Here at Lismaine Cottage, we love having quality garden time. Well, mum does, but the rest of us help out from time to time as well. Now throw some interesting gadgets or technology into the mix and I’m there! We even broadcasted our own weather for a while, before encountering technical difficulties with the Raspberry Pi. (And some problems caused by the weather itself!)

This may as well read “Ignore me completely”

When instructions specifically tell you not to disregard them, you can be almost certain I’ll stop reading at that point. Turns out there’s a good reason for them. Read them and you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle. Lesson sort-of learned for now. The instructions I was disregarding were for the Bayliss XL Autovent greenhouse window opener, which is quite the exciting development for our garden. I hadn’t even heard of these miraculous gadgets until a few weeks ago when I stumbled across a forum post referencing one while looking for a door holder for the polytunnel.

The Autovent, not looking very automatic

“There must be actuators and pistons and expensive equipment!” I cried, but no, they simply stated the device was “solar powered”. It is, in fact, incredibly simple. Automatic window openers utilise a metal cylinder filled with mineral wax. As the greenhouse heats up, the wax expands and pushes the window open. As the day progresses and becomes cooler, the wax contracts and a spring closes the window. This all happens rather slowly, but can be visualised most easily through timelapse.

Why would you want an automatic greenhouse window opener? I say why not? I love this stuff – anything that automates a process or makes it simpler is more than welcome in Lismaine Cottage. I’ve been a big fan of remote control dimmers for the same reason, particularly in home cinema rooms. And it’s not just laziness – it makes sense for the plants, too. The window opens proportionately to the temperature inside, keeping it at a more consistent level and optimal level. And it looks cool. What more could you want?


To the actual fitting! It was made a little bit awkward by corrosion in the old window fittings in the greenhouse, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I ended up using the junior hacksaw to the bits that wouldn’t agree with me. You’ll be pleased to hear that I won. Then came the interesting part. In preparation for fitting, the window opener had to be placed in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool the cylinder, and effectively set it to the minimum opening. At that point I noticed the cylinder wasn’t in the right place. That seemed to be a silly choice on the part of the manufacturer, and I quickly corrected the apparent mistake. Turns out I should’ve read the manual, as I spent several minutes awkwardly struggling while it should’ve been much easier. When I stopped to read the instructions properly, I was able to unhook the cylinder and fit the Autovent properly. I stood back and marvelled at my DIY skills, wondering when it would break itself apart or damage the greenhouse frame. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded and all is well so far.

This is not nearly automatic enough


Everything is growing nicely in the polytunnel, with temperatures reaching in excess of 36 degrees celcius on warm-ish days. We’re so impressed by the window opener that we’ve invested in one to manage the rear door which is primarily used for ventilation. It will need some modification, but I am determined to have it automated. The cauliflower and corn are really coming along, and the cabbage looks good too. Courgettes have been spotted too, next to the strawberries which are making good progress. We’ve got a digital and traditional thermometer fitted to keep an eye on the temperature, but the next step will involve a maximum/minimum thermometer, so we can keep a more detailed eye on things. The irrigation system will be the next big project, so any suggestions are more than welcome.

Love gardens and growing food? (And eating homemade food, of course) Need a place to stay in Craigavon? We’ve got you covered at Lismaine Cottage.

The finished product!


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