{Garden Life} Greenhouses – why you need one today

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Although we’ve left our greenhouse (which we poured hours and days worth of blood, sweat and tears into) behind us at the farm, having a greenhouse is an extremely practical thing which can give you months of extra gardening, especially in colder climates.

Benefits of Having a Greenhouse

1. You can control the climate — For the most part, well-built greenhouses will give you the opportunity to evade frost, harsh winter temperatures or even to boost your temps under the roof to grow exotic tropical plants in cooler climates. In some places (or with extra heating) you may even be able to grow year round instead of just a few months out of the year. For us, a greenhouse was extremely helpful for growing pepper plants — which otherwise rarely have a chance to produce in Germany due to the short season and the cooler temps. By being able to control the climate, you’re also gaining more control over your food supply and what is going into your produce.

2. Get a head start in your garden — A greenhouse is a great place to start seedlings and grow plants up to a decent size before planting them out. This was really crucial for us most years when we planted things in our big garden behind the barn — otherwise the slugs and snails would devour all the leaves off the plants before the they got to see the sun rise on the following day. Using a greenhouse instead of your kitchen window definitely allows you to free up some space, and keeps all the dirt where it belongs.

3. Protect plants from pests — In our area, blight is a common problem that can heavily affect tomatoes & potatoes. But with the help of our greenhouse, we not only had tomatoes much later into the year, but also kept them from getting all brown and yucky right before we could harvest them. There are lots of problematic bugs and diseases that you may be able to avoid just by reducing your plants exposure to the outside world.

4. It’s not just a place for your plants – A greenhouse can be a beautiful landscaping feature as well as a warm place to escape to in colder months. If you’re able to, plan in a space where you can set up a table and a few chairs, then bring your breakfast or lunch outside during the winter to enjoy a tropical hideaway in your own backyard.

What to Look For in a Greenhouse

Whether you’re looking to build your own greenhouse from scrap materials or are going to buy a finished product, there are a lot of things to consider when you build a greenhouse. You need to think about things like how much insulation you need, where and how you’ll add ventilation, what materials to use and so on. So let’s take a look at some of the importantt things to keep in mind.

1. What sort of foundation will you use? We built a concrete slab under our greenhouse and have thought time and time again that it probably wasn’t the best way to go. Although it keeps pests from coming through the ground, you don’t hold in us much thermal heat in the slab and you have to keep lots of pots on hand to grow everything in. Plus you lose a bit of head room for the plants with all the pots. If we built another one now, we’d definitely just build it right onto the ground the next time around to keep things a little easier.

2. What sort of building materials will you use? There are lots of options out there these days, but some of the most popular greenhouses are still made from wood or metal. We built our greenhouse from scratch out of wood because it was easier to work with. But something like the traditional greenhouses with Hartley Greenhouses that are metal kits with glass panes, automated vents and so forth are just magical. My in-laws have a really nice metal and glass greenhouse which I think is super neat. And although they are more expensive than the route we went, it’s sometimes worth the price to have something that will last a lifetime.

3. What insulation level do you need? If you are looking to grow year round in a place where there’s 3 feet of snow on the ground for many months at a time, you’re going to need to consider something with a high R-value and a low U-value. The R-value defines the insulating ability of the materials you are using and a higher R-value means it insulates better. The U-value shows the level of heat which escapes, so you want a figure below 1 or 0.5 if you can get it. For example, 5mm twin-wall polyethylene sheets have an R-value of about 2.3 and a U-value of 0.43 while a single sheet of 3mm thick glass has an R-value of 0.95 and a U-value of 1.05.

4. How will you ventilate the greenhouse? There are always going to be days when the temperature inside your greenhouse is warmer than your plants are comfortable in. So you have to consider if you’ll be available to open up roof windows or doors in the greenhouse — or are able to spring for the mechanical versions which have temperature sensors to do the job for you.

5. Do you need additional support for shelving, lighting, hanging plants, etc? There are lots of options and accessories one can throw in when building a greenhouse, but try to be practical and carefully consider each option you put into your greenhouse. If you intend to have hanging plants or need shelving which you intend to hang from the walls of your greenhouse, you need to make sure that the proper struts and supports are in place to keep your greenhouse standing for many years to come.

 

Do you have a greenhouse? What do you love about it and is there anything you’d do differently if you could build it again?


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Comments

  1. Fsimpson says:

    Great writeup on green houses. We have had two and our current one is 12×14 ft and 10 ft ceiling with shelves everywhere. I love it.I have 3 big windows ,glass with sliding panels for cooling down in summer  and used plastic panels on roof and sides. I know you miss your greenhouse and will for years to come..

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