Did you know that the first greenhouse was built during the 1st century A.D.? Well, greenhouses have come a long way since then as far as their technology, know-how, and materials. Back then, the transparent part of the greenhouse was made of mica, and its walls were made of stone.
Nowadays, it’s glass, plastic, or polycarbonate depending on size and budget.
Location, Location, Location
Before you start to build your own greenhouse, figuring out where to put it is paramount. Which way the greenhouse is facing in relation to the sunrise and sunset is also important because you want to maximize the amount of sunlight you will receive. Having the greenhouse with an east-west orientation with the biggest side facing south will be most suitable for maximum sunlight. Grow lights may still be necessary especially if you live in the northern hemisphere.
Plus, you need to consider the size of the greenhouse you desire and will the structure fit into the space you pick out on your land. Finally, are there any deciduous trees you can take advantage of? Meaning trees that can provide shade in the summer hot months and be leafless during the winter to let in more sun? Using your surroundings in this way can help your crop greatly and your wallet on energy used for cooling/heating the greenhouse space.
Freestanding or Attached?
The advantage to free standing is, of course, they can be constructed anywhere. This means a more expensive build as you have to build four walls and durability is more of an issue. That’s the con. Being freestanding can serve more as a sanctuary away from the house which could be desirable. That would definitely be a pro. With attached, you have more stability as it is attached to your garage or house and you only have to build three walls. Plus of course, you do not have the freedom of picking its best location.
As far as the materials you use to actually make the greenhouse a greenhouse, you have glass, plastic, or polycarbonate. Glass is best but expensive and breakage can be a danger. Plastic is inexpensive but deteriorates quickly so must be replaced sooner. Polycarbonate is the best choice for the price and weight. You can even use colored polycarbonate sheets as the sides where sunlight is not important to capture, as well. Polycarbonate also retains heat better than glass or plastic, making it ideal for greenhouses. It is also very strong and can be bent for rounded or curved surfaces.
Of course, temperature and moisture are conditions to be concerned about with your greenhouse to have the most optimal conditions for growing, but you also have to consider insects and disease. As far as temperature and moisture, you can buy measuring devices for both. The challenge may be in actually keeping the conditions where you want them to be for your green babies. You can buy heating systems for under the soil as well as heat lamps, but make sure you also have the proper ventilation and automatic shutoffs.
As far as insects and disease in your plant’s home, make sure you have the building sealed and screened off to keep out the bad bugs. Sometimes, the bugs are introduced through your clothing or your gardening tools, so make sure all stays clean and free of outside elements when you come in to tend to your plants. This includes any seedlings or potted plants you bring in. Visually inspect to make sure they are clean and free of unwanted elements. Speaking of bugs, some bugs are good to have inside your greenhouse. They include ladybugs, green lacewings, spider mite predators, or whitefly parasites which will eat the bad bugs. Most experienced greenhouse growers advise against the use of pesticides in a greenhouse environment.
If you live in a cool climate, you can add rocks and/or barrels of water to capture the sun’s warmth to dissipate during the chilly evenings. Since you have committed to a greenhouse that should be around for a while, you have the luxury to start slow if you are a beginner. Try growing things like leafy veggies like spinach or lettuce first. Plus tomatoes, radishes, and peppers are easy to grow to get your feet wet.
Time to Grow!
Investing in a greenhouse can be an expensive endeavor. Especially for someone who has little to no green thumb from which to draw from. Using articles such as this to get some good advice under your belt to make your crops or flowers plentiful will be a rewarding experience for you.