by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you considering creating a greenhouse for your property?
Congratulations! It’s a big step and an investment, but you’ll hopefully enjoy it for many years. Do you feel stuck when it comes to choosing the right greenhouse and laying it out?
You’re in the right place. I have plenty of experience in greenhouse gardening, and I’ve learned, through trial and error, how to choose the greenhouse which works best for different situations.
Whether you’re choosing to build or buy a larger greenhouse, or maybe you’re considering a small pop-up greenhouse, I can try to help you make the best decision for your situation.
Let me offer you a few tips when it comes to laying out your greenhouse properly. Here’s what you should know.
Is My Greenhouse Right for My Weather?
The first thing you should consider when picking a greenhouse is the weather conditions in your area. If you live where you get high winds, tornadoes, or a great deal of snow, you’ll need a different style of greenhouse.
For typical weather conditions, you could build a greenhouse and wrap it in plastic. This is cost-effective and should last you for approximately five years.
If you’re looking to extend your grow season and need a smaller cold frame for a potted tomato plant or two, consider going with a pop-up greenhouse.
Be mindful of its placement because they can blow away easily. Follow all the instructions for staking the frame to the ground, but if you’re gardening on a smaller scale, this option could be a great fit for you.
If you’re someone who lives in an area with high winds or a great deal of snow, you’ll need to use a more durable option.
Be sure to use plastic sheeting on your greenhouse. If you have the room in your budget, glass is a great option, but it’s also more expensive.
Also, if you live where you get a lot of snow, be sure to choose a greenhouse design that will encourage the snow to slide off the roof. If not, it could cause your roof to collapse.
Finally, if you live where the temperatures are brutal or tornadoes are a regular occurrence, you might want to consider going with an underground greenhouse.
It takes more planning, and quite a bit of digging, but the temperatures should be easier to regulate. The idea behind this style of greenhouse is similar to that of a root cellar.
However, it would have skylights where root cellars do not. This option may not be for everyone, but in these cases, it might be worth the investment to protect your greenhouse.
Look at the conditions around you and see which of these options would be the best fit for your area and gardening goals.
Should I Use Beds or Containers in My Greenhouse?
When growing within a greenhouse, there are a variety of ways you can go about it. The first option is by placing shelving and containers inside the area. This is great for starting seeds or for container gardening.
The next option is to place raised beds inside your greenhouse. If you have a larger greenhouse, this might be a good choice.
However, you must realize, the larger you build your greenhouse the more effort it will take to heat it. If you’re going to use your greenhouse for cold frame purposes only, this could still work for you.
The final option for growing in a greenhouse is to actually plant in the ground inside the greenhouse. Some people do this if they’re growing grapes, fruit trees, or other items which won’t grow in their area outside of their greenhouse.
This will take a larger greenhouse and might need supplemental heating during certain parts of the year. However, you could still plant in the ground for other crops as well.
Inground planting requires less of an investment, but it might require a larger greenhouse. This is especially true if you plan on using your greenhouse for seed starting, too.
You should consider what type of gardening you’ll do inside your greenhouse prior to picking the right style for you.
Your Greenhouse Walking Area
Regardless of what type of gardening methods you choose, be sure to consider your walking area. If you’re placing shelving inside your greenhouse, you must consider how you can access that shelving easily.
If you’re using containers, you must consider how you can neatly arrange them to properly care for each plant without tripping over yourself in the process.
Raised beds need to have an aisle between them, so you can access the beds easily when watering, weeding, planting, or amending the soil.
If you’re planting in the ground, you must consider how you’ll get around each area to care for the plants.
When I created my first greenhouse, my husband and I failed to take into consideration the width of the walkway. It never crossed our minds.
After we built everything, we realized our wheelbarrow wouldn’t fit down the aisle. This made for sore backs when we needed to fill our beds with fresh dirt or amend the soil.
Take some time to think how you’ll arrange and access everything in your greenhouse to make sure your gardening method will function.
Leveling Your Greenhouse
Having a level floor in your greenhouse is vital for some gardening methods. If you’re planting in the ground only, it may not make as large of difference.
However, if you’re choosing shelving, container gardening, or raised beds, it could make a difference. If you set containers or shelving on unlevel ground, they’ll tip over.
Raised beds shouldn’t be impacted quite as much, but it could still make your greenhouse look funny. Leveling a floor is no fun, but it’s worth the extra step to keep your greenhouse functioning and looking good, too.
Don’t Blow Your Budget on a Greenhouse
When some people decide they want a greenhouse, they choose to go all out. Obviously, it’s your money, and you can spend it however you like.
However, I must offer this word of caution. If you need a place to house a few plants, and that’s all you’re realistically going to do with a greenhouse, don’t build a monstrosity of a greenhouse with glass windows.
It’s a waste and something that will only make you feel guilty for not utilizing it properly. It’s okay to have a small pop-up greenhouse as long as it suits your needs.
Look at your budget, be realistic about your gardening goals and capabilities, and go from there. If you invest small in the beginning and find out you really enjoy greenhouse gardening, you can always save and go forward in the future.
This is a project where the saying, “go big or go home” doesn’t apply. I mention this because some of my friends garden. When they found out I had a walk-in greenhouse, their response was always, “Oh, I just have one of those little pop-up greenhouses.”
My response is always, “That’s a great place to start!” Don’t feel like you can’t grow a garden in a greenhouse even if it’s smaller. It’s still possible and is a wonderful option for people who don’t have a ton of gardening experience or room for a larger greenhouse.
Take this into consideration before spending money on something you may not utilize to the point of justifying the cost.
If you’re going to invest in a walk-in greenhouse, be sure to do your due diligence before purchasing a kit.
Some of them may be great. However, there are some which cost more than a DIY greenhouse but are nowhere near as durable.
I know because I’ve bought a kit in the past. It’s the most I’ve ever spent on a greenhouse, and it was the least durable out of all of them.
My husband and I have constructed four greenhouses over the years to find what works best for us. The kit was our least favorite.
However, if you aren’t great with DIY projects, a kit might be your best option. Again, be sure to do your research and look at your own capabilities before deciding which style of greenhouse is the most functional for your needs.
Should I Heat my Greenhouse?
Whether you choose to heat your greenhouse will depend upon your use of it. Whether you build a hoop greenhouse, a wood framed greenhouse, purchase a kit, or buy a pop-up greenhouse, you can heat them all.
You’ll need to be sure that you purchase a heater meant for your greenhouse. Don’t put a space heater in a greenhouse and assume you’re being safe.
Also, be sure to purchase a heater that will work for your style of greenhouse.
If you have a hoop greenhouse constructed from PVC or a smaller pop-up greenhouse, you won’t use a greenhouse heater that must attach to your ceiling. That’ll cause your greenhouse to collapse.
However, you can purchase the floor heaters. Be sure to follow all safety instructions before utilizing them.
If you’re someone with a wood framed greenhouse, or even a kit, you might find a heater which could hang from the ceiling, sit on the floor, or come on a stand.
Be sure to do your research. Don’t ever put a heater too close to flammable fabric and follow all instructions.
Ultimately, whether you heat your greenhouse or not will depend upon your use of it. If you’ve purchased a pop-up greenhouse to prolong the growing season of certain crops or flowers, you might be able to get away with a cold-frame option.
It could keep the frost off your plants and fulfill your purpose for it. If you’re looking to grow warm weather crops overwinter, or start seeds, a heater might be a good choice.
You should also take your planting zone into consideration. If you live in planting zone nine and higher, you may not need a heating option.
Cooler planting zones will most likely need a heating option unless you build an underground greenhouse. Though, you might still need heat depending upon the crop.
If having a heater in your greenhouse concerns you, consider using a DIY heating option. These options work best for smaller greenhouses, in most cases.
You can paint a milk jug or plastic barrel black. Fill it with water, and the sun will heat it all day long. During the night, the barrels will emit the heat.
Mulch is also a great way to radiate heat in your greenhouse. The sun will heat it during the day, and it’ll put off heat overnight as well.
There are many reasons to consider heating your greenhouse, but there are also plenty of reasons to avoid it. Be sure to pick the option which will help you utilize your greenhouse most effectively.
All it takes is a quick scroll through Pinterest or Google to see that there are a million and one designs for greenhouses. That’s sarcasm, of course, but there are many designs to choose from.
Which style will work best for you (a kit, pop-up, or a walk-in DIY greenhouse) will depend on everything stated above.
However, once you have your ideal greenhouse picked out there are two major things you must take note of before ever constructing it.
These two items are placement and water. Your greenhouse should always be placed where it’ll receive the most sun. When possible, this should be on the south side of your home.
If this isn’t possible, place it southeast or east. Once you find the right area for sunlight, you must consider water.
Obviously, if you’re using a pop-up greenhouse, you may not have enough plants inside of it to make this much of a concern.
You can always fill a watering can and carry it to your plants. However, if you’re constructing a larger walk-in greenhouse, water is a big deal.
In my current location, I’m near a watering hose which hangs on our house, but I also collect rainwater. If collecting rainwater, check with your local government to find out if there are any rules or regulations.
Keep this in mind because if you don’t have a water hose which will stretch to the optimal location for your greenhouse, rainwater catchment could be a good solution.
If not, see if you can find equal ground between sunlight and water.
Take all of this information into consideration when choosing the right style of greenhouse. Be sure to consider your goals behind greenhouse gardening as well.
By thinking through each step of the process, you should be able to avoid costly mistakes and have a great experience with greenhouse gardening.
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