

“All three of my girls have seen it and they are like, ‘wow, what a great idea,’” Emerson said. “They all laughed at me at first but now I say, ‘Your mother is a freaking genius.’”

Emerson posted a photo of the greenhouse to a homesteading group on a social media site and was floored by the overwhelming positive response it received.

“You have no idea how surprised I was by that,” she said. “I debated posting the photos because I was afraid people would think it was illy but the feedback was really positive and that made me really happy and a little bit proud of myself.”

Emerson figures the greenhouse will allow her to extend her growing season well into the fall and has already increased her options for what she can grow. Before this summer, her rocky ground and lack of topsoil prevented her from growing things like carrots, beets or potatoes.

“I am really looking forward to having a lot more variety in my garden,” she said.”I’m also really excited about having more growing space so I can put up more vegetables for winter.”

She is already planning a second planting of green beans and other vegetables and said she plans to use a small propane heater for cool fall nights.

As for not having the pool for swimming anymore, Emerson said she is okay with that.

“There are plenty of ponds around me if I want to swim,” she said. “Plus, there is the upside of having this greenhouse to grow more things.”

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.