Imagine biting into a juicy, flavorful tomato mid-March or enjoying orchid blooms in February. For many gardeners, the chilly temperatures and lack of sunlight in winter make these scenarios the faintest of fantasies. But with a greenhouse, you can enjoy tropical plants and warm-season edibles all year round. There are many ways to create your own greenhouse, from building a kit-style greenhouse to DIY-ing it to using cold frames to extend the growing season.
Picking a Greenhouse Style
How much space do you have for a greenhouse? If you live in an apartment and garden on your balcony, a cold frame may be your best bet. This resembles a wooden box with a glass or Plexiglas lid. The lid insulates the cold frame so you can start seeds earlier in the spring and extend your growing season past the last frost date. Turn cold frames into hot frames by placing heaters beneath the box.
If you’ve got a large backyard garden and a sunny area– shade will not offer enough heat and light for this venture — create your own standing greenhouse. Kits snap together for easy assembly, while online plans teach you how to create a greenhouse out of PVC pipes, wood, plastic bottles and other materials.
Before you build this type of structure, create a foundation with landscape fabric, which will keep the weeds out. Add a 4-inch layer of gravel, which gives water somewhere to go so it doesn’t puddle beneath the greenhouse. Browse garden and design blogs to view styles and get inspiration for your greenhouse, then build your own for find a greenhouse kit that includes all the necessary supplies.
What You’ll Need
While the greenhouse structure does most of the work for you, you’ll need additional supplies to keep your plants healthy and happy. A proper foundation keeps grass from growing inside your greenhouse. Tropical plants and edibles need to be kept warm in the winter. Use heaters to keep the interior at or above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, so plants don’t freeze. To easily track greenhouse temperature, install a wall thermometer. If temperatures climb too high, turn down the heater or open the door or window to allow the excess heat and moisture to escape.
Greenhouse plants should have light 12 hours per day, which makes natural light super important. Overhead lighting allows you to illuminate plants during winter when you have less natural light, and on cloudy days as well. Look for plant grow lights, then use a 125-wall high-pressure sodium bulb, which simulates sunlight better than incandescent lights.
You’ll also need a system for watering the plants. Misting works well and is manageable in a small area. For larger greenhouses, you may want to install irrigation tubing with tiny holes that allow you to water the plants. Provide mist via an overhead track of irrigation tubing. This tubing stretches, so can conform to any greenhouse layout. Installing it takes a bit of time but once it’s up, it requires no maintenance.
Green your water supply by keeping a rain barrel on hand. These collect natural rainfall and store it. An adapted barrel that fits a hose allows you to water garden and greenhouse plants with reclaimed water, cutting down on your use of natural resources.
Give greenhouse growing a try! The initial setup can be intimidating, but newbie-friendly kits help you get started. Greenhouse plants require regular monitoring but do not need time-intensive care. The rewards of growing your own food and lush plants during the dreary winter months will quickly make up for any work you have to do.
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