Nothing should be growing this winter day on these frozen, rolling hills.
Yet here are green vegetables, kale and lettuce, growing in near-90 degree temperatures. They’re thriving in a specialized “deep winter” greenhouse, letting farmers Tom Prieve and Sue Wika grow fresh vegetables year round — without a crushing electric bill.
Their plants survive largely on natural winter light. Fans force rising heat down into a rock storage area, part of a passive solar heating system that captures the day’s warmth and releases it at night. On cold nights, a gas heater kicks in to help keep the temperature at 42 degrees. There are no banks of artificial lights.
It’s a different kind of greenhouse, mixing technology and old school ingenuity to create an energy efficient winter farm. University of Minnesota researchers say the idea is starting to take off. About two dozen deep winter greenhouses can be found now in Minnesota. Many more are in the planning stages. A deep winter growing association will soon give winter gardeners a place to share what they’re learning.
A small loft offers a bird’s-eye view of the deep-winter greenhouse at Paradox Farm in southern Otter Tail County not far from Lake Christina on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Temperatures inside the greenhouse vary by elevation with this thermometer indicating around 85 degrees near the peak. Paradox Farm is owned by Sue Wika and Tom Prieve. (Ann Arbor Miller for MPR) Ann Arbor Miller/For MPR News
The small operations can be put up and run without spending a lot of money. Wika and Prieve’s $5,000 winter greenhouse near Ashby is built like a lean-to against the south wall of the barn. Clear plastic panels cover the south wall, which is slanted at a 60 degree angle to best catch the midwinter sunlight. Next year a wood stove will help fight the overnight chill.
“I want people to know that this is a definite reality for people in northern climates,” Wika says. “They can have greens in the depths of winter.”
This is the second winter green plants have filled her greenhouse. Wika, the chief gardener, keeps careful records on everything growing. She says she’s still learning. What plants are best suited to winter production? What soil works best? What’s the most efficient way to heat the greenhouse at night? Who has the best ideas for affordable construction?
Dozens of 3-foot-long pieces of plastic roof gutter filled with soil hang from the ceiling. Rows of them are suspended from just above the floor to head high. Thick green vegetation spills over the sides.
Sue Wika’s enthusiasm for sustainable food production including a deep-winter greenhouse is evident when she talks about Paradox Farm and its farming practices. Building and using a deep-winter greenhouse, which combines passive solar energy with underground heat storage, is both durable and doable, says Wika. Ann Arbor Miller/For MPR News
On the floor are plastic bags of soil with holes cut in them. Chinese cabbage, turnips, radishes and beets sprout from the bags. The heated rocks under the floor keep them warm.
“Today we’ll harvest some red Russian kale and we’ll also harvest some of this komatsuna which is another really fast growing and productive Asian green,” says Wika, who praises the Asian greens as the “the real star in these deep winter greenhouses.”
There are also trays of barley, looking like squares of lush green grass – a treat for the goats and cows the couple milk as part of their sustainable farming effort.
“When it comes to feeding time you just simply peel it out of there and chunk it up and they gobble it down,” says Prieve, who trained as a large animal veterinarian. “It’s candy, they look for it first thing when they come in and it’s a more healthy form of energy than the straight grain.”
In about a month, the greenhouse will be filled with young tomatoes and other plants getting a head start on the outdoor gardening season. In summer, Wika uses the greenhouse as a giant dehydrator to make sun-dried tomatoes.
Rain gutters in assorted colors and sizes provide growing space for a variety greens for both human and animal consumption. Leafy vegetables like chard, red Russian kale, Chinese cabbage and komatsuna are among those being grown in a deep-winter greenhouse at Paradox Farm. Ann Arbor Miller/For MPR News
Wika and Prieve eat fresh greens every day and they sell or trade produce to six families in the area.
There are a lot of varieties that do very well in the winter with little care. Still, Wika spends about eight hours a week planting, watering and harvesting.
“I’m in here more time than I’m working,” says Wika, who holds a doctorate in sociology. “I always spend a lot of time just enjoying the sun and temperature. A lot of it is leisure and therapeutic.”
The plants will keep growing. Wika expects another harvest in three weeks. “They have amazing ability for recharging,” she says. “Some you might only get two harvests from, but there are some of these greens I might get four harvests from. They can be very productive.”
Wika places a tray of kale on a bench and starts trimming the thick bushy plants with a sharp knife, dropping the greens into a plastic tub. As she’s working, she sees Buddy Kasper peering into the greenhouse through fogged-over sunglasses. The 69-year-old drives 30 miles each week from Fergus Falls to get his fix of winter greens.
“You don’t even worry about salad dressing or anything. You reach in and grab a handful and stuff ’em in your mouth,” he says. “It’s just all of these different flavors come together at once. It’s all you need in the dead of winter.”
Gallery Fullscreen SlidePrevious Slide 9 of 9 A deep-winter greenhouse was added on to an existing building at Paradox Farm in southern Otter Tail County. The structure’s exterior walls are wood and polycarbonate. The farm sits on 160 acres and is owned by Tom Prieve, pictured, and Sue Wika.Ann Arbor Miller/For MPR News 1 of 9 Icicles collect on the exterior of a deep-winter greenhouse comprised of polycarbonate and other materials at Paradox Farm in southern Otter Tail County on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Temperatures outside hovered around -15 degrees compared to 80 degrees inside the greenhouse.Ann Arbor Miller/For MPR News 2 of 9 A small loft offers a bird’s-eye view of the deep-winter greenhouse at Paradox Farm in southern Otter Tail County not far from Lake Christina on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Temperatures inside the greenhouse vary by elevation with this thermometer indicating around 85 degrees near the peak.Ann Arbor Miller / For MPR News
- A winter greenhouse: A productive way to harvest vegetables all winter
- Types of winter greenhouses
- What to grow in a winter greenhouse
- Niki’s 10 favorite crops to harvest in winter:
- When to plant winter vegetables
- How to boost heat in an unheated winter greenhouse
- Caring for vegetables in a winter greenhouse
- Beans (especially navy beans, great northern beans, kidney beans)
- Brussels Sprouts
- Red Bell Peppers
- Leaf Amaranth
- Leafy Greens
- Best Greenhouse Plants:
- Greenhouse GROWING
- Best Greenhouse Plants: Good Plants To Grow In A Greenhouse
- Environmental Control with Greenhouses
- Plants to Grow in a Greenhouse
- 4 Types of Greenhouses To Consider For Growing Quality Plants
- Why is it a Good Idea to Grow Your Own Produce?
- What is a Greenhouse and Why Should You Use One?
- What You Will Need?
- How to Use a Greenhouse: Step-by-Step
- 1. Choose the style of greenhouse that will suit your needs
- 2. Research the additional features you may need for your greenhouse
- 3. Select the location of your greenhouse
- 4. Check for air circulation
- 5. Ensure that a level of shade can be found
- 6. Check for pest interference
- 7. Use correct growing seasons
- 6 Essential Greenhouse Growing Tips for Beginners
- 1. Seasonal Starting Seeds
- 2. Light Sources
- 3. Heating
- 4. Cooling
- 5. Ventilating a Greenhouse
- 6. Watering the Plants
- Greenhouse Gardening Made Easy: Tips For Using And Building A Greenhouse
- How to Use a Greenhouse
- Greenhouse Gardening Info: Site Preparation
- How to Build Your Own Greenhouse
- Ventilation and Heating the Greenhouse
A winter greenhouse: A productive way to harvest vegetables all winter
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In my vegetable garden, a winter greenhouse has become the heart of our cold season garden, providing us with homegrown vegetables and herbs from December through March. It’s an unheated structure, capturing solar energy and sheltering a wide variety of cold tolerant crops like kale, carrots, leeks, scallions, carrots, and spinach.
My winter greenhouse grows organic vegetables 365 days a year. In winter, I harvest cold season salad greens, root crops, and stem crops like leeks.
I also use the greenhouse to extend the fall harvest, start seeds for the main garden, harden off transplants, and get a jump on spring. And when the weather warms up in late spring, the raised beds inside are planted with heat-loving crops like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers to provide an extra-early harvest.
Just because I use a winter greenhouse doesn’t mean that I don’t use other winter structures in my garden. I have a variety of smaller season extenders like cold frames and mini hoop tunnels, and also use techniques like deep mulching. But having a winter greenhouse has upped my garden game by providing a covered space for growing food. This makes tending and harvesting crops more comfortable, especially when the weather is cold and snowy, but it also gives me a much larger area for food production.
Types of winter greenhouses
There are many sizes, shapes, and types of greenhouses that can be used to winter harvest cold season vegetables and herbs. Some structures are sold in kits while others are DIY’d by handy gardeners.
A few examples of types of home greenhouses:
- Metal-framed glass greenhouse
- Metal-framed polycarbonate greenhouse
- Metal-hooped polyethylene greenhouse
- Wood-framed glass greenhouse
- Wood-framed polycarbonate greenhouse
- Wood-framed polyethylene greenhouse
- PVC-framed polyethylene greenhouse
- Metal-framed polycarbonate dome greenhouse
- Wood-framed polyethylene dome greenhouse
Dome greenhouses are becoming very popular in home gardens. Structurally, they are very strong and they can be used to produce a winter crop of hardy vegetables and herbs.
Whatever type of greenhouse you decide to buy or build, they all have two main components: a frame and a transparent cover. My greenhouse is 14 by 24 feet and was purchased as a kit from a local greenhouse supply store. I wanted a structure that would be strong enough to stand up to our maritime weather. In winter, that weather includes frequent storms that bring heavy snow, freezing rain, and strong winds. Other times of the year we deal with extreme weather like hurricanes.
If you’re anything like me, when you dream of a greenhouse you picture a luxurious metal-framed, glass-glazed structure. Garden goals to be sure, but these types of structures come with a significant cost. And while, they’re a great for growing vegetables, you may be surprised to learn that even a DIY wood frame covered in 6 mil greenhouse polyethylene sheeting is also effective in sheltering winter crops.
When deciding on a type of greenhouse, look first at your site, space, and climate. Most urban yards won’t have space for a large hoop greenhouse, but a small glass or polycarbonate-glazed structure may fit. Also take a look at the grade. Is your site sloped? A slight slope can generally be worked around, but a steep grade can make it hard to erect a greenhouse. While you’re inspecting your yard, also remember that a greenhouse needs to be placed where it receives full sunlight. Look around for potential sources of shade – nearby trees and buildings, for example.
As for climate, I live on the east coast of Canada where snow and wind can be extreme. As noted above, my greenhouse had to be strong enough to withstand hurricanes and winter storms. If you live in a milder climate, you can likely get by with a greenhouse made from more lightweight materials.
Another type of structure to consider is a geodesic dome greenhouse. These dome-shaped, rounded greenhouses are becoming popular in home gardens due to their strength. They are excellent at shedding snow and wind.
I grow many types of cold hardy lettuces in my winter greenhouse including Salanova, which forms pretty rosettes of tender-crisp leaves.
What to grow in a winter greenhouse
There are a lot of crops that can be harvested from a winter greenhouse. The crops you choose to grow depend on your climate and what you like to eat. I garden in zone 5 and have winter temperatures that can go down to -4 F (-20 C) . We plant a wide selection of cold season vegetables in our winter structures. Root crops like carrots and beets, as well as salad greens like kale, winter lettuce, spinach, Asian greens, endive, and arugula.
When reading seed catalogs and selecting varieties to grow, read each description carefully. Certain varieties are hardier than others. For example, Winter Density and North Pole lettuces are among my favorite lettuces to grow for December through March harvesting. They stand up well to cold temperatures, easily out performing summer or spring lettuces by months.
Those who live in climates colder than zone 5 should stick to the most cold hardy crops. In my garden, the winter superstars include Winterbor kale, mache, tatsoi, and scallions. On the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, those in mild climates, such as those in zones 7 and above, can grow an even wider selection of winter vegetables and herbs, often with minimal need for season extenders.
Niki’s 10 favorite crops to harvest in winter:
- Winter lettuces
Kale is one of the hardiest crops to harvest in winter and we grow several types inside our structure.
When to plant winter vegetables
Most of the vegetables in my winter greenhouse are planted from mid-summer to mid-autumn. Ideally, the crop should be almost mature or ready to pick just as the weather turns cold and the day-length drops below ten hours a day. That is the point when most plant growth slows dramatically. In my northern climate, that date is in early November and the mature or almost-mature vegetables remain in the greenhouse until we are ready to harvest.
To figure out the right planting date, you need to look at the days to maturity for the individual crop or variety. This information is listed on the seed packet or in the seed catalog. My Napoli carrot crop, for example, takes about 58 days to go from seed to harvest. So, ideally I would count backwards 58 days from my first expected frost date and plant. However, as the day length shrinks in autumn, plant growth slows, so I always add on an additional 7-10 days when planting crops for late fall and winter harvesting. That means that I end up sowing Napoli carrots for winter in mid-summer.
Salad greens like arugula, leaf lettuce, and spinach grow faster than root crops and are sown in late summer to early autumn. They can be direct sown or given a head start indoors under grow lights. If you wish to have mature kale or collard plants for winter harvests, these take around 70 days from seeding, so plan accordingly.
To further insulate my winter crops, I often erect fabric covered mini hoop tunnels over the raised beds. It helps trap heat and protects the vegetables from frigid weather.
How to boost heat in an unheated winter greenhouse
On a winter day when the outside temperature is well below freezing, my greenhouse is typically mild inside, thanks to the sun. For example, when it’s 17 F (-8 C) outside, the inside temperature can reach 50 F (10 C). That said, once the sun goes down, the temperature quickly drops. However, there are a few sneaky ways you can boost heat retention and insulate your crops. To insulate, I use deep mulching, row cover fabrics, or polyethylene covers floated on mini hoops. You can make your own or buy fleece tunnel kits. For root crops like carrots and beets, a deep straw or leaf mulch is applied over the bed in late autumn before the soil inside the greenhouse freezes.
To use fabric or polyethylene covers over beds of greens, hardy herbs, scallions, and other vegetables, I float the covers on top of simple wire hoops.
Another way to slow heat loss in a winter greenhouse, is to add a heat sink like a few water-filled barrels. The water absorbs heat during the day and slowly releases it at night, slowing the cooling process. If the greenhouse is large enough, you could also put a compost pile inside to generate some heat.
Many salad greens can be sown in late summer and early autumn for winter harvesting. Spinach, arugula, mizuna, and mustards are both easy and quick to grow.
Caring for vegetables in a winter greenhouse
There are five main tasks to keep in mind when tending a winter greenhouse:
- Watering. The question I’m asked most is about watering and how often I need to water during the cold stretch from December through February. Honestly? Not much! It will depend on the year as some years we get an early freeze-up and my watering comes to an end by late November. Other years, the weather can be mild into late December and I do irrigate a few times in late fall. I use a hose to water, but you can also use a watering can and fill it up from a rain barrel situated near the greenhouse or one that catches water from the roof of the greenhouse. It’s important to note that while I water my greenhouse almost daily from late spring through late summer, once the days shorten and the temperatures drop in early to mid-autumn, watering is reduced to once or twice a week. In winter, I don’t water unless we get a few days of thawing temperatures.
- Fertilizing. Soil health is always top of my mind in my garden beds and structures and so I work in compost, aged manures, chopped leaves, and other amendments into the earth between crops. I also apply organic fertilizers – both granular and liquid to promote healthy plant growth and a bountiful winter harvest. Slow-release granular fertilizers are added at planting time, while liquid fertilizers, like fish and kelp emulsion, are applied monthly, depending on the product. Always follow application instructions on whatever type of fertilizer you buy.
- Venting. Venting is one of the most important tasks in a greenhouse, especially when the weather is hot. I have roll-up sides, windows, and a door for venting. In late fall or early spring, if the weather is forecast to be warmer than 40 F (4 C), I roll up the sides a few inches to allow air to circulate. The inside of a structure heats up quickly, and it’s best to grow winter crops on the cool side to promote hardy growth. If you keep the inside temperature of your greenhouse too warm in mid to late autumn, soft tender growth emerges which can be damaged when the temperatures drop. Venting is also the best way to reduce condensation in a greenhouse. Condensation can encourage fungal diseases to grow and regular venting on mild days will reduce the amount of humidity in the air.
- Harvesting. It’s so pleasant to winter harvest from a greenhouse. Sure, I love picking veggies from my cold frames and mini hoop tunnels, but I’m still stuck outside in the cold weather. When I’m harvesting in the greenhouse, the inside temperature is typically warmer than the outside temperature and I’m sheltered from winter winds.
A heavy load of snow can damage a greenhouse. Use a broom or another
- Snow removal. I live in an area where deep snow is not uncommon and I need to keep an eye on the snow load on top of my structure. I did buy a greenhouse designed to withstand a heavy snow load, but if snow begins to accumulate on top of my structure, I take a soft-bristled broom to carefully brush it off from the outside or tap it off using the broom from the inside. This works because my structure is covered with polyethylene. With a polycarbonate or glass-covered greenhouse, you need to gently brush the snow off the panels from the outside.
For further reading on winter vegetable gardening, check out these articles:
- Row cover hoops for frost and pest protection
- 8 vegetables to grow for winter
- 3 ways to grow fresh vegetables in winter
- Corn mache: the perfect vegetable for the winter garden
- 5 tips to successful cold frame gardening
- My conversation on winter gardening for the Joe Gardener podcast
Also be sure to check out my award-winning book, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener.
CEBU, Philippines — A perfectly ripe, juicy tomato, still warm from the sun. Sweet carrots, pulled from the garden minutes (or even seconds!) before they’re eaten. Growing your own vegetables is one of those activities that balance practicality and indulgence.
In addition to the convenience of having the fixings for a salad or light supper right outside your door (or on your windowsill), when you grow your own vegetables, you’re getting the most nutritional bang for your buck as well. Vegetables start losing nutrients as soon as they’re harvested, and quality diminishes as sugars are turned into starches. For the tastiest veggies with the best nutrition, try growing a few of these nutrient-dense foods in your own garden. And don’t let the lack of a yard stop you – all of them can be grown in containers as well.
Broccoli is high in calcium, iron and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, B6 and C. In fact, one cup of raw broccoli florets provides 130 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement.
How to grow broccoli:
Grow broccoli in containers: One broccoli plant per pot, pots should be 12 to 16 inches deep.
What to watch out for: Cabbage worm. If you start seeing pretty white butterflies fluttering around your broccoli, you’re guaranteed to start seeing little green worms all over your broccoli plants. To avoid this, cover your broccoli plants with floating row cover or lightweight bed sheets. If you start seeing cabbage worms, simply pick them off by hand.
There is nothing like peas grown right in your own garden the tender sweetness of a snap pea just plucked from the vine is unlike anything you can buy in at a store. Aside from being absolutely delicious, peas are high in fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B6 and C.
How to grow peas:
Grow peas in containers: Sow peas approximately 2 inches apart in a pot that is at least 10 inches deep. Provide support for peas to climb up.
What to watch out for: Hot weather. Once the weather turns hot, pea production will pretty much shut down. Grow peas in early spring and late summer/autumn, or any time of year when temperatures are consistently between 40 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
While snap beans (green beans/wax beans) are a great addition to any garden, it’s the beans we grow as dried beans that are real nutritional powerhouses. Dry beans, in general, are high in iron, fiber, manganese and phosphorous.
How to grow beans:
Grow beans in containers: Bush beans are your best option for growing in containers. Plant beans four inches apart in a container that is at least 12 inches deep.
What to watch out for: Harvest at the right time. Harvest dry beans when the pods have completely dried on the vine. The pods should be light brown, and you should be able to feel the hard beans inside. Shell the beans, and let them sit out a few days to ensure that they’re completely dry before storing them in jars in a cool, dark, dry place.
The bane of many a childhood, Brussels sprouts get a bad rap mostly due to overcooking. When prepared right, Brussels sprouts are sweet, tender and delicious. They also provide tons of fiber, magnesium, potassium and riboflavin, as well as high levels of vitamins A, B6 and C.
How to grow Brussels sprouts:
Grow Brussels sprouts in containers: Grow one plant per 16-inch deep container.
What to watch out for: Cabbage worms (see “Broccoli,” above.)
Fresh, homegrown tomatoes are the reason many gardeners get into vegetable gardening in the first place. There’s just nothing that compares to eating a perfectly ripe tomato, still warm from the sun. Tomatoes are also incredibly good for us, packing plenty of fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and vitamins A, B6 and C. They’re also a great source of the antioxidant lycopene.
How to grow tomatoes:
Grow tomatoes in containers: Container sizes will vary depending on the variety you’re growing. If you’re growing an indeterminate variety, your container will need to be at least 18 inches deep. For determinate varieties, 12 inches is a good depth, and for dwarf or “patio” type tomatoes, 8 inches is perfect. One tomato plant per pot.
What to watch out for: Tomato horn worm can be a problem in many areas – these large caterpillars should be removed by hand whenever you see them. Also watch out for signs of blight, which is a real problem in many areas.
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are high in potassium, riboflavin, and vitamins A, B6, and C – in fact, one cup of red bell pepper packs an amazing 317 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and 93 percent of the recommended vitamin A.
How to grow peppers:
Grow peppers in containers: Plant one pepper plant per each 8 to 12 inch deep pot.
What to watch out for: Aphids and flea beetles are the two most common insect pests when growing peppers. While both can be controlled with insecticidal soap, which is a common organic option, you can also make all-natural, homemade sprays to deter these pests. A tomato leaf spray will get rid of aphids, and garlic/hot pepper spray works very well on a flea beetle infestation.
Beets are a great “two-fer” crop – you can harvest the beet roots, of course, but you can also harvest and eat the greens. Young beet greens are delicious when added raw to a salad, and larger beet greens can be sautéed as a quick side dish or used the way you’d use other greens such as spinach. Beet roots are very high in iron, potassium and vitamin C. Beet greens are even better, as they are high in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, B6 and C.
How to grow beets:
Grow beets in containers: Plant beet seeds three inches apart in a container that is twelve inches deep. Because each beet seed is actually a cluster of seeds, be sure to thin the seedlings to one per cluster. Thinnings can be added to salads or sandwiches.
What to watch out for: Knowing when to harvest. Beet roots are at their best when they are harvested small – between one and two inches across. At this size, they are sweet and tender. Larger beets tend to be kind of woody and less flavorful.
Leaf amaranth is a less-common vegetable that is well worth a try in your own garden. The leaves have a sweet and slightly tangy flavor that works well in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries and soups to simply steaming it all by itself. As a bonus, leaf amaranth is one of the few heat-tolerant greens. It won’t bolt in the heat of summer the way spinach and kale are prone to. Nutritionally, leaf amaranth is very high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, zinc, and vitamins A, B6 and C. Everyone should be growing this!
How to grow leaf amaranth:
Growing leaf amaranth in containers: Scatter the tiny seeds over the soil’s surface in a pot that is at least 8 inches deep. Harvest the leaves when they are two to four inches tall. You will be able to get at least two or three harvest before you’ll have to sow more seeds.
What to watch out for: Leaf amaranth is fairly easy to grow, and relatively problem-free. Rarely, leaf miners can become a problem.
Carrots are at their sweetest, crunchiest best when freshly harvested from the garden. These icons of healthy eating deserve their “good-for-you” rep – they’re very high in fiber, manganese, niacin, potassium, and vitamins A, B6 and C. Their only drawback is that they do tend to be high in sugar, so if you’re watching your carb intake, you’ll want to limit the amount of carrots you eat.
How to grow carrots:
Grow carrots in containers: Sow carrot seeds two to three inches apart in a pot that is at least twelve inches deep. Look for shorter varieties, such as Thumbelina or Danvers Half Long.
What to watch out for: Harvesting at the perfect size. Carrots are at their tastiest when harvested small. Leaving them in the ground too long can result in overly large, woody carrots. You’ll also want to make sure to keep your carrots evenly moist, as letting the soil dry out too often can also result in somewhat bitter, fibrous carrots.
Okay, I can’t recommend just one leafy green, because they are all incredibly good for us, as well as delicious – kale, collards, spinach, turnip or dandelion greens – how can you possibly choose just one? In general, the “green leafies” contain high amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, B6 and C.
How to grow kale and other leafy greens:
Grow greens in containers: Grow one kale or collard plant per ten inch deep pot. Other greens can be grown a few plants to a pot – they should be planted at least 4 inches apart and harvested small.
What to watch out for: Heat and cabbage worms. Most leafy greens are cool-weather crops, so they’re best grown in spring and fall in most areas – hot weather will cause them to bolt. In addition, many of these greens are members of the Brassicas family, which means they are prone to cabbage worm infestations. Control them with the same methods outlined in the “Broccoli” section, above.
Try growing one or two (or all!) of these nutrient-dense, delicious vegetables in your own garden, and you’ll get double the health benefits: healthy food and time spent outdoors, nurturing your plants. (www.mnn.com)
A greenhouse is what started it all for us around our homestead. I saw it on a television show one day and thought, “Why don’t I have one of those? Then I can grow what I want when I want.”
Well, my husband got on board and in a few short weeks, we had a greenhouse. It wasn’t super fancy or even that big.
But it was enough to get us started on a self-sufficient lifestyle.
So if you have a greenhouse, then you probably wonder what grows best inside your greenhouse. That is what I’m going to be sharing with you. I have quite a few different plants that grow quite well inside a greenhouse.
Hopefully, it will help you to get your greenhouse producing and thriving for you and your loved ones.
Best Greenhouse Plants:
Here are the plants that I recommend grow best inside a greenhouse:
via Fifty Shades of Snail
Ginseng is a great crop to grow around your homestead. Not only for its medicinal properties, but also because you could use it as a cash crop to help earn an income from your homestead and/or greenhouse.
via Mother Earth Living
Mushrooms should be grown very carefully as some of them are quite hazardous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
But if you can get them going in your greenhouse, they are another crop that many people will purchase from you.
via Bamboo Teri House
Bamboo is a great crop to grow. It doesn’t take very long to begin flourishing and it can be used for many things.
Also, it isn’t very difficult to grow. My mother-in-law actually planted some in the woods behind her home and in only a few years (with no attention) it is growing really well.
Herbs are pretty simple to grow anywhere, in my experience. So why not grow them in your greenhouse?
Then you could make your own spices or enjoy fresh herbs with your daily meals.
5. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens should be a constant in our diets. They have many vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need in order to function properly.
So if you have a greenhouse, you should really consider trying to grow these as long as you possibly can. That way you will be certain to be eating enough of them.
via Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Microgreens are another really simple green to raise. They don’t require a lot of space or time. Plus, they are also an added health boost that can be quickly tossed on or into a meal.
We grow spinach in our greenhouse pretty much year-round. I live in a warmer southern climate so I’m able to get away with growing heartier greens in my unheated greenhouse during the colder months.
Not only do we grow spinach for ourselves, but also for our animals. It is a nice green treat during the colder months when our animals have a hard time finding anything green.
I love growing cucumbers. They are a really simple vegetable to raise, and you don’t have to grow a ton of them to get quite the harvest.
So if you decide to grow cucumbers inside your greenhouse, be sure to keep in mind that they do bush out and take over if you aren’t careful.
I’ve always had excellent luck growing peppers inside our greenhouse. The reason is that peppers absolutely love heat.
So inside a greenhouse, they are certain to get more heat than they would outside. Which in turn gives me a much larger harvest.
Tomatoes are another vegetable I’ve always had great luck with growing in a greenhouse. It is another plant that absolutely loves the heat.
So just be sure to water them more because of the excess heat they’ll find in a greenhouse. Also be sure not to plant them close to the peppers as you don’t want them to be cross pollinated.
11. Swiss Chard
via Plant Fueled
I’m a huge fan of swiss chard. We grow it every year. I love the rainbow swiss chard especially because it is gorgeous to look at.
Plus, I love to eat a variety of colorful foods because of nutrients. I know when I eat rainbow swiss chard that I’m getting a lot of good stuff for my body and that makes me feel good.
Squash is another great plant to grow in your greenhouse. It is pretty easy to grow and also puts off quite the harvest from only a few plants. Just be careful as they like to take over where they grow too.
Believe it or not, citrus fruit was one of the first reasons I wanted a greenhouse. We went to Florida one year, and I purchased fruit trees from a gift shop. When I brought them home I raised them indoors.
But my cats began thinking it was a play place for them. So I needed a greenhouse to move their pots to. They actually did quite well considering I only paid $5 for each tree.
Oranges are another fruit tree that grows great inside a greenhouse. That way you don’t have to move them around when the weather dips to lower temperatures. With any luck, you could have fresh orange juice most of the year.
Grapes are one you may not have considered raising inside your greenhouse. You’ll need to raise them with an arbor so they can be trained where to grow.
But with a little love and a big enough greenhouse, you could have a few grape vines that produce quite well for you if given the right environment to thrive in.
via Authority Nutrition
Strawberries are quite possibly one of my favorite fruits. I love how easy they are to grow and how much they produce if raised right. You can even plant them in containers so they can be moved around your greenhouse.
Many people raise their fruit trees inside greenhouses. Peach trees are no exceptions. The reason is because the trees will produce longer in the year since the temperatures can be controlled in many greenhouses.
So then you can enjoy fresh fruit for the majority of the year. That sounds great to me!
This one could potentially fall under herbs, but around my house, it deserves a category all of its own. My husband absolutely loves cilantro.
So if you love cilantro too, then you should consider raising it in your greenhouse.
A lot of people have berry patches, but most don’t consider raising berries in their greenhouse. But raspberries are a berry that can grow quite well in a greenhouse under the right conditions.
Chilies are great for growing in greenhouses because they love the warmer temperatures. When it comes to almost any kind of pepper, the hotter the temperatures are the better they are going to grow (in most cases.)
You may not know it, but okra is another heat-loving plant. I would’ve never thought of okra when I thought of plants that like heat. Naturally, because of this, they would grow well in a greenhouse too.
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Growing plants in a greenhouse, whether edible or ornamental, requires a little work beforehand. Learn from these common mistakes and have a successful growing season.
Too much humidity can allow mold spores and diseases to run rampant in your greenhouse; too little and the plants will die of thirst.
Do research ahead of time to group plants together with similar humidity needs. Grow them at the same time, or build more than one smaller greenhouse, if space permits.
Misting is an excellent way to increase humidity- find out how much your plants need.
Even in the winter, your plants may need shade from the sun. The greenhouse cover increases heat inside, so have a system to shade the plants when the sun glares.
Different shading materials are available at DIY stores and and even directly from Amazon. You can pull them over the roof, have them mounted on a pulley system against the inside of the greenhouse ceiling, or have an electronic monitor and motor system automatically pull the shades for you according to the amount of UV sunlight. This system, of course, will be more expensive than manual.
Mighty Products Heavy Duty Shade Mesh Tarp, 12 x 12-Feet
Without air circulation, the plants will succumb to disease and die. If the greenhouse has no vents, then on sunny days, even in the coldest winter, the heat will rise inside and could cook your plants.
Several manufacturers offer automatic greenhouse ventilation systems, both for AC power (hooked up to an outside outlet), or for battery or solar power. This saves you from having to run outside, opening and closing windows all day.
During the night, the winter temperatures drop dramatically. Even in areas such as south Texas and Florida, greenhouse heaters are needed when temperatures drop below freezing.
Do not use a regular house heater for your greenhouse. They are not made for a moist or outdoor environment. Only purchase a heater rated and designed for a greenhouse, and use an outdoor surge protector and outdoor rated power cord.
Growing the right plants is as important as all the rest put together. Once you’ve looked at your “dream list” of plants, you’ll realize space is the issue for your plants.
If you regularly grow vine plants, such as tomatoes, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc., you’ll want to research and find varieties bred for container growing. Bush varieties of squash require no staking or vines.
Plants that are too tall may cause too much shading of other plants. They may come in contact with the greenhouse covering, encouraging disease, mold and mildew growth.
For a greenhouse, filling containers with common garden soil would be a disaster. Soil compacts, killing the roots. In large containers, the top part of the soil dries out while the bottom of the container becomes bogged with water. The containers become far too heavy to safely lift or move.
Use potting soils that have no garden soil in them. A common practice in hydroponic culture is to grow the plants in peat moss or coir (coconut fiber).
Study the fertilizer and feeding requirements of your plants before you begin. Plants may have different requirements than the standard “feeds-everything” fertilizer. Keep a supply on hand for all your plants.
Try grouping your plants according to fertilizer/water/shade needs, or use a marker system to tell you each plant’s requirements. For example, a plant may need more shade like it’s pretty neighbor, but it’s fertilizer requirement may be different. A marker, colored tag or sticker tells you what your plant needs.
By studying ahead, your greenhouse growing season will be successful and tasty.
Want to build your own greenhouse? You’ll love these DIY projects from some of our favorite bloggers.
The obvious reason to grow greenhouse vegetables, flowers, and herbs is to have crops at a time of year when they can’t be grown outdoors. Out-of-season tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, basil, and other vegetables command high prices in some markets.
It’s important to note, though, that the cost of winter production of warm-weather crops like tomatoes is very high, so prepare to jump into it only once you are certain you have a market and a price that will provide a return on your investment. Heating will be your biggest cost, followed by labor. And if you intend to remain in production through the very coldest, shortest winter months, you may also need to provide supplemental lighting — particularly during a long spell of overcast weather.
USDA’s Virtual Grower Preliminary research to inform your greenhouse decisions and strategies is time well spent.
Virtual Grower allows you to run multivariate “what-if” scenarios for your geographic region.
If you have never attempted to grow greenhouse vegetables in winter, you should do a great deal of preliminary research to determine whether it can be profitable for you, given your climate, greenhouse structure, and fuel costs. Fortunately, there are many freely available resources to help you calculate costs and potential returns. An internet search for greenhouse tomatoes enterprise budget, for example, will return a lengthy list of references to inform your research. Look for those published by your regional universities and cooperative extension agencies.
For predicting heating costs, an invaluable tool called the Virtual Grower is available through the USDA. This free software program prompts the user to enter information such as nearest weather station (from which it calculates average weather conditions), type of greenhouse structure, condition of the structure, type of heating system, and price of fuel.
Factors to Weigh for the Greenhouse Grower Climatological / Geographical:
Circadian and seasonal variations in temperature, light, humidity, air circulation, pollination requirements, disease pressure and resistance
Construction, maintenance, energy, tools, supplies, seed, human resources
Market Forces / ROI:
Ability to offer unique, high-end, and/or off-season products
As for timing, the broad rule of thumb for a beginning grower in the northern half of the US or Canada is not to plant into a greenhouse until February 15th, because the low light conditions earlier than that make the crop a riskier venture. More experienced growers and southern growers, however, can often produce all winter. By mid February, many crops can be grown with only minimal heat, and still provide a month or more of earliness compared to field crops.
If you have a market where you can sell vegetables in spring, greenhouse production can be profitable, especially when combined with early field crops. You may, for example, have field-grown spinach ready in April, but that’s hardly enough to fill a market stand. If, however, you can also bring head lettuce from the heated greenhouse, and arugula, radishes, and carrots from the unheated hoophouse, you’re ready to put on a good display. Alternatively, think about the possibilities for Mother’s Day: greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers, cut flowers, and hanging baskets of flowers and fruiting strawberries, in addition to a full range of spring vegetables.
Season extension is just one of the advantages gained from greenhouse growing. Protected crops are less apt to be damaged by wind, rain, and hail so the percentage of marketable products is higher. Yield is often higher as well, if you can provide optimum growing conditions for each crop. Greenhouses protect crops from many diseases, particularly those that are soilborne and splash onto plants in the rain. And greenhouse crops may be protected from common field pests. Of course, greenhouse crops have their own particular problems such as foliar disease, aphids, and whiteflies, so vigilance is still required.
Best Greenhouse Plants: Good Plants To Grow In A Greenhouse
Growing plants in a greenhouse can be rewarding for the home gardener – not only can you propagate new plants from your existing landscape favorites, but you can get a jump start on your vegetable garden, or grow it entirely indoors with the help of a greenhouse. Although the plants that will grow best in your greenhouse depend heavily on your setup, suitable plants for greenhouse gardening are available for every kind of greenhouse and climate.
Environmental Control with Greenhouses
Greenhouses allow a gardener the unique opportunity to control the climate no matter what’s actually happening outside. In some regions, having better control means you can grow a wider range of plants, even if they never get to venture outdoors. Many gardeners keep the chill off their plants with unheated greenhouses or cold frames, but this is the least flexible of greenhouse structures.
Year-round greenhouse growers will need more complicated systems fitted with heating and cooling systems, ventilation, lights and shades to cloak plants that require darkness to flower. These types of greenhouses host the widest range of plants, and can often be adjusted to support nearly any type of plant life. Larger greenhouses can be divided internally to create climate zones, allowing different growing conditions within the same structure.
Plants to Grow in a Greenhouse
The best greenhouse plants thrive in containers, at least temporarily, and fit in well with the type of microclimate you’re able to produce inside your greenhouse.
List of Common Greenhouse Plants
Vegetables – Vegetables are usually divided into two main groups: cool season crops and warm season crops.
Cool season crops like lettuce, broccoli, peas and carrots are great choices for cold frames and unheated backyard greenhouses. These plants can tolerate chilly nights, so heating isn’t necessary when growing them unless you live in an area where temperatures reach extreme lows. Many also grow well in part-shade, reducing the need for overhead lighting. Just make sure to properly ventilate your greenhouse and install a fan for the rare hot day in the early season.
Warm season vegetables, including cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and peppers, thrive in greenhouses with steady temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (12-29 C.). These plants often require supplemental lighting, trellising and hand-pollination, but will provide you with year-round summer favorites if you treat them nicely.
Ornamentals – Ornamentals may be grouped into sun or shade-loving annuals and perennials, and may be further divided by their humidity needs or other unique features. Other favorite ornamental and landscape plants include:
Although these plants can be grown outdoors in many locations, indoor growing allows hybridizers to isolate pollen and readily multiply beloved plants from cuttings.
Tropicals – Even tropical plants and cacti have a place in the right greenhouse! If you want to grow something more interesting, greenhouses can be ideal settings for small tropical plants like orchids, Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants, if you pay close attention to indoor conditions.
(Photo: Wiki Commons)
A greenhouse is simply a building in which plants are grown. These buildings can be merely small structures, or they can also be quite large in size. The concept behind greenhouses dates back all the way to Roman times when the Emperor Tiberius demanded to eat an Armenian cucumber every day, for which his gardeners had to use a system similar to that in modern greenhouses to make sure he had one each day.
13th-century Italy was the site of the first modern greenhouses. Initially, greenhouses were more common on the grounds of the wealthy, but they soon also branched out to universities. The 19th century saw some of the largest greenhouses ever built, while the 20th century popularized the geodesic dome for use in many greenhouses.
- Constructing a Greenhouse
- Managing Greenhouses
- Walnut Street Greenhouse History
- Tomatoes in a Greenhouse
- History of Greenhouses used for Research
- Martian Greenhouses
- Greenhouses in Gaza
How Does It Work? The greenhouse effect as it relates to actual greenhouses works in the following way. A greenhouse reduces the rate at which thermal energy flows out of its structure, and it does this by impeding heat that has been absorbed from leaving its confines through convection. The material for greenhouse construction is typically glass or plastic so that sunlight can pass through it. This sunlight is integral to the greenhouse becoming warm, since it heats up the ground inside the greenhouse. In turn, the warm ground then warms up the air in the greenhouse, which keeps on heating the plants inside since it is confined within the structure of the greenhouse.
- Global Warming’s Greenhouse Effect
- Greenhouse Effect Explained
- How a Greenhouse Works
- How a Greenhouse Operates
- Purpose of a Greenhouse
- Workings of a Greenhouse
The purpose of a greenhouse is to shield crops from excess cold or heat and unwanted pests. A greenhouse makes it possible to grow certain types of crops year round, and fruits, tobacco plants, vegetables, and flowers are what a greenhouse most commonly grows. High-altitude countries are where greenhouses are most common; this has to do with concerns related to maintaining a viable food supply. For example, Almeria, Spain, is the site of one of the biggest greenhouses on the planet, where it is spread out over 50,000 acres.
- Purpose of a Greenhouse
- Heat and the Purpose of a Greenhouse
- What to Plant in Winter
- What to Grow in a Greenhouse
- Ideas on What to Grow in a Greenhouse
- How to Use Your Greenhouse
- General Gardening Guide
Greenhouse Garden Gardening is one of the country’s most popular hobbies, so operating a greenhouse garden is just a logical extension. A greenhouse garden is primarily meant to extend the growing season of prized crops and plants. Horticulture fans should be enthusiastic about greenhouses, too, because it allows them to grow plants and flowers all season long, which can then be brought into the house. A greenhouse garden can be built cheaply or expensively, with plastic or glass, and look attractive or simply utilitarian. After choosing a great location for a greenhouse garden, you can build one yourself by ordering a greenhouse kit from any number of popular manufacturers. These kits are do-it-yourself projects and can be as complicated or simple, or as large or small, as is desired.
- Tips for Experiments in a Greenhouse
- Greenhouse Gardening Tips Resource Page
- Tips for Using a Greenhouse
- Greenhouse Gardening Tips
- Tips for Starting out with a Greenhouse
- Tips to get the most out of a Greenhouse
- Using a Greenhouse during Spring
- Greenhouse Construction and Building Tips
Some of the most famous greenhouses have exemplified what the operation of a greenhouse is all about, or they are attached to research facilities that are doing successful work in the field of botany. One famous greenhouse is Kew Gardens in England, which is actually 121 hectares that consist of both greenhouses and gardens. This facility both does research as well as receives tourists. Another famous greenhouse is also in England: the Eden Project. It is a group of geodesic dome greenhouses whose purpose is to educate people on the dependence of humanity on plants. Yet another famous greenhouse called the Glass City sits in the Netherlands; it is a large series of greenhouses that is located in the largest greenhouse area of the Netherlands, which is called the Westland.
- Kew Royal Botanical Gardens
- Eden Project Website
- The Glass City
- Laeken Royal Greenhouses
- NY Botanical Garden
- Land Pavillion at Walt Disney World
- RHS Garden Wisley
- Helsinki Winter Garden
4 Types of Greenhouses To Consider For Growing Quality Plants
Using a greenhouse for growing plants has loads of benefits and opportunities to offer that aren’t available with regular outdoor gardening. They not only serve to protect against insects, pests, and inclement weather, but provide an optimal environment (humidity and moisture) for growing fruits, vegetables, and other plants in abundance.
Plants can be grown year-round in a greenhouse, whether out of season or in and are packed with the vitamins and minerals your family needs for good health. When planning an outdoor garden, it’s beneficial to also consider using a greenhouse either alongside the garden or in place of the actual garden itself!
Below you’ll find 4 types of greenhouses to consider for growing quality plants…
1. Attached (Lean-To) Greenhouse:
These greenhouses make a great option when yard space is limited or your budget for building a greenhouse is minimal. If there is a free outdoor wall on your home, garage, or other building – consider using it to construct a lean-to greenhouse. These provide decent space for growing a variety of plants, especially when including the wall to train fruit or for ornamental climbers. Also, if the wall is made of brick, it adds for extra heat retention.
2. Window-Mounted Greenhouse:
These specialty greenhouses are mini and entirely economical. They are compact, small, and can fit outside the window of a house. They can either be attached to the window in such a way that access is possible from either side, inside or out. Whether used in place of the window itself or simply attached to the outside of the wall. Typically they contain about three or four shelves and extend only about a foot or more away from the wall. These types of greenhouses are most effective on a south or east facing wall and its temperature depends a lot on the interior temperature of the home or building it’s attached too.
3. Freestanding Greenhouse:
These greenhouses tend to be the largest and most common. They are an entirely separate structure from any other building on the property and can house a large number of plants and gardening tools. These greenhouses are more easily managed despite their size beings as smaller ones tend to fluctuate temperature more often. Many sizes can be used for these greenhouses depending on the number of plants being grown and the number of gardening tools being stored.
4. Glazed Freestanding Greenhouse:
These greenhouses are essentially the same as a freestanding greenhouse, except they’re usually made strictly of plastic sheeting. These are the least expensive of all the options, yet still, provide a large growing space for plants. The only downside of these is they tend to deteriorate more quickly and require regular upkeep throughout seasonal changes and inclement weather. However, they’re considerably lightweight and retain the necessary heat for plant growth.
Any of these options make for excellent greenhouse gardening and can provide a wealth of strong, healthy plants all year round. Build your structure using strong, dependable materials such as untreated wood or aluminum. Covering options for your greenhouse frame could be made using glass, fiberglass, acrylic, polycarbonate, or even plastic (though this may need to be replaced within three years or less).
As for where to build your greenhouse, try to find a level area with adequate drainage and maximum exposure to the sun. If possible somewhere with about 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, especially during winter. If you’re in an area without enough sun, special grow lights can be used to compensate, or orient the building east to west so the largest side gets full southern sun exposure.
Before embarking on any greenhouse journey, consider the space available, utility hookups, light exposure, and overall cost. Yet most of all, have fun! =)
Have the thought of combating rising food costs by growing your own fresh fruit, produce and even herbs crossed your mind lately? Maybe it has but you aren’t familiar with gardening inside or outside a greenhouse! If the thought of supplementing your income by reducing weekly or even monthly grocery costs is intriguing to you; then you have definitely come to the right place! In a society where it seems the only thing not increasing at a rapid rate is wages earned through our chosen fields of employment, it can be beneficial to cut costs when and wherever you can. Food insecurity is a bigger issue than most would realize in numerous towns and cities around the globe. If you want to learn how to grow fresh but plentiful produce in your own home or backyard, you may have heard of how a greenhouse can increase your chance of success. Unsure of where to start? Not an issue, as this article will tell you how to use a greenhouse for beginners! Let’s begin, shall we?
Table of Contents
Why is it a Good Idea to Grow Your Own Produce?
Growing your own produce has not only financial benefits but also health-related ones with the lack of chemicals and preservatives used throughout each stage of the growing process. Thanks to scientific and clinical studies, there is a greater exposure and understanding on what negative effects different chemicals and preservatives can have on the human body. With these new discoveries, it should come as no surprise that numerous households are turning to fresh fruit and vegetables to boost their immune system and reduce the amount of harmful material put into their body. Also, fresh produce can add new flavors to dishes or increase the taste of a well-loved favorite! A quick summary, it is a good idea to grow your own product because not only is it:
- cost-effective when looking for ways to reduce your household grocery budget, but
- it is a tastier option when given the choice between fresh, canned, or even frozen produce, as well as being
- less harmful to put into your body due to a lack of pesticides, chemicals, preservatives etc.
What is a Greenhouse and Why Should You Use One?
A greenhouse is a wooden or metal structure that has been “walled-in” or surrounded by plastic sheeting. Other material may be used as the walls of a greenhouse, as long as it allows for light to penetrate and air to circulate. It is generally the shape of a small building with four walls, a roof, and a single entry/exit point. Greenhouses can be purchased already assembled through your local hardware store or even nurseries while some hardware stores carry “greenhouse kits” – which are starter kits to building your own greenhouse. As a convenient alternative, you can also buy them online!
A greenhouse reduces the chance that intermittent weather and seasonal issues could hamper the progress your garden makes not only during the germination-of-seeds (the initial stage of allowing a seed to root and start to grow) process but also during the crucial growing season. It also allows the gardener to grow their own produce in comfort and can be less physically demanding for those with limitations. The lack of physical demand compared to an outdoor garden comes from the majority of plants being waist high in rows opposed to down in the ground.
A greenhouse will encourage the moisture needed to boost growth to stay in the air while also allowing for the proper temperature control needed for certain produces and plants. It offers weather and pest protection to delicate plants and increases the length of the growing season versus an outdoor garden. Some people tend to use a greenhouse only for the beginning of the growing process before moving their plants to an outdoor garden whereas others use it year-round due to space, time or other restrictions. Neither way is incorrect but instead, the correct way to use a greenhouse is to use it completely how you would prefer to!
What You Will Need?
There are a few things to consider when it comes to constructing or purchasing your greenhouse once the decision has been made to grow your own produce. To ensure a positive and productive growing season, it is recommended that your greenhouse has the following features:
- Ample height for taller plants and yourself
- Room for heating and air systems, if needed
- Room to maneuver other plants and yourself around the greenhouse without damaging plants
- Tight plastic or other reflective material as the walls of your greenhouse to allow light in but stop heat and moisture from escaping
- The proper location to provide natural sunlight or shade, depending on your climate
There are a few things to consider when it comes to constructing or purchasing your greenhouse once the decision has been made to grow your own produce. To ensure a positive and productive growing season, it is recommended that your greenhouse has the following features:
- Ample height for taller plants and yourself
- Room for heating and air systems, if needed
- Room to maneuver other plants and yourself around the greenhouse without damaging plants
- Tight plastic or other reflective material as the walls of your greenhouse to allow light in but stop heat and moisture from escaping
- The proper location to provide natural sunlight or shade, depending on your climate
How to Use a Greenhouse: Step-by-Step
1. Choose the style of greenhouse that will suit your needs
There are multiple types and styles of greenhouses available from free-standing structures to leaning ones. The freestanding structures are placed in your backyard and a leaning one has only three walls; with the fourth being the wall of an existing structure – i.e. your house.
- Freestanding structures need a higher level of space than that of the leaning structure. Leaning structures are a good option for those short on space but it is to be remembered that one wall will not receive any natural sunlight due to the wall being made from a material that cannot be penetrated by UV rays or water.
2. Research the additional features you may need for your greenhouse
perhaps the current climate where you live does not allow for a particular temperature during growing season or you plan to grow produce year-round. Determine if grow lights, heating systems and/or fans are needed to make your greenhouse suitable for the produce you want to grow.
- If you live in a climate where sunlight exposure is decreased in accordance with the seasons, a grow light system may be recommended
3. Select the location of your greenhouse
Regardless of the style of greenhouse you choose, it is crucial that the location has maximum exposure to the sun, as the natural UV rays will enhance the growing ability of any type of plant.
- If your current location does not allow for at least six hours of sun daily (even in the winter months), grow lights can be installed to ensure that your plants receive the UV exposure as well as the temperatures they need for positive growth. The most commonly-purchased type of grow light tends to be the LED light; as they are efficient but low-wattage, decreasing the amount of money added to your monthly electricity bill.
4. Check for air circulation
Any plant you will grow to completion will need a certain level of ventilation for survival. Oxygen is as important to plants as it is us, humans. Most gardeners tend to increase ventilation by the use of fans and air movers to circulate the air throughout the greenhouse.
5. Ensure that a level of shade can be found
While all plants thrive under sunlight, they also can dry out and burn from too much exposure. Using trees or other means – such a shading sheet for greenhouses – increases the odds of survival of both delicate and sturdy plants.
- Shading sheet – a sheet of dark material designed to roll down over the greenhouse similar to a window shade.
6. Check for pest interference
Yes, a greenhouse would have a higher chance of maintaining pest cost but it is possible for pests to wreak havoc on your plants. Outside foliage should be kept away from the greenhouse to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Some people will install insect screening around any open area – this includes the doorway, air vents, and water systems.
7. Use correct growing seasons
In the spring, start seeds inside the greenhouse. Summer, start growing flowers and small plants. Fall, start growing seasonal plants. Winter, grow cold-resistant plants
Hopefully, with this tutorial, you are now ready to start showing off your own green thumb while saving money at the same time!
As previously stated, the rising costs of today’s society can be hard and stressful for a household to contend with. By reducing your grocery budget by introducing home-grown fresh produce into your diet, not only will you reap the financial benefits, but also the physical ones. It has been proven that fresh vegetables contain a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than their frozen or canned counterparts.
So by using a greenhouse to grow your own fruits, vegetables, and even herbs; you can be on the way to looking and feeling great, both inside and out, with a few extra dollars in your pocket for a rainy day.
If you enjoyed this tutorial on how to use a greenhouse for beginners and found it informative, please feel free to share it with your family and friends. If you currently use a greenhouse or you have previous experiences growing with the aid of a greenhouse, and you have inventive ideas or tips on which produce grows the fastest; share these thoughts down below in the comments!
6 Essential Greenhouse Growing Tips for Beginners
Growing your own produce in a greenhouse is an incredibly fulfilling and enjoyable pass time, but as with any hobby that requires a degree of skill and knowledge, the learning curve can be quite steep. Even when growing the hardiest of plant species, there is a large number of variables that can affect growth rates and the success of a yield.
For those new to greenhouse growing, it can be hard to get everything right in your first season, and while trial and error is an important part of the learning process, these 6 tips will give any greenhouse novices a head start.
1. Seasonal Starting Seeds
One of the biggest advantages of having a greenhouse is that you can extend growing seasons, getting an early start on spring and summer and even growing certain vegetables all year round. Our growing guide gives you a good insight into what should be planted when, but before you even start planning your growing schedule, it is important that you load up on the vital seed starting supplies you’ll need for a successful yield. At a minimum, you should invest in:
- Sterile soil (very important to reduce the chance of pest infestation and diseases)
We also recommend you invest in heat sources to help propagate seeds at the beginning of the season when temperatures are cooler. A propagation heating mat is an inexpensive and easy way to heat seed flats and encourage growth, but there are other methods such as heat cables buried in seed benches.
2. Light Sources
During late Spring and Summer, any Swallow or Elite greenhouse should be getting enough natural light for the plants, but if you want to grow in late Autumn and Winter, a supplementary lighting system is a must-have if you want healthy, strong plants.
High output fluorescent lamp strips and LED grow lights are amongst the most popular lighting products because, unlike some other lighting systems they output full spectrum light, are very energy efficient and can cover a larger area.
However, if you’re in a small and cheaper greenhouse, or are growing a smaller crop, a normal fluorescent strip hung 3-7 inches above the plants will often suffice.
Heating a greenhouse in the cooler months can be quite the learning experience in and of itself! For those new to greenhouse growing we recommend using electric heaters as they are easier to install, more economical and have a wider range of applications. A small 120-volt heater will usually heat a small greenhouse just fine, although larger greenhouses will need a 240+ volt heater, controlled by a reliable, waterproof thermostat.
Gas heaters work just as well, but tend to be less economical and come with the added nuisance of sorting out proper ventilation, with both a constant supply of fresh air for combustion and a means of fume exhaustion.
For the eco-minded out there, less energy intensive forms of heating include setting up ventilation systems which use unneeded warm air from your home. Some growers with small greenhouses also use items like large rocks and other heat-absorbent materials which absorb heat during sunlight hours and slowly release it throughout the night. Even with supplementary heating sources, these methods are a good way of keeping the temperature inside the greenhouse more consistent throughout the course of a day.
Even with the UK’s milder climate, during the height of summer it can be hard to maintain a consistent temperature in a greenhouse. Because they are specifically designed to maintain and trap heat, cooling down a greenhouse that has become too hot is far harder than heating a greenhouse that is too cool.
Therefore consistently and regularly measuring the temperature inside the greenhouse or potting shed during the hotter months is hugely important. Measuring temperatures regularly can mean the difference between being able to regulate temperature by simply opening the greenhouse door and having to use positive cooling. If your greenhouse does regularly overheat, we recommend using evaporative air coolers, which maintain humidity.
5. Ventilating a Greenhouse
Seasonality plays a huge role in ventilating any size greenhouse. During the summer, convection currents created by the natural heat is more than enough to maintain good circulation. By keeping both the wall vents and the roof vents open during summer, cool air will be pulled in through the walls while hot air will escape through the roof, drawing in a constant supply of fresh air.
During winter, however, maintain air circulation and preventing the growth of mold can be more difficult. Making sure that the soil is not over watered will help a lot, but many greenhouse growers keep an oscillating fan running throughout most of the colder months.
6. Watering the Plants
One of the most common mistakes new growers make is watering plants according to a set schedule. A number of variables dictate when plants need watering, with temperature, humidity and the growth stage of the plants themselves having a huge effect on how much water is needed.
While in the middle of winter you might only need to water a seed bench every 10 days, during summer the frequency will be increased. The best way to know when to water the plants is to measure moisture in the soil, either with specific moisture metres or just by sight and feel of the soil.
Greenhouse Gardening Made Easy: Tips For Using And Building A Greenhouse
Building a greenhouse, or just thinking about and researching greenhouse gardening info? Then you already know we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Keep reading for more information on greenhouse gardening, including building greenhouses and how to use a greenhouse for growing plants year round.
How to Use a Greenhouse
Building a greenhouse does not need to be difficult or even particularly expensive. The premise of how to use a greenhouse is also quite straightforward. A greenhouse’s purpose is to grow or start plants during seasons or in climates that are otherwise inhospitable for germination and growth. The focus of this article is on greenhouse gardening made easy.
A greenhouse is a structure, either permanent or temporary, that is covered by a translucent material which allows sunlight to enter and heat the greenhouse. Ventilation is required to adjust the temperature accordingly on warmer days just as some sort of heating system may be required during cold nights or days.
Now that you know the basics for how to use a greenhouse, it is time to figure out how to build your own greenhouse.
Greenhouse Gardening Info: Site Preparation
What is it they say in real estate? Location, location, location. That is exactly the most crucial criteria to adhere to when you build your own greenhouse. When building a greenhouse, full sun exposure, water drainage and protection from wind should be considered.
Consider both morning and afternoon sun when situating your greenhouse location. Ideally, sun all day is best but morning sunlight on the east side is sufficient for plants. Take
note of any deciduous trees that may shade the site, and avoid evergreens as they do not lose foliage and will shade the greenhouse during the fall and winter when you need to maximize the sun’s penetration.
How to Build Your Own Greenhouse
When building a greenhouse, there are five basic structures:
- Post and Rafter
Building plans for all of these can be found online, or one can purchase a prefab greenhouse kit to build your own greenhouse.
For greenhouse gardening made easy, a popular building is a pipe frame curved roof style, wherein the frame is made of piping covered by a single or double layer of ultraviolet shielding thick or heavier plastic sheeting. An air inflated double layer will reduce heating costs by 30%, but keep in mind that this plastic sheeting will probably only last one or two years. Using fiberglass when building a greenhouse will extend the life a few years to up to 20.
Plans are available on the web, or if you are good at math can be drawn up yourself. For a temporary, movable greenhouse, PVC piping may be cut to create your frame and then covered with the same plastic sheeting as above, more or less creating a large cold frame.
Ventilation and Heating the Greenhouse
Ventilation for greenhouse gardening would be simple side or roof vents that can be louvered open to adjust the ambient temperature: ideally between 50-70 degrees F. (10-21 C.) depending on the crop. Temperature is allowed to rise 10-15 degrees before venting. A fan is another nice option when building a greenhouse, pushing the warm air back down around the base of the plants.
Optimally, and for the cheapest route, the sunlight penetrating the structure will adequately heat for greenhouse gardening. However, the sun only provides about 25% of the heat needed, so another method of heating must be considered. Solar heated greenhouses are not economical to use, as the storage system requires a great deal of space and does not maintain a consistent air temperature. A tip to reduce fossil fuel consumption if you build your own greenhouse is to paint plant containers black and fill with water to retain heat.
If a larger or more commercial structure is being built, then a steam, hot water, electric or even a small gas or oil heating unit should be installed. A thermostat will help to maintain temperature and in the case of any electrical heating units, a backup generator would be handy.
When building a greenhouse, the heater size (BTU/hr) may be determined by multiplying the total surface area (square feet) by the night temperature difference between inside and outside by the heat loss factor. The heat loss factor for air separated double plastic sheeting is 0.7 and 1.2 for single layer glass, fiberglass or plastic sheeting. Increase by adding 0.3 for small greenhouses or those in windy areas.
The home heating system will not work to heat the adjacent structure when you build your own greenhouse. It is just not up to the task, so a 220 volt electric circuit heater or small gas or oil heater installed through the masonry should do the trick.