By: Charlene Rennick
Growing your own plants is a rewarding and educational hobby. If your green thumb is itching for a challenge beyond the window ledges, starting your own greenhouse may be your next step.
Making some detailed plans is vital to the success of your greenhouse project. Reading about the options for size, location, materials and accessories is important to achieving a satisfactory outcome. Decide what you want to grow, an amount you wish to harvest and how much space you will need to produce this.
Take stock of your growing season and investigate an average weather report you are likely to experience during your extended greenhouse growing period. This prediction will help determine the materials you need and your options for anchoring it to the ground (unless you are using a lean-to model or staying with the indoor version). An average temperature reading for the type of plant you intend to grow will need to be co-ordinated with the materials; some plants need more light than others and some need more shade. Another important point to consider is whether or not your warm weather is hot enough to require extra ventilation in order to maintain a healthy growing environment. Your greenhouse will need to be equipped to adapt to the changes in air flow and the alternating needs between a cooling fan and a heat dispensing one. If you live in an area that is subject to high winds and drastic weather, consider building a protective fence or locating your greenhouse on the lee-side of a wind break.
A Sturdy Greenhouse Starts with a Solid Foundation
Making sure that the ground is level is an important first step. Even if you are attaching your greenhouse to an existing wall, the ground underneath may not be level. Sliding pots and water containers can create unnecessary spills which ripple the damage toward other plants. Make sure you have adequate outside drainage and that any slopes fall away from the structure or you will find yourself floating after a good rainfall. If you have taken on the larger outdoor structure and intend to make it a permanent building, a poured concrete base or a wood built one is your best bet. Get some good advice from a certified contractor. You may even need a building permit. Make sure you are accessible to electrical power and a water supply. Investigate using a rain barrel to collect run-off from the roof to save carbon emissions and water usage.
Making the Most of Your Sunlight
Plants make their own food through a process called photosynthesis which uses sunlight to convert sugars and starches into energy; therefore, positioning your greenhouse where it will have the most sunlight hours available will give your plants the heads up on food production. Morning sun gets this process going early and gives your plants the most kick out of the day. A south-facing location usually has the most sun hours and north has the least. Eastern exposures get the best sun in the winter and west facing structures don’t get any action until later in the day. A strategically placed deciduous tree will provide some protection from the strong rays of the sun in summer months and allow extra light in during those winter months when the branches are bare. Make sure your greenhouse is equipped for the option of using shades to reduce exposure when the sun is too intense or if your selection of fauna prefers more shade than sun. If you have both types of plants, the shade can serve as a divider.
Once your basic blueprint is designed, you can begin to contemplate some pros and cons of construction materials.