Are you ready to start growing your own crops? Do you have a herb garden and are you planning to take it to the next level? Or is your new years resolution to eat healthier? Install a greenhouse in your backyard and prepare to be amazed! Stress reduction: check. Healthy food: check. Environmentally friendly: check. Cost efficiënt: check. Need we say more?
Glass, polycarbonate or plastic foil?
The material of your greenhouse can consist of glass, polycarbonate or plastic foil. The material that suits you best depends on your available budget and demands.
The most popular and widely sold greenhouses are made out of polycarbonate panels. These greenhouses come in many shapes and forms and are budget friendly, easy to assemble and very strong. They are made out of double plates of polycarbonate and isolate 40 % better than glass, which helps the temperature in the greenhouse to stay stable. On top of this, the material is very strong, and the sunbeams are filtered. If you want to heat the greenhouse during winter, a polycarbonate greenhouse is a good choice, given the insulation qualities it has. This type of greenhouse offers a lot of budget options. You can buy a bigger greenhouse for a much lower price than the traditional glass greenhouses. A small disadvantage is that the polycarbonate greenhouse has a slightly shorter lifespan than glass greenhouses and might not look as spectacular as a real Victorian model. Over the last years the quality of polycarbonate greenhouses has improved a lot, making it the perfect alternative for a glass greenhouse.
Glass greenhouses were the original greenhouses and offer a beautiful addition to your backyard, especially the Victorian greenhouses are a real showstopper. Nowadays, most glass greenhouses are made out of safety glass, which is a lot stronger than the horticultural glass that was used in the olden days. Glass greenhouses come in many different designs, you can go for clear glass, milky glass or even a patterned glass. Often, the roof of the greenhouse is made out of hammered glass because this helps the light to shine evenly through the greenhouse and it breaks the direct sun rays. Glass greenhouses are extremely weather resistant and are the most durable kind of greenhouses. The stunning designs and durability do come with a price tag. Glass greenhouses are the most expensive type of greenhouses and especially for a beginning greenhouse enthousiast, this might be stretching your budget a bit too far.
If you are looking for the most budget friendly greenhouses, you will find the tunnel greenhouses might be a good option for you. Tunnel greenhouses use polyethylene foils which are attached to an aluminum frame. Plastic foils will last 3 to 5 years, which is a lot shorter than the glass or polycarbonate alternatives. Tunnel greenhouses will fail to give you the ‘greenhouse experience’, as you can’t roam around getting your hands dirty. You won’t be able to use it during winter as the insulation is very basic and will only protect your crops from wind and rain. After a couple of years, the plastic greenhouse will become fragile due to UV beams and weather conditions. The most common reason why you would choose a tunnel greenhouse is the low cost and the possibility to move the greenhouse easily.
My first greenhouse was a polycarbonate greenhouse, and I would recommend this budget friendly and practical option to every greenhouse beginner. The Victorian glass greenhouses are beautiful, but the investment might be too high when you’re not sure yet about how much time and energy you are able to spend in this. Tunnel greenhouses can protect your plants but won’t give you the heating options during winter and you won’t be able to roam around in them and enjoy the peace and quiet my greenhouse offers me.
Which material should your frame be?
Wood or aluminum
Wooden greenhouses offer a beautiful and natural look and fit perfectly in every backyard. However they are becoming less and less popular because the wood is less weather resistant, heavier and more expensive than the popular aluminum frames. Most wooden greenhouses are made out of Canadian Ceder wood, this wood is resistant to humidity and is not influenced by temperature differences.
Currently, aluminum greenhouses are the most popular greenhouses. They are light, durable and need a minimum of maintenance. Aluminum greenhouses have very narrow grooves which allow a maximum amount of light to reach the plants. Make sure your greenhouses is anchored well, aluminum is an extremely light material and you don’t want the wind to move or break your greenhouse.
How large should your greenhouse be?
Ahhh.. This is a big one. How many plants will you want to grow? How ambitious are you? What size is your backyard? How much time will you have to spend in your little piece of garden heaven? Deciding on a greenhouse size is not an easy one. Luckily, we have written an entire article to help you choose the perfect greenhouse size for you.
Here are a couple of things that are good to take into account while making the decision. A large greenhouse offers some advantages, as the temperature will be more stable. It will also allow you to create a little seating area, perfect to unwind after a busy day. The general rule of thumb is that your greenhouse will feel too small really fast. So maybe just go for one size bigger than you were planning and you should be good to go for the next couple of years.
The importance of ventilation
A greenhouse needs to have at least one skylight per roof plane. Ventilation is very important as a greenhouse without skylights can become too hot during summer. With good ventilation, you also prevent the humidity to rise. You can open the windows by hand or install a hydraulic system that opens the windows automatically. These are not very expensive (they start at 75 dollars) and are easy to install. They will automatically open the windows in the greenhouse when the heat rises above a certain temperature and will close them when temperature decreases. At the front of the greenhouse, you can install a broad door to easily enter the greenhouse with a wheelbarrow. You should place skylights on the east side of the greenhouse, away from the cold Northern wind and rain.
Best place to install a greenhouse
While a greenhouse used to be purely functional and was often hidden in a corner of the yard, these days, people like to place the greenhouse in the center of the backyard and make sure the design is in harmony with the atmosphere. It’s usually placed in a sunny place, with not too much wind.
In general, a southern orientation (with the entrance south) is the way to go. This way the greenhouse will receive lots of sun in the summer and benefit from every available ray of sunshine during winter. If you however live in an extremely hot climate, it might be better to face your greenhouse east. You want to avoid temperatures from rising too high during spring and summer.
It’s best to place your greenhouse not too far from your house. It’s a place that you will be spending lots of time in, and if you would like to install water or electricity pipes, it’s easier if the greenhouse is close to the house.
Heating the greenhouse during winter
In an average hobby greenhouse you usually grow plants that have a hard time growing in open air, such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, paprika, and melon. When you want to use your greenhouse to have some of your outside plants survive winter, you will need to heat your greenhouse. There are many options for heating your greenhouse. While electricity and gas are still the most used ones, the newest and more environmentally friendly solar heating is becoming more and more popular.
No matter which system you choose, heating your greenhouse during winter can get a little expensive. It’s definitely necessary to insulate the greenhouse, for example with bubble wrap. A greenhouse with double sided polycarbonate is automatically better insulated, which can make a big difference in energy costs. When possible, always install a thermostat (low to the ground). This will not only help you keep the temperature in the greenhouse steady, but also to lower your energy costs.
The foundation of your greenhouse is very important. It will protect it against all possible pressure rising from the ground. Frost during winter can make the ground water rise unevenly into the foundation. During summer, the heat can make the ground sag.
A self-supporting aluminum foundation creates a perfect protection that can cope with the seasonal weather circumstances. It makes sure that the ground in the greenhouse is not separated from the ground outside which helps you to maintain the ground in the greenhouse. Another advantage of the aluminum foundation is that it’s possible to move the greenhouse, so you don’t have to leave your hard work behind.
When you choose a concrete foundation, you have to make sure the foundation is set 23” to 25” in the ground, right underneath the frosting border. You can level the platform that will hold the greenhouse. You need to make it flat at the side of the facades and to be curved on the surface over the entire length of the greenhouse so the rain water can flow away.
The most crucial life element for our plants is light itself. Lots of failures on growing plants, seeds and flowers find their cause in a lack of light. Especially between the middle of October until the end of April, the days are too short to be sure of strong plant growth. Young plants especially can go yellow, lose their bottom leafs or sadly just die.
A general rule is that plants need light about 14 hours per day if they want to grow well. Even the plants that are just in the greenhouse to survive winter need this amount of light. This means that during winter you need to add an average of 6 hours per day. The ideal time for this is during the evening, for example from dawn until bedtime.
About the different forms of artificial light and the different lamp types, there has already been a lot of scientific research and a lot of articles. When you’re a greenhouse beginner, we can recommend you our article concerning greenhouse lighting.
As the basis for your greenhouse, you need sterile, organic soil that is weed free. Before starting to grow, you need to bring the ground and the greenhouse to the right temperature.
Every fertiliser in the greenhouse needs to be organic. Make sure to use good digested stable fertiliser, compost or dried fertiliser. For the extra fertilisation that is almost always necessary under glass, chlorine-free mineral fertilisers should be used. This is because the greenhouse will need sowing and harvesting 2 to 3 times a year. The fertiliser is a key element in the success of the greenhouse.
Buying a greenhouse
A simple polycarbonate greenhouse of about 6 to 8 feet is available as of $450. Prices of bigger models vary between 700 and $3000. Glass greenhouses are more expensive and cost between $2000 and $4000. The price of a greenhouse is mostly dependent on the type, the kind of frame, the surface finish, the kind of glass, the foundations and the volume. Check out our article about the best greenhouse for your budget!
Congratulations, you are now ready to install your perfect greenhouse! Still in doubt whether growing in a greenhouse is the way to go for you? Let us convince you!