Guide To Greenhouse Technology
Simply put, a greenhouse is a building with a covering of glass, plastic or fiberglass that allows heat to build up inside the building. A greenhouse may be freestanding or built onto an existing building. A well-constructed greenhouse provides a controlled environment for growing plants of all types. There are a variety of styles and sizes to choose from when designing a greenhouse. Which is right for you will depend on your location, space, budget limitations, how you plan to use the greenhouse, and time commitments. Will you use a prepared kit to construct your greenhouse or do it all yourself, perhaps using recycled materials you already have on hand? Finding answers to these questions, planning, and making preparations before you begin constructing your greenhouse can save a lot of time, money, and frustration.
How exactly do you build a greenhouse? Construction and materials range from simple, lightweight materials such as PVC piping and a plastic covering for a cold frame style greenhouse that needs no heat, to elaborate framed construction and glass panels requiring venting and exhausts systems. Framing material may be PVC pipe, wood, or aluminum. PVC frames are not strong enough for areas that receive a lot of snow or high winds. Choice of covering material also needs to take into consideration the weather and seasonal extremes of your area. The design and construction of a greenhouse is very customizable. Speaking with the extension office in your area as well as visiting existing greenhouses and speaking with the owners concerning the advantages and disadvantages to designs and materials can help in choosing the right style, plan, and construction materials for your greenhouse. Construction begins with an adequate foundation, sturdy framing, and a covering that help contain heat within the greenhouse. Once you have your basic greenhouse built, you need to be prepared to control the environment and maintain conditions within the greenhouse to ensure healthy plant growth year round.
Maintaining the greenhouse and environmental control can quickly become overwhelming. Early understanding of the need to control temperature, lighting, humidity, and even CO2 levels is necessary to preventing disease or mold that can quickly destroy your plants. Maintaining a balanced environment within your greenhouse will require the use of fans, venting systems, heaters, and monitoring CO2 levels. While the thought of all these controls may seem a distraction from simply planting and enjoying your healthy fruits and vegetables year round, once you understand the basics and have a system in place it is easier to maintain than it seems at first glance. There is a lot of good information available free from your local county or state extension office, local greenhouse owners, and many gardening centers. Often you can attend free workshops or ask questions of experts to find the best way to begin planning your greenhouse in time for the next growing season.
The benefits of learning about greenhouse technology, building your own greenhouse and planning what fruits, vegetables or plants you will grow have many benefits psychologically, spiritually, and physically. Health benefits from greenhouse technology come from fresh fruits and vegetables. You control how they are grown and harvested and have no need to fear harmful pesticides. Food harvested and prepared within minutes provides full benefits from nutrients. The exercise involved in managing your greenhouse, planting, watering, and harvesting helps maintain strength, flexibility, and reduces stress. Greenhouse technology provides the opportunity to garden year round and extend the growing season while providing optimal growing conditions that protect your plants from unexplained extremes in weather. The psychological and spiritual benefits gained from knowing that you had a huge hands-on part in providing healthy food or beautiful flowers and plants for the enjoyment of your family can bring unexpected pleasures and memories to share with others.
For information in planning and constructing your own greenhouse, consult the following links.
- How Greenhouses Work – Gardening At Its Best! –This is a personal account of experience with greenhouses and the benefits provided in growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers year round. Compare a simple cold frame with a full heated greenhouse and learn basics involved in setting up and maintaining your greenhouse for the best plant health and growth conditions.
- Hobby Greenhouse: Operations and Practices (PDF) –In-depth information from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. In addition to general information in the construction and maintenance of a greenhouse, there are also a table comparing soil-less potting mixtures and watering guidelines. Most states have similar information available adjusted specific climate or environmental needs in your area.
- Growing Vegetables in Hobby Greenhouse- This Colorado State University Master Gardener information focuses on the benefits of growing vegetables in a greenhouse under controlled conditions. Further discussion including a passive solar system offers a solution to controlling temperature and keeping expenses reasonable. Tables listing the requirements for growing both Cool Season and Warm season vegetables provided information at a glance.
- Planning and Building a Greenhouse - This West Virginia University site provides a good amount of material for planning and building a greenhouse. Starting with the best location for building and includes information concerning maintenance.
- Build Your Own Greenhouse and you can Grow Produce Year Round - Frugal Living shows building your own greenhouse from a plan can save a lot of money over a greenhouse kit. Use of recycled material can cut costs even further.
- Building a Greenhouse - The Greenhouse Catalog offers plans, tips, and recommendations for building a greenhouse. They offer kits or plans to build your own. You will also find helpful articles here with growing tips, composting ideas and a FAQ section for concerns new greenhouse owners are often confused about.
- How to Build a Small, Cheap and Easy Greenhouse - This is a portable greenhouse. Very small but may be useful to protect plants over the winter in a milder climate, or as a temporary structure while a more permanent greenhouse is built. A complete supply list is included along with easy to follow instructions.
- Build An Easy And Cost-Effective Greenhouse In Your Backyard - Building a cost-effective greenhouse in your backyard is a worthwhile project that can quickly get out of hand, unless you have a plan! You can find plans here for a greenhouse to meet your needs. There are basic instructions on site along with further articles of interest. A YouTube video shows you a greenhouse under construction. There are links to purchase full-size plans here as well.
- Energy Efficient Greenhouse Construction Tips - Here you will find clearly stated, easy tips for building an energy efficient greenhouse. From the foundation to the coverings used, the materials you choose has a direct influence on energy control and regulation.
- Greenhouse Integrated Pest Management (IPM) - Part of greenhouse maintenance involves controlling pests. The best control is to inspect new plants and materials carefully prior to bringing them into the greenhouse. This site offers further treatment and control options useful in a home or hobby greenhouse as well as a larger commercial operation.
- Controlling All Possibilities (Greenhouse environmental controls) – This is a supplier for greenhouse systems designed to help control environmental factors within the greenhouse. They also offer systems to help track routine maintenance, production and other day-to-day information.
- Environmental Greenhouse Controls - Humidity, temperature, lighting, even CO2 levels must all be controlled within the environment of a greenhouse for optimal plant health. Though you certainly can do this manually, there are control options available to significantly reduce the time involved and allow you to spend more time enjoying the fruits of your labor.
- Hobby Greenhouse Association -The Hobby Greenhouse Association was established in 1976. A small but enthusiastic group, they offer recommendations, problem solving ideas, and fellowship to greenhouse hobbyists across the country.
- Greenhouses: Environmental Control Systems -This information is useful in not only growing tomatoes, but is important to maintaining a healthy, optimal growing environment within the greenhouse regardless of what it is you are growing. Heat, temperature, lighting, and humidity all affect plant growth.
- Greenhouse Ventilation – Regulating the temperature and airflow within your greenhouse is essential to healthy plants. It can take a bit of detective work and investigation to decide what type of ventilation system is the right set-up for the size and design of your greenhouse. This site offers recommendations on placement of vents, exhaust/heating/cooling set ups and equipment supply sources.