So, the soil in your yard is too compacted and full of rocks. Maybe your climate is too dry, too wet, or too unpredictable to grow anything but weeds. What is an avid gardener to do when the outside world isn’t conducive to gardening?
The answer is simple: Bring gardening inside by building a backyard greenhouse. Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes, and most are easy to put together. Plus, greenhouse gardening tends to yield healthier plants because the shelter protects your flora from dangerous weather and pests while providing acute control over soil content, watering schedule, fertilizer, and more. If you are interested in building your own greenhouse, here’s the guide for you.
Where you place your greenhouse might be more important than the materials you use to build it. This is because greenhouses work by capturing the natural light and heat while keeping out cold, wind, moisture, and pests. Traditionally, the best place for a greenhouse was the most open, least shady area of your yard - but that isn’t necessary the case in all circumstances. For example, if you live in a climate that is especially hot and dry, too much light and heat could roast your garden.
Instead, a truly idea spot for a greenhouse is one with naturally level ground and at least six hours of direct sunlight in the winter. Typically, this means your site should be somewhat shaded from the north, so the hot summer sun doesn’t burn your plants alive. Additionally, you should try to orient your greenhouse east to west, so its largest windows capture sunlight all day long. Finally, the closer you place your greenhouse to your living space, the better; that makes it easier for you to visit your greenhouse, monitor its conditions, and enjoy its bounty.
When most people hear “greenhouse,” they think of a glass structure with a pitched roof - but in truth, greenhouses come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. In the initial stages of greenhouse planning, you should research the variety of greenhouse frames to decide what style is best for you. What you choose will largely depend on your climate and available space, but your taste is also an important factor. Here are some common greenhouse frames available in easy-to-build greenhouse kits:
- Lean-to. Mounted against existing structures, lean-to greenhouses are usually easy to build and access but rarely provide much interior growing space.
- Even-span. Like lean-tos, even-span greenhouses share a wall with another structure, but they have their own symmetrical roofs. You might also call this kind of greenhouse a sun room or a closed-in deck if it isn’t used for growing a garden.
- Quonset. The simplest freestanding greenhouse, Quonsets are semi-circles with flat walls at the ends.
- A-frame. A sturdy style, a-frame greenhouses are triangular in shape with flat walls at the ends.
- Gothic arch. As the name describes, gothic arch greenhouses are shaped like gothic arches, with a dramatic point at the top.
- Gabled. Gabled greenhouses are the prototypical greenhouse: They look like miniature, see-through houses.
For your greenhouse to function properly, you need to wrap your frame in transparent or translucent material called glazing. Throughout history, the largest and most ornate greenhouses have been glass, but few modern greenhouses are built with glass because the material is expensive and relatively delicate. There are advantages to glass: Double-paned glass is indisputably the best insulation and both double- and single-paned glass are aesthetically stunning. Yet, for most greenhouse growers, the costs of glass are prohibitive and require consideration of other glazing options.
Polycarbonate plastic is by far the most popular glazing material. Strong and durable, polycarbonate can last upwards of 10 years and transmits light as efficiently as other plastic films. Plus, you can purchase multi-wall polycarbonate, which boasts an air buffer that enhances your greenhouse’s insulation and looks better than singe-wall polycarbonate. No matter what glazing option you choose, you should keep these three important aspects of glazing in mind: light, insulation, and longevity.
By selecting the perfect space, you optimize the functionality of your greenhouse - but few spaces are totally perfect. Likely, you will need to install some environmental controls to ensure the ideal atmosphere for your garden. Some greenhouse systems can be connected to a smart hub, allowing you to control them remotely through your digital devices. Still, less-tech-savvy greenhouse growers need the following controls at the very least:
- Light systems. Shades or shutters can help your plants rest and recuperate before another long day of sunlight. Contrary to popular belief, light deprivation is crucial for healthy growth.
- Temperature systems. Heating and cooling systems moderate the interior temperature of the greenhouse regardless of the climate outside. Thus, you can maintain optimal growing temperature throughout the year, even in extreme locations.
- Moisture systems. Your plants need water, but too much humidity can stifle them and compromise your structure with mold and mildew. Sprinkler or drip watering systems are obviously essential, but complex ventilation is also valuable.
While some farmers rely on their greenhouse crops for their livelihood, home gardeners primarily want their greenhouses to be comfortable and attractive as well as prolific. Both types of greenhouse growers should consider adding useful accessories to their environment to make the process of growing more enjoyable and appealing.
For example, benches located next to growing beds make tending crops more comfortable - and they allow you to rest and relish your bounty. Benches should be sturdy, as you might intermittently use them as surfaces, and they should be resistant to rot in a humid environment.
Similarly, most growers have abundant need for storage space. Cabinets are necessary for storing extra soil and fertilizer as well as gardening tools like trowels, pruners, picks, and others. Ideally, you can install cabinets next to a potting table, which will make plant care that much easier. Meanwhile, sturdy shelves and racks around your greenhouse can keep your walkways tidy and hold additional containers of plants, maximizing growing space inside the greenhouse.
Accessories can typically be added and removed after greenhouse construction is complete, but including them in your plans will help you obtain the greenhouse of your dreams. Then, you can get to uninhibited growing as soon as possible.