Maintaining a greenhouse is very challenging, hence selection of the building style, framing material, glazing, and other aspects is done with utmost care. Clear your doubts about choosing a perfect greenhouse that meets your requirements, through this information.
Gardening is something more than a pastime for many people. Indeed it is a relaxing exercise to nurture plants and provide them with their requisites. While there are ample varieties of vegetables, flowers, and fruits to choose from, some of them are difficult to maintain in particular seasons of the year.
This is where the need for greenhouse or glasshouse comes into the picture. This enclosed building is the perfect place for growing plants irrespective of the season and environmental conditions. However, there are certain things that should be considered while choosing a greenhouse.
How to Choose a Greenhouse
For a plant enthusiast, nothing could be more exciting than erecting a greenhouse. If you are interested in maintaining the same, you can think of purchasing a greenhouse kit or building a greenhouse. With the former case, everything that you will need for setting up a greenhouse comes in the kit.
This option is excellent for people who don't know much about construction work, and for those who want to wind up the project quickly. Whether you are buying the kit or building one, here are some important things to know before investing in a greenhouse.
Locate the Greenhouse
Options: East-west and North-south direction For this project, the first step is choosing an ideal greenhouse site and deciding its size. A greenhouse works by trapping solar radiation and converting it into heat (thermal energy).
Thus, an area that gets maximum sunlight is excellent. Make sure that the site is not shaded by a building, large trees, or major structures. As for the size, it can be a mini version, window attached unit, or a large one, depending upon your area size and plan.
Decide the Greenhouse Style
Options: Lean-to, Even-span, Span roof type, Glass-to-ground type, Quonset , Gothic Arch, Cold frame, and A-frame There are several choices of greenhouse structural frames.
As the name goes, the lean-to unit is not a freestanding structure, but it is attached to the house or garage. For this style, accessibility to water and electricity is not a concern. In case of freestanding types, consider the building cost along with availability of water and heat source. Of the several independent greenhouses, span roof type is common.
Choose the Foundation
Options: Concrete slab, Concrete wall, and Wood foundation The greenhouse should be built on a strong foundation.
To support the weight of large units and those having heavy frame materials like glass and fiberglass, go for a poured concrete base or similar permanent foundation. For smaller versions, wood foundation is a good alternative. Pressure treated cedar, redwood, and cypress, which are resistant to moisture and decay are preferred over the softwood types.
Best Frame Material
Options: Wood, Aluminum, Galvanized steel, Resin, and PVC plastic A good greenhouse frame should be of great strength and provide insulation. Wood meets both the criteria, but at times, it becomes the site for mold growth, disease infestation.
Also, wood frame is quite pricey. Aluminum and resin are less expensive and offer strength, however, they fail in terms of insulation. Lastly, the PVC frame works well for insulation, but its strength is not up to the mark.
Covering or Glazing
Options: Glass, Fiberglass, Film plastic, and Double-wall plastic Greenhouse glazing or covering is selected based on the factors - heat retention, light penetration, durability, reparability, and budget.
While glass reduces heat loss and maintains humidity levels, it is expensive, fragile, and calls for solid foundation. A cost-saving alternative is plastic, but it requires replacement after every one or two years. Likewise, each of the greenhouse covering has its own pros and cons.
Options: Hand watering and Automatic watering As far as the irrigation of crop plants in a greenhouse is concerned, you have two alternatives; either you can water manually or you can install automatic irrigation systems.
Watering by hand is practical for lesser number of plants, but not for larger greenhouses. The automatic type is supported with a timer or mechanical evaporation sensor. While the cost of fixing this system is high, it is beneficial for busy hobbyists.
Options: Electric lighting and Solar lighting The main objective behind building a greenhouse is cultivating the plants even in the least hospitable conditions.
As expected, light exposure is less in winter and rainy seasons. In such cases, artificial lighting is essential to replace natural sunlight for getting a good harvest. In addition, supplying additional sources of carbon dioxide (e.g., dry ice and bottled CO2) will increase the productivity of crops.
Options: Electric heater, Gas heater, Oil heater, and Solar heater The working of a greenhouse largely depends on the day and night temperature inside the building.
As it is an insulated structure, heating system is crucial for healthy growth of greenhouse plants during winter. According to your convenience and budget, you can use a heater powered by electricity, gas, oil, wood, or sun's energy. Similarly, there should be cooling arrangements for the hot summer months.
Type of Ventilation
Options: Natural ventilation (roof vents, side vents, louver vents) and Mechanical ventilation (exhaust fan, motorized inlet louvers) Adequate ventilation is crucial for efficient functioning of a greenhouse.
And when it comes to removing warm air from the inside, roof vents work well. On the contrary, side vents collect cool air from the outside to support optimal growth of the cultivated vegetables, fruits, and flowers. In case of mechanical ventilation, the exhaust fan drives away warm air and inlet louvers allow entry of cool air.
Options: Air-mixing fans One of the basic things to know before building a greenhouse is the arrangement for air circulation. The logic behind installing fans in appropriate places is to ensure uniform temperature inside the greenhouse.
Hence, it is necessary during winters, i.e., when heating systems are used to warm up the greenhouse. Otherwise, warm air rises near to the roof, and cool, heavy air settles down at the ground level.
Last but not the least, the flooring of your greenhouse should be leveled with walkways for easy access to the plants. Permanent flooring is not suited as it tends to accumulate moisture.
If you know someone who already owns a greenhouse unit, you can take opinion about choosing and buying durable parts. In short, analyze the review of the building components before finalizing them. With careful planning, you can build a fully functional and durable greenhouse, where you can grow luxuriant plants in controlled environmental conditions.