Need some help choosing a greenhouse for your plants? Well, in this article, we bring the heat.
Imagine having a longer growing season, protecting your plants from pests, and shielding them from Mother Nature’s mood swings.
That’s what greenhouses help you do. They act as a superhero cape for your plants, allowing them to thrive in all sorts of conditions throughout the year.
But, as with any superhero, greenhouses have their drawbacks and limitations.
Don’t worry, though. Our team at Potted Exotics conjured up this comprehensive guide to help you carefully choose a greenhouse that suits your needs.
Let’s dive in.
What is a Greenhouse?
A greenhouse is a building or structure designed to host, provide, and protect vegetation from harsh outdoor elements. Greenhouse structures hinder the out-flow of thermal energy and allow the full sun glow to pass through their outer layer and heat up an indoor space – particularly the ground.
With all this excess heat, plants now have a semi-controlled growing environment that is suitable for their needs, although often nothing like the outdoor environment on the other side of the greenhouse walls.
They come in all shapes and sizes and can be designed to withstand different temperatures and climates, so choosing the right greenhouse can be complicated.
From cold-frame greenhouses that allow you to start your crops in early spring to hot greenhouses that help keep your tropical carnivorous plants living through winter, there’s a greenhouse for every type of home gardener.
They even exist in all sorts of different design aspects. From A-Frame to dome and even Lean-To, you will have no trouble finding one for your application. And, with different materials like glass panels, plastic sheeting, and even aluminum, iron, and PVC pipe, the possibilities are endless.
Benefits of a Greenhouse for Plants
Protection from High Winds
Greenhouses provide a barrier against strong winds that can damage or uproot delicate plants. This is especially beneficial for tall or top-heavy plants more susceptible to wind damage.
Protection from Bad Weather
Greenhouses protect plants from heavy rain, sleet, and snow that can damage leaves, stems, and blooms. They also provide shelter from hail, which can be particularly destructive to your most fragile plants.
More Sun Exposure on Cloudy Days
Greenhouses allow plants to receive more sunlight on cloudy days, as the translucent walls and roof allow enough light to penetrate through. Greenhouses are particularly useful for tropical plants that require a lot of day light to develop.
Protection from Cold Temperatures
Greenhouses provide a warm environment for plants, protecting them from chilly temperatures that can damage or, worst, kill them. This is especially useful for starting seedlings in early spring or growing warm-weather vegetables and fruits like strawberries in colder climates.
Protection from Hot Weather
Greenhouses are also well known for protecting plants from extreme heat waves that can cause wilting, sunburn, and leaf damage. This is notably beneficial for growing tropical plants or tropical fruits that require a nice warm environment to thrive. These types of plants will feel, at home, so to speak.
How to Choose the Right Greenhouse for Plants
So, let’s start our greenhouse journey, where we’ll help you find the perfect greenhouse for you and your plants.
But before we dive into the different types of greenhouses available, let’s talk about the factors you should consider when deciding.
First, you want to consider your climate. Are you in a cold and snowy or a hot and dry area? This will help you determine if you need a greenhouse with cooling mechanisms or one that’s well-insulated to keep the excess heat in.
Next, you want to consider your budget. Greenhouses can vary from cheap and flimsy to expensive and sturdy, and you want to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. If your budget isn’t massive, it might mean considering smaller designs of greenhouses or one made from less expensive materials. You can also consider unheated greenhouses, but know that supplemental heating will cost you money in the long run.
Greenhouses made from materials like wood, steel, and glass will be more expensive than a greenhouse made from PVC or plastic. Heavier materials will also need support like footings or foundations, increasing costs. But remember, a greenhouse is a long-term investment, and it’s worth investing in a durable, sturdy structure that will stand the test of time… and weather.
The space available for your greenhouse is also a crucial factor to consider. Is it the size of Argentina or more like a postage stamp? If you have a small parcel of land to work with, a freestanding greenhouse might be the way to go, but if you have limited space, a lean-to greenhouse might be the perfect fit.
And hey, if you’re in a narrow living space, like in an apartment, you are not out of the greenhouse game – there are mini and portable greenhouses that’ll fit on your patio just fine. And remember to consider the layout and shape of your yard – an uneven, hilly space may be better suited for an uneven-span greenhouse.
What do you want to achieve? Just set a goal! Are you looking to grow exotic plants or extend your warm season crops? Do you want a simple structure or a complex one? Asking yourself these questions will help you find the perfect greenhouse for your plants. If you’re only looking to grow a few plants, a mini greenhouse or small lean-to might be more your speed.
Consider the type of plant you want to grow. Some greenhouses have narrow edges that can’t accommodate tall plants, so if you’re looking to grow sunflowers, you’ll want to steer clear of those types. But if you’re into low to medium height plants like eggplants, these types of greenhouses will work just fine.
Cool Greenhouses vs. Warm Greenhouses
A cool greenhouse, also known as a “cold frame”, is a simple structure that mainly protects plants from the harsh elements of cold weather. Think of it as a mini fort for your delicate plants during winter. It’s a great way for gardeners to extend their growing season and get a head start on their gardening plans for the next spring. However, a cold greenhouse doesn’t offer much climate control, aside from possibly a heat source to keep the temperature just above freezing. So, if you’re looking to grow tropical plants or warm-weather vegetables, a cool greenhouse probably isn’t the best choice.
On the other hand, a warm greenhouse provides full climate control for your plants all year round. It’s like a tropical paradise for your green babies! You can control the lighting, humidity, and temperature to create the perfect conditions for your plants to thrive. And the best experience side is you can walk in it. contrary to a cold frame, warm greenhouses are typically larger structures that allow you to access and care for your plants easily. This is a great option for gardeners who want to grow a wide variety of plants, including tropical plants and warm-weather vegetables.
Different Types of Greenhouses
Choosing a suitable greenhouse can seem daunting, but with a bit of research and careful consideration, you’ll find the perfect one to suit your needs. It’s like trying to pick the perfect avocado at the grocery store – you gotta squeeze and prod and consider all the factors before making a decision.
A lean-to greenhouse is a perfect solution for those with limited outdoor space. They are designed to be installed against a wall, i.e., your home’s wall or a garden wall. They are an excellent option for those who want to extend their growing season and take huge advantage of the warmth inside their home. They can also be plumbed in for hot water, making it easy to install utilities.
freestanding greenhouses are also an excellent option for those with flexible garden landscapes not limited by space or other structures. These greenhouses allow for orientation and position variation to suit your growing needs. They are designed to maximize natural ventilation and minimize shade, and they also provide ample space for water butts, which are ideal for increasing your sustainable garden credentials.
An abutting greenhouse is similar to a conservatory and is typically attached to a building by its side. They can be convenient, as you won’t even have to leave the house to get to your “green lab.” They are ideal for blurring the divide between your home and garden and are particularly useful during cold late winter. They can also be a beautiful addition to your home, as they can be matched to the exterior of your property in texture or color.
Best Mini Greenhouse (Our Top 2 Choices)
Best Indoor Mini Greenhouse
If you’re addicted to warm-weather vegetables and have a passion for indoor gardening but your outdoor space is not big enough, the Gardman Mini Indoor Greenhouse is the perfect pick for any small space! This greenhouse is excellent for starting seeds, growing small plants, and even giving tropical plants a head start in the early spring.
It’s lightweight and easy to assemble, with a clear pe cover and a roll-up zippered door for easy access to your garden plants. This tiny greenhouse material is waterproof and UV rays treated, so you don’t have to worry about your plants getting fried like a snack by the sun’s rays.
The 4-tiered shelving provides enough space for your seedlings, flowers, and fresh herbs, and the push-fit tubular steel frame keeps everything stable; it’s even bug-resistant (according to the manufacturer).
One of the best things about this small indoor greenhouse is the possibility of humidity and temperature control. With good ventilation, you can keep your plants feel at ease, even in the dead of winter.
The only downside is its price, but for gardening aficionados and those looking for practices to extend the growing season, it’s a reasonable price to pay for the best mini indoor greenhouse on the market. It’s a great choice for those who want to get an early start on their vegetable garden or want to grow exotic plants in a controlled environment.
Give it a try, and you’ll surely have a bountiful harvest in no time!
Best Outdoor Mini Greenhouse
Well, folks, are you tired of your plants getting trampled on by the neighborhood squirrels or shivering in the cold winter air? Look no further, because the Outsunny 3-Tier Outdoor Garden Wooden Greenhouse is here to save the day!
This budget-friendly beauty boasts a durable fir-wood frame and anti-UV PC board for protection against those pesky UV rays.
With two slatted shelves, you’ll have plenty of room to pile up all your seedlings and watch them grow into majestic plants. And when the sun is shining bright, just open up the hinged roof for that extra boost of sunlight.
But don’t worry; it’s not just all looks and no brains. This mini greenhouse comes equipped with a latch to securely shut its nice wooden doors, perfect! At 110cm in height and 47cm in width, it’s the perfect size to show off your plants while keeping them safe and sound.
Best Grow Light for a Greenhouse
Are you tired of your plants looking like they’re in a constant state of “meh”? Well, have no fear, the Bootstrap Farmer’s 48-inch LED Strip Grow Lights are here! These bad boys are the ultimate power pack for all your greenhouse growing needs.
With the ability to mount them overhead, vertically, or horizontally, you can finally say goodbye to that one plant that always seems to be stuck in the shadows. Plus, you can connect up to seven lights with a single power cord, talk about efficiency!
But wait, there’s more! These lights mimic bright daylight with a cool white, 6400K (blue) spectrum, making them perfect for the seedling stage. And with the NanoTech T5 reflector capturing 99.9% of lost light, your plants will finally have the chance to shine (literally). Plus, with a reflective shield that makes them splash and dust-resistant, you’ll never have to worry about cleaning them again. And did we mention they’re rated for 50,000 hours?
So, if you’re looking to give your plants the best chance at reaching their full potential, Bootstrap Farmer’s LED Strip Grow Lights are the way to go. And who knows, with all this extra light, you might even be able to grow tropical plants in your greenhouse during a cold frame winter! (Okay, maybe not, but it’s worth a shot, right?)
How to Prepare Your Site for a Greenhouse
When building your own greenhouse, it’s important to remember that the foundation is fundamental. Without a secure and level base, you’ll be in trouble. We’ve seen it all. But don’t worry; we’re here to guide you through the process and ensure your greenhouse passes the test.
The first thing to consider is the type of soil you have. You’ll need to use concrete or slabs if it’s light and sandy. And if it’s not level or has a slight slope, you’ll need to build it up using more soil and compact it firmly. Make sure to fix that loose soil first.
Another option is to build a solid perimeter for the base to sit on, using breeze blocks, paving slabs, or concrete. This can also be built above ground level, but be careful to fix the base to the concrete using heavy-duty hardware and screws. This option is cost-effective and provides a good solid structure to build your greenhouse. The disadvantage is that it’s quite tricky to keep level when constructing, and the measurements need to be very accurate.
Finally, you can also use slabs or paving. These are easier to level but are a bit more expensive. Don’t let that discourage you, though. It’s worth the investment for a long-term, stable foundation.
So, when preparing the site for your greenhouse, Take your time, measure twice, and level that base like your life depends on it. Because, in the grand scheme of things, it does !!!
How to Assemble or Install a Greenhouse for Plants (General Steps)
Are you ready to become a green thumb master? Well, let’s get to assembling and installing that greenhouse of yours! Remember, not all greenhouses are built the same or need the same structural integrity, so be sure to inspect the recommendations for your greenhouse model closely.
1. Choose a Suitable Location
Choosing the right spot for your greenhouse is crucial. You want to make sure it gets plenty of sunlight, isn’t in the path of falling trees, and is protected from the wind. And as we saw earlier, flat ground is critical for a solid foundation.
2. Take Measurements and Prepare the Base
Now that you’ve chosen the perfect spot, it’s the best time to measure and prepare the base. Take your tape measure, calculate the ideal area, and dig out a few inches of soil. Ensure the area is square, and remember to level it out if needed.
3. Lay the Foundation Frame
It’s time to build the foundation frame. Whether you choose wood, concrete, or bricks, make sure it’s screwed properly and set it firmly into the ground. Fill and level the earth if needed, and don’t forget to use anchors and screw eyes for extra protection.
4. Install the Greenhouse Kit
This is where things get tricky, but don’t worry. The instructions will guide you. General procedures to assemble most greenhouses are to start assembling the smaller parts of the frame, then the door and roof ridge. Connect the wood frame and metal frame with screws, and position the sidewall and back wall. Don’t forget to trim the wall panel and put the gutter in place.
5. Finalize the Frame
Now that the mainframe is set, it’s time to add support braces and cover the roof with glass or polycarbonate panels. Make sure every panel is in place so that the cold frames stay tight and solid. Seal the gutter, add a roof vent opener, and position the door. And don’t forget to circle the greenhouse and check for any flaws before declaring victory.
Remember, even though it’s a DIY task, you’ll need a helping hand and some patience. But once it’s all done, you’ll have your own little oasis, and you’ll be glad of your personal accomplishment.
Tips for Maintaining Your Greenhouse
Now that you’ve built your very own greenhouse, it’s time to take on the role of a green thumb boss and keep it in tip-top shape.
The first thing to remember is that prevention is key, so thoroughly inspecting every plant that enters your greenhouse is a must. You wouldn’t want any pesky critters sneaking in and multiplying faster than you can say, “Ladybug!” Speaking of ladybugs, they make a great natural predator for common greenhouse pests, so consider releasing them or purchasing egg cases for your greenhouse.
In addition to pest control, regular maintenance, cleaning, and sterilization is a good choice. A little bit of environmentally friendly soap and warm water goes a long way in keeping surfaces clean. For those who want to take it a step further, fumigating your greenhouse yearly or biyearly can also help keep pests at bay.
But pest control and cleaning aren’t all there is to it. Daily observations are also important. Keep an eye out for holes in leaves or insect sounds, and if you spot an infested plant, remove it immediately before the pests spread to other plants, or try using insecticidal soap.
Don’t forget about the ventilation system. You’ll have to check it frequently to ensure it’s functioning correctly. And if the shutters and louvers are squeaking, a little oil can go a long way in making sure they open and close smoothly.
Lastly, check the water tank and irrigation system every few months; hoses can become clogged or develop fissures, so they may need replacement and proper care.
Maintaining a greenhouse is no easy feat, but with the right mindset and willingness, we’re convinced you’ll manage to keep your greenhouse in mint condition.
Greenhouse Gardening Techniques
Greenhouse Climate Control
First off, let’s talk temperature. Providing cover for your plants is great, but it doesn’t guarantee optimal temperatures. Most growers resort to heating or cooling the air to reach that sweet spot for their plants. But before you start cranking up the AC or turning on the heater, consider the type of crop and location of your greenhouse. The need for heating or cooling will vary depending on these factors.
There are various ways to heat a greenhouse, from ground heating to heat pipes to CHP systems (combined heat and power). And don’t forget about thermal screens – they help trap heat inside the greenhouse, reducing the need for additional heating. But not all greenhouses need heating; some need cooling. Common cooling options include air conditioning, HVAC, and wet pads and fans.
Now, onto humidity. Like temperature, plants have an ideal range for humidity. Keeping humidity within that range helps plants metabolize, develop, bear fruit, and remain healthy and strong. But, as with temperature, achieving optimal humidity can be a challenge.
Low humidity, or on the contrary, excessive moist conditions, can lead to water stress in plants. To combat this, you can use misting systems or wet pads to increase humidity. On the other hand, high relative humidity can also be a problem. When humidity is too high, transpiration becomes impossible, and disease and mildew outbreaks can happen. To decrease humidity, traditional approaches include ventilation, but this can be inefficient and costly. Rather, consider using dehumidifiers or desiccant dehumidification systems to keep humidity levels in check.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an essential element for plant growth, especially in greenhouses due to its closed structure. Co2 is used for photosynthesis. In closed greenhouses, the levels of CO2 can be low and need to be supplemented. This can be done through CO2 generators, burning fossil fuels, or via CO2 enrichment systems. It is important to scrutinize the CO2 levels and ensure they stay within the optimal range for plant growth.
In summary, small or large greenhouses can be a fantastic tool for cultivating a wide variety of plants, but they can still demand hard work on your part. Your greenhouse is basically its own microclimate, and it requires consistent monitoring, maintenance, and attention to keep it running smoothly. If you respect the process, you’ll end up with an ideal environment for your plants. With the right care and attention, you’ll be well on your way to producing lush, healthy plants all year round.
Upgrading to Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions
If you’re looking for a way to use less water and use renewable energy sources in a greenhouse, the key is to think outside the box and be creative.
Starting with water conservation, one of the best ways to conserve water in your greenhouse is by installing a drip irrigation system. This unique and amazing method of watering delivers water straight to the roots of your plants in a steady and controlled manner, preserving water and reducing the amount lost to evaporation and runoff. It’s like giving your plants a sip of water from a straw instead of drenching them with a hose. Trust us, your plants will thank you, and so will the environment.
Another way to conserve water is by using grey water, which is leftover water from showers, sinks, and washing machines. This water can be accumulated and used to water your small plants, saving fresh water for other, more practical uses.
Alternative energy sources like solar energy are a perfect option for greenhouses because they are renewable and abundant. You can harness the sun’s power to provide heat and electricity by installing solar panels on the greenhouse’s roof. If your greenhouse has plants that need bright light, you can opt for transparent solar energy panels. These panels allow sunlight to pass through them, thus providing maximum sunlight to your greenhouse.
Wind power is another energy source to be exploited that can be used in greenhouses. By installing a small wind turbine on the parcel, you can yield electricity to power the lights and additional electrical devices in your greenhouse.
Lastly, geothermal energy is a great option for gardeners located in volcanic areas with a lot of activity. This energy source is harnessed directly from the warm soil by drilling deep down into the earth and using the heat from the earth’s core to provide heat for the greenhouse.
Conserving water and using alternative energy sources in your greenhouse may seem daunting at first, but with some creativity and careful consideration, you’ll find ways to make it work for you and your loved ones.
Some of the Best Greenhouse Plants
Greenhouses are a fantastic way to push the growing season past its prime and grow a variety of plants that may not thrive in your local climate. Whether you’re a seasoned greenhouse gardener or just starting out, there are a few specific kind of plants that do particularly well in these controlled environments. From tropical fruits to colorful flowers, here are some top choices for any greenhouse owner.
Citrus Fruits / Citrus Trees
Nothing says tropical paradise quite like a lush citrus tree bearing juicy fruit. Whether you choose oranges, lemons, limes, or grapefruits, these trees are an ideal addition to any warm greenhouse with ample sunshine.
Love the taste of a sun-ripened tomato but live in a short-season climate? Greenhouses provide the perfect solution for growing these beloved fruits. Try container-friendly varieties like ‘Purple Zebra’ or determinate (bush) tomatoes like ‘Oregon Spring’ for best results.
Hot or Mild Peppers
Peppers are another warm-weather-loving crop that can be a challenge to grow in colder climates. Greenhouses deliver the perfect environment for these spicy or sweet delights. Try high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties like ‘Pot-a-peno’ or ‘Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry’ for container gardening.
Nothing screams summer like a juicy watermelon or cantaloupe. Greenhouses provide the right conditions for growing these lovely fruits, with a broad range of different varieties to choose from, including ‘Mini Love’ watermelon and ‘Minnesota Midget’ cantaloupe.
These adaptable vegetables are a staple in many kitchens, and it happens that they’re also well-suited for greenhouse gardening. Try space-saving varieties like ‘Spacemaster’ for amazing results.
Green onions, also known as scallions, are the perfect addition to any greenhouse garden. Not only do they add a pop of color and flavor to any dish, but they also grow quickly and efficiently in a controlled environment. Unlike sweet and dry onions, green onions don’t require months of waiting and high temperatures to produce a bountiful harvest.
Geraniums are a greenhouse favorite, as they deliver a splash of color and a wonderful scent that quickly fills a greenhouse. The best part is that Geraniums thrive in greenhouses due to their love for the conditions in the controlled environment, as most other tender plants.
Common Problems with Owning and Operating a Greenhouse
Greenhouses are a great way to grow plants year-round, but they come with their own set of unique problems. From clogged air filters to temperature swings, it’s important to stay on top of things to ensure your plants are happy and healthy.
1. Air Filtration
Greenhouses are typically forced air/positive pressure environments, which means they should be equipped with air filtration and sterilization capabilities on both the intake and exhausted air. This is to prevent pests and diseases from entering. However, the air movement can be reduced if the filters get clogged, leading to poor ventilation and potential disease episodes. Keep an eye on your filters and change them as needed.
2. Temperature Swings
Whether it’s a heatwave or a cold spell, extreme temperatures can wreak mayhem on your plants. To combat this, many greenhouse owners use shade cloth or a greenhouse whitewash to control the high temperature. A whitewash is a non-permanent paint that can be applied to the greenhouse glass to reduce radiant daytime temperatures. However, it can also impact the amount of light reaching your plants, so it’s important to find the right balance.
3. Heating and Cooling
In colder climates, Having a heating system is a must. But an inefficient heating system can be expensive and even dangerous. Inspect and repair your heating system in the early spring to ensure it’s working correctly. On the other hand, in warmer climates, an air conditioning system must control the greenhouse temperature.
4. Pests and Diseases
Greenhouses can also be a breeding ground for pests and diseases if not properly maintained. Regularly check for signs of infestation and address them as soon as you can.
5. EC/Nutrient Level Spikes
Greenhouse growers should always be mindful of the EC (electrical conductivity) and nutrient levels in their irrigation water. High EC levels can lead to nutrient burn and plant damage, while low levels can result in nutrient deficiencies. EC and nutrient level spikes can also cause pH imbalances in the water, which can be detrimental to plant growth. To avoid these issues, it’s important to regularly test and adjust EC and nutrient levels, and pH in the irrigation water.
6. Crops Drying Out
Plants can dry out quickly due to the warm, dry air and increased light levels. A lack of humidity, poor air circulation, or a malfunctioning irrigation system can be the root of this problem. To prevent this, you’ll have to regularly monitor humidity levels, use humidifiers or misters if you can, and keep a close eye on the irrigation system to ensure it functions like a charm and provides plants with the appropriate amount of water. Additionally, keep an eye out for wilting leaves and to address the issue as soon as you notice them.
7. Choice Limitations
Besides helping grow crops in a safe environment, greenhouses put limitations on the choices of plants we need to cultivate. Typically, greenhouses have a set environment that is specific for specific kinds of crops. A wide range of crops cannot be grown simultaneously, as different crops have different growing requirements.
How Much Does a Greenhouse Cost?
How long is a piece of string? Freestanding greenhouses commonly range between $2,000 and $30,000, with the average price falling somewhere around $15,000. But not everyone needs a large freestanding greenhouse, in which case you can find mini-greenhouses at most box store retailers that go for as low as $50.
Expect to pay anywhere from $2.00 to $35.00 per square foot. The larger the greenhouse, the more money you can expect to pay.
Basically, you can spend as much or as little on a greenhouse as you can afford. Of course, the more affordable greenhouses will have far fewer features, if any at all, and you may need to put in a bit of work on your own to get them up to standard. Still, these are typically easy tasks that don’t take a ton of time to complete.
If you are only a new hobbyist in the gardening space, consider a quick, low to no-cost DIY project to get you started. There are tons of online tutorials for gardening projects that won’t cost you much money or time to execute.
A Greenhouse for Plants Gives Your Home a Garden Vibe
Having a greenhouse for plants is a killer way to keep your leafy greens in a protective space, and we hope we helped you reach that goal on some level with this article.
We’ve uncovered a lot of ground today, from the basics of greenhouse construction and design to the management of maintaining optimal temperature, light, and humidity levels for your plants. We’ve even delved into the world of alternative renewable energy sources and water-saving techniques.
And let’s not forget about the stars of the show, the plants themselves. From citrus trees and tomatoes to hot peppers and cucumbers, we’ve summarized the best options for greenhouse gardening.
But wait, there’s more! If you’re still thirsty (and hungry) for knowledge (or just really love gardening), check out the rest of our home gardening articles here on pottedexotics.com, where you’ll find a wealth of information on all things greenhouse and exotic plants.
From tips on how to care for your orchids to the latest news on cutting-edge greenhouse technology, we’ve got you covered. So don’t be a stranger, green thumbs, and keep exploring the wonderful gardening world with us!