If you have plans to build your own greenhouse – or plan to have a contractor build one for you – there are a few things you need to know.
With summer quickly turning to fall, those with vegetable and flower gardens are facing the stark realization that in the very near future their hard work might disappear along with the warm temperatures and dry days. There are really only two options: hope for a mild winter and grow hearty flora that can resist the temperatures, or tell the weather it isn’t the boss of you and build your own greenhouse.
If you decide to defy nature and go the greenhouse way, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Building a greenhouse can be tricky, and depending on how ambitious you are it might require permits from your local government. If you plan to go really big, you may even need an electrician to come out and do some wiring for you. All of this is going to take time, money, and – more importantly – expertise.
Even if you plan to do the work yourself, consult with a professional first. Even a small greenhouse is a big job, and if nothing else, choosing the right materials can make all the difference. So consult with someone that can help you every step of the way, from the design to the purchasing to the permits (if any are needed).
Choose the Right Location
Like the old adage states, “location is everything.” While not quite the same, in the case of a greenhouse that has multiple meanings.
To begin with, you’ll need to make sure you have enough room on your property to do a greenhouse justice, at least for your own needs. Greenhouses for residential locations can be the size of sheds or the size of garages, so first you’ll need to decide what you want and where it is going.
Once you do that, you’ll then need to determine the greenhouse’s location in relationship to the sun. The more sunlight the better, of course, but again the materials will make a big difference here (see the “Glazing” section for more details on that).
Design Your Greenhouse (or Hire a Professional to Design It)
When designing your greenhouse, it’s vital that you have an idea of exactly what you want to grow. Properly pruning any vegetation can keep things under control, but you don’t want to plant anything that will grow so strong and fast that it might outgrow the greenhouse.
You will also need to determine exactly how you will want to plant your flora. Do you want to put it on shelves? Do you want raised garden beds, and if so how big? These are things that you’ll need to know before you start work.
Another major question you’ll need to answer is what type of floor you will use, and there are pros and cons to all of the options. Many greenhouse owners prefer a concrete or tile floor. Both ensure that there’s no unwanted growth from the floor below (i.e. weeds), and They are easy to clean. You won’t, of course, be able to use the ground to grow anything, and concrete floors will also affect the climate in the enclosure, which can be good or bad depending on what your plans are.
Dirt floors are an option that will allow you to plant directly into the ground, which may make things significantly easier, but there are big downsides as well. Dirt floors tend to get very muddy in the winter, and you’ll need to constantly keep an eye on unwanted growth. Insects and bacteria may be a problem too. Plus, if the ground outside is very cold, a greenhouse alone won’t be able to compensate for that.
A third option many people choose is to use gravel for the floor. It will keep out weeds, help regulate the temperature, and the gravel will trap in the moisture. It does tend to cost a little more, however, and you won’t be able to use the floor to plant anything.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong greenhouse floor, it’s just a matter of preference.
What Environment Do you Need?
Depending on what you hope to grow, you may need to alter the internal environment – or at least prepare to alter it when the weather changes. The easiest way to control the environment is to install hi-tech environmental controls, including heaters and fans, but that may not be a realistic option for most causal green thumbs.
A simpler way to regulate the temperature is to build your greenhouse with built-in options, like windows that open. You may also want to consider having some form of retractable screen, or even a plastic sheet that you can put up in the winter to insulate the greenhouse. And while a full heating unit may not be realistic, a single plug-in heater might be enough for a small room – likewise, a box fan in the summer might help.
You should also build for your local climate. If your area tends to get very cold, you should consider that when building and factor in insulation like concrete blocks around the base of the greenhouse.
Determine the Glazing
One of the most important factors in building a greenhouse is the glazing you use for the roof and sides. Glass is traditionally a great choice for a greenhouse in terms of the light it allows in, but it is also easily broken. One bad storm and your greenhouse – and everything in it – might be destroyed under a layer of glass shards.
Fiberglass is a popular choice, but it comes with some tradeoffs as well. It’s durable and will last a long time, but fiberglass is discolored and limits the light. Another option is polyethylene, which can be expensive, but it is durable and allows plenty of light in. It tends to degrade relatively quickly though, so you’d need to replace it every few years.
Arguably the best option in terms of light saturation and durability is acrylic, but that is also the most expensive of the bunch.
Talk to a Professional to Help You Build Your Own Greenhouse
You can jump online and find tips on how to build your own greenhouse, but ultimately you will save yourself both time and frustration if you start by speaking to a professional first.
If you’d like to schedule a consultation, contact Fleschner Construction today!