Choosing a Greenhouse

Careful planning will pay off when selecting and putting up a greenhouse.

Seedling in a Greenhouse

Seedling in a Greenhouse

Having a greenhouse means never having to give up gardening because of the weather. You can continue to propagate seeds and cuttings and grow a variety of plants from season to season. Having a home greenhouse is a dream for many gardeners, and there are many styles and sizes that fit most budgets and space considerations. When deciding on a style for your home, the sky's the limit. There are small solariums, medium-size greenhouses and larger structures like conservatories.

You'll find most greenhouses are made from aluminum, which is lightweight and weatherproof. Galvanized steel is also lightweight and very sturdy. You can also use wood, but be sure to choose pressure treated lumber, cedar or redwood for weather resistance. No matter which type of greenhouse you decide on, there are several considerations when choosing a building site:

Light

  • Sun-loving plants need six hours of sunlight. Sites with less need supplemental light.
  • A sheltered area is good, but too much shade results in poor growth. Look for trees, shrubs and structures that may cast shade.
  • Southern exposure is best, east or west is okay, but northern exposure is probably too shady.

Exposure

  • If the site is too exposed, it will be costly to heat in winter and keep cool in summer. Insulation can help in this situation.
  • Protection from wind will keep the greenhouse sturdy longer.
  • Too much shelter can mean not enough light.

Foundation

  • Be especially careful to choose a level area where water doesn't collect.
  • Many foundations are dug in and then filled with concrete.
  • Plan ahead when possible; the less frozen, wet or snow-covered your yard is the easier it is to lay the foundation. Contractors can thaw frozen ground and move snow, but it costs more.

Proximity

  • Putting a greenhouse against a house makes connecting water, gas and electricity easier.
  • The area in front of the greenhouse should be clear of obstacles.
  • The path leading to the greenhouse should be level and wide enough for a wheelbarrow. Be sure the ground is hard enough to withstand wheelbarrow traffic.

Materials

  • Galvanized steel, which is lightweight, is sturdy and won't rust. It can withstand weight up to 100 pounds. It's also good for windy areas because it can withstand winds up to 70 miles per hour, making it a good choice for inclement weather.
  • The greenhouse walls can be constructed from glass, which is heavy and can be expensive; film plastic, which is economical but not insulating enough for colder regions; or a rigid plastic, which is shatterproof and retains heat.

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