5 Reasons to Build a Greenhouse and How to Get Started
Do you miss gardening in the depth of winter? I know I do, and winter has barely gotten started. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been dreaming of having a greenhouse on your property for years, even when you knew very little about how to build one or what you’d grow in it. I just love the look and feel of walking into a nice greenhouse – especially when the weather outside is cool or downright cold. There’s something so invigorating about all those living plants around you in the warm, humid air.
If you’re wondering about the best reasons to build a greenhouse, look no further!
- Extend Your Growing Season
Every gardener I know is itching to start getting seedlings in the ground by March – as soon as there’s a little mud – and depending on where you live you might have to wait another 6 or 8 weeks before you can do that. There are many cold tolerant plants that can survive cooler temperatures, but can’t tolerate a cold snap.
A greenhouse, even if it’s unheated, could give you a chance to get seedlings started earlier in the spring and extend those winter veggies a few more months. Depending on how harsh your weather gets, you might get a whole winter’s worth of hardier vegetables by building a greenhouse.
- Save Money
This one sounds a little too good to be true. Yes, the cost of building a greenhouse isn’t cheap. Depending on what materials you use or pre-planned greenhouse you buy, you could spend anything from two hundred to several thousand dollars. However, think about how much you spend on organic fruits and vegetables right now. It’s kind of depressing isn’t it? If you love to grow your own food that much, why not do it year-round and start to save money on that grocery bill just like you do during the summer.
However, that’s not the only thing you’ll be saving money on. You’ll save money on seeds and baby plants right away too by having a dedicated spot to shelter and propagate them. Not to mention saving the actual plants from pests and animals during growing season.
- Grow Exotic Plants
Do you find your house overflowing with warmth and humidity loving tropical plants that you don’t want to give up but which are, well, starting to get in the way of living life? If you love orchids but you live in the Midwest, a heated greenhouse could be built with enough room to grow some of the exotic plants you love and give your kitchen and bathroom a break.
If you’re the first in your neighborhood to build a greenhouse, you might just find the kindred spirits you never knew about on your block! I don’t know about you, but I see my neighbors far too little and I never know how to strike up a conversation with them. A greenhouse is a great conversation started and an even better community builder. Offer your neighbors some space in the greenhouse or some plants you grew there. Or just make a little nook for tea and invite a friend to share the mid-winter benefits of sitting in the diffused sunlight and warmth, which studies have shown help to lift Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
- Start A Business
It might be worth thinking about trying to sell the products of your green thumb! Try doing a little market research to find out what’s in demand in your area of the country. Maybe growing and drying herbs for tea or medicinal purposes will become your area of expertise. Or maybe you’ll find you have a knack for hothouse flowers that are normally expensive and in high demand.
Getting Started With a Greenhouse
Like anything worth investing in, building a greenhouse will take some planning, maybe saving up and perseverance. Ask yourself a few questions to get started:
What do I want to grow?
What do you picture when you daydream about having a greenhouse? Is it the old-world glass panes covered with ivy and shelves of colorful hothouse flowers inside? Is it an array of desert plants when you’re stuck in the rainy Northwest? Do you just want to taste honest produce in the winter for pennies? Determining this will help you figure out what kind of greenhouse you need to build.
Where will I put it?
There are so many options for greenhouse placement. Did you know you can even extend a small greenhouse out of your kitchen window? You can build one onto the side of your garage, shed or barn. In addition, there’s the ever popular free-standing greenhouse. Obviously, if you plan to heat and climate control it, you need to do your research about how to do that most cost-effectively.
What kind should I choose?
Once you know your location, you should have a rough estimate of the size you need. Consider, too, whether you’ll be putting it on a hill or if it will be protected from the wind. It’s all well and good to go for a cheaper PVC hoop house option. However, if it’s going to blow away in the first storm, you’ve just flushed that money. This is not to mention the hard labor if you do it yourself – right down the storm drain.
Consider if you need to put in a floor for anchoring and/or pest control. Think about whether you want to plan it yourself and feel confident making and executing those plans or if you want to rely on a kit.
Also under consideration: glass or plastic? Tempered glass is stronger than regular glass and plastic but it means a more rigid construction. Double-layered plastic sheets are available and very sturdy. However, it’s more difficult to recycle and it more easily shreds and harder to clean up after that.
Fiberglass is another option. Clear panels are better for germinating seeds and starters to be grown outdoors and opaque panels work best for growing plants to maturity as they provide even light for balanced foliage growth.
How do I care for my plants once they’re in there?
You also need to think about questions like, how will you get water to your plants in the greenhouse? Will it be practical to hand water them all or will you need running water? How will I keep my plants warm and cool enough?
Plants can also overheat in warm summer months, so you may need to plan ventilation. Additionally, how will you deal with pests? A greenhouse does protect from a range of rodents and animals that normally prey on gardens, but greenhouse plants are still subject to pests.
One great idea is to make compost right in your greenhouse. It can do double-duty: helping to heat it in colder months (if you don’t already know, working compost piles generate heat) and providing needed fertilizer for your growing plants.
In conclusion, we hope this has provided you with some food for thought and some much-needed garden inspiration on a wintry day. Start dreaming up your greenhouse today and maybe by this time next year you’ll be sitting in it!