When building a greenhouse, there are a variety of things to consider. From soil to site location, much planning is required. But, what exactly goes into a greenhouse? Many new owners put a lot of thought into the structure itself, but not so much thought into the other crucial areas. This can lead to a frustrating experience, and can even end up causing damage or loss of plants. Below are the 11 essential elements of a greenhouse. Consider all of these elements before purchasing, and you should be well prepared for your new project.
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You must have a stable, level foundation for your greenhouse. A proper foundation will be capable of supporting the walls and weight of the structure. Movement in the soil can cause damage to the framing of your greenhouse, hamper door and window operation, crack glazing, and even break windows. Settling, erosion, and frost heave are the most common foundation issues. Additionally, having a solid foundation prevents rot and corrosion by keeping the bottom of the framing off the ground.
Having a dirt floor in your greenhouse is not the best idea. It may feel organic and earthy, but add a little water and you can end up with a muddy mess. Additionally, a dirt floor is a welcome mat for diseases and pests. Instead, choose a water-permeable surface similar to what you might use for patios and walkways. Concrete, concrete pavers, tile, pea gravel, and crushed gravel are all excellent options, and they are easy to install.
There are 8 to 9 typical framing options, all of which are suited for different purposes. Wood, aluminum, steel, PVC, glass, polycarbonate, acrylic, and fiberglass are the most common options available. PVC is used mainly in hoop house designs, and this material also shows up in greenhouse kits that you put together yourself. Talk to your local gardening professional, such as those who work at the garden center of hardware stores, and ensure you are choosing the correct framing for your project. If you are having your greenhouse professionally built, your contractor will likely present you with options that will work for your particular greenhouse, and at that point it’s a matter of aesthetics.
Every greenhouse needs a water source, as water is essential to plant health. Your water source can be as simple as a hose or rain bucket, or as complex as an underground system that leads from your basement to your greenhouse, and that is winterized and suited for year-round gardening. Rain barrels, winterized seasonal supply lines, and sinks are all popular choices.
Watering and Misting Systems
Having a water supply is important, but delivering that water is also crucial. Water cans are good for the hobby gardener, but they are not always practical. For larger watering needs, watering and misting systems can be good options. Watering systems typically consist of a customized mix of fertilizer and water that is automatically dispensed to plant soil. Misters increase humidity and moisture in the air, which is great for plants. Some greenhouse owners choose to have both systems, and some only have one; which you choose depends on the type of greenhouse you have and what you grow.
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If your greenhouse is in a sunny, southern-facing location, your plants likely get all the sunlight they need during the day. But, regardless of the position of your greenhouse, additional lighting is almost always required in the winter. The most common lighting options include incandescent, fluorescent, and HID.
All greenhouse owners must calculate the heating requirements for their individual structures. If you need additional heat that is not absorbed during the day, you can use portable heaters, electric heaters, gas heaters, or even wood-fired heating systems to supply the necessary heat. In most areas, an electric heater with an automatic thermostat is sufficient, but electricity is also very expensive. If you have a large greenhouse that requires additional heating, another, less expensive option might be better.
It is essential that your greenhouse have adequate ventilation. Proper ventilation removes hot air, controls humidity, and ensures adequate air circulation and temperature; it also helps prevent condensation. Most greenhouse kits do not come with enough air vents, so it is important to plan accordingly and purchase additional vents as required.
While warmth is important, it is also crucial to ensure that your greenhouse has a cooling mechanism so the plants do not become scorched. Overheating is a common and very detrimental mistake that new greenhouse owners make. Common cooling methods include shades, evaporative coolers, liquid shading, and roof vents.
Benches and Storage
Benches support plants and provide space for potting. Depending on how you want to set up your greenhouse, they can also be a great place for sitting and reading, depending on the height. Storage is also important, as it makes for a much more efficient gardening session. Instead of hauling soil, food, pots, and other supplies back and forth from a garage or house to the greenhouse, you can store it all right there. There are various bench layouts available depending on what your greenhouse is used for, and you can often choose to have them custom made.
It is important to have potting materials on hand whether you’re starting plants to transplant them, or growing them in the pot permanently. Greenhouse gardeners can only use terracotta or plastic pots, as other materials are not suited for a greenhouse environment. Terracotta breaks more easily, but they are heavier and sturdier so they very rarely get knocked over. Terracotta is also more expensive, so it is an option better suited for those plants that will be permanently potted. Plastic pots are economical, and they also hold moisture more effectively than their terracotta counterparts. Other materials you might need include a hose, trowels, soil, weed killer, fertilizer, clippers, shovels, a rake, twine, and others.
A lot goes into owning a one, and many considerations must be made. It is crucial that you are adequately prepared for greenhouse ownership, so before you purchase, make sure you have considered all the elements listed here. Start small, as you can always expand later, and have fun.
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