Many believe that installing a greenhouse in a garden is only for the super keen gardener but this could not be further from the truth.
Greenhouses have been in use for hundreds of years, with the first known example dating back to Roman times when Emperor Tiberius got the taste for Armenian cucumbers every day.
The first modern greenhouses were built in Italy in the 13th century. Greenhouses originally proliferated on the estates of the wealthy, but they quickly spread to universities as well.
Nowadays, greenhouses are no longer an extravagance of the rich. Many vegetables that grow in temperate climates can be grown all year round in a greenhouse – not to mention tropical crops like bananas and lemons which cannot survive colder seasons at all without protection.
In this article we look at everything that you need to know about your first greenhouse, starting from the types of greenhouses, where to postion and the types of plants or vegetables you should be growing.
Table of Contents
Choose the Best Location
The ideal location for a greenhouse is a place inside the garden that gets enough sunlight. The light shouldn’t get blocked by other trees or shrubs and there has to be some space around all four sides of the greenhouse. Once the best location is found, it is essential to make sure that the water and electricity sources are easily accessible from the greenhouse.
Before installing a greenhouse building in the garden, you must level the site because greenhouses require a flat surface. To prevent a greenhouse from getting flooded, it is always better to choose elevated land in the garden.
Choose the Best Greenhouse Structure
There are various types of greenhouses available today that vary in architecture or shape. Some commonly found greenhouses are lean-to, freestanding, even span, uneven span, gothic arch and ridge, and furrow.
While some of these greenhouses are used for industries, lean-on and freestanding greenhouses can be the most appropriate in fulfilling the needs of house gardening.
Besides choosing the best greenhouse architecture, it is also essential to know about their structural components. The formula is very simple. Initially, one needs to keep in mind only two elements- the framing material and the cover material.
- Wooden and metal framings are quite common in greenhouse buildings.
- Glass, polyurethane and PE are the usual choices for greenhouse covers.
Metal Frame Greenhouse
This is a very popular choice among gardeners because metal frames are cost-effective and highly durable. Shape-wise, metal is comparatively easier to transport than those hefty wooden frames. However, not all metal frames are of the same quality, and hence choosing powder-coated aluminium will be the best option. This material is rustproof and doesn’t decay easily.
Wooden Frame Greenhouse
Wood has been conventionally used to frame greenhouses since its inception. There is hardly any doubt about the longevity when natural wood is used as the framing material. Another advantage of wooden frames is that they give the best insulation. Timber and Thermo Wood are considered to be the best framing materials. But there’s a catch! Wooden frames can be costlier than metal ones.
Just like wooden frames, glass covers are pretty much conventional when it comes to building garden greenhouses. Glass, being the strongest of all greenhouse materials, is long-lasting in nature. However, on the other hand, glass is prone to shatter. Hence, it is essential to choose shatterproof high-quality glass to ensure longevity, which might seem costlier than investing in polycarbonate or other covers.
Polycarbonate works as the best alternative to glass when it comes to choosing greenhouse cover material. It has equal or more heat retention properties than glass and it is way cheaper than glass. However, polycarbonate, being semi-transparent, might lack light retention and aesthetic aspects.
Other Types of Greenhouses
Those who are looking for a portable and small greenhouse can look for other options than glass or polycarbonate greenhouses. These greenhouses usually feature PE cover and wireframing, which make them ideal for fewer plants. However, in harsh weather conditions, these greenhouses might need to be located at a safer place such as the indoors.
Greenhouse Planting Tips
For planting seeds in a greenhouse, a gardener needs to know the growing season of different plants. Greenhouse planting starts when the gardeners sow seeds and ends when the crops are harvested. From root growth to cool conditions and watering on time, a gardener needs to look after many things to enjoy happy gardening. Here are some planting tips that every greenhouse gardener needs to know.
Sowing the Seeds
Seeds are usually sown on individual plug trays or open flat seed trays inside greenhouses. There are various methods of sowing seeds that mostly depend upon the specific needs of the plants.
Individual plug trays contain different cells to accommodate different seeds separately in each cell whereas open flat trays accommodate multiple seeds in spaced rows. Individual plug trays ensure proper moisture and warmth to the soil and the seeds than the latter. However, open flat trays are quite convenient as they can be watered easily. When seedlings start to show up, they can be transplanted to individual pots from these seedling trays.
Watering the Plants
It is crucial to understand the watering needs of every plant in the greenhouse because plants can die from inappropriate watering. Some significant signs of inappropriate watering are drying of the plants, decreased shoot size and immature plants with a poor shelf life. The best time for watering is the morning when the water will be absorbed to the fullest.
Things to Ensure in the Greenhouse
Greenhouse gardening for beginners can be full of fun when all the necessities are met. A gardener needs to ensure that there is enough ventilation and sunlight to control the temperature inside the greenhouse. Also, connecting the greenhouse to nearby water sources is important. During plantations, pest control is a must if there are instances of pest attacks. Let’s take a look at each of these in detail.
Ventilation is essential for cooling down the greenhouse temperature while growing summer crops. Greenhouses are usually designed with doors, windows, side vents as well as roof vents that can help in ventilation. While choosing a greenhouse building, it is essential to look for one that comes with multiple vents.
Heating and Cooling
To grow crops and keep them warm during winter, heating is an important aspect of temperature control. Among all greenhouse cover materials, polycarbonate has the best heat retention property. Despite this, additional heating systems such as gas, paraffin and electric heaters are some common choices of most gardeners. Though gas and paraffin are cost-effective options, electric heating systems are the most convenient ones.
Some greenhouses won’t ventilate on their own unless a ventilation system is installed. Air circulation also depends upon the design of the greenhouses that vary from one another. Hence, gardeners usually prefer installing an electric fan ventilation system. To circulate the air evenly, they often stage multiple fans in the greenhouse.
Natural Light Sources
Sunlight is the basic requirement of plants for photosynthesis. Hence, a greenhouse should get enough sunlight during the day. Among all greenhouse cover materials, horticultural glass and safety glass are the best options that absorb heat while ensuring adequate lighting during the day. During the night, one can install lighting systems in a greenhouse to keep plants warm.
Greenhouse irrigation systems help the gardeners in watering plants during all seasons. Most of these systems are available online or in farming equipment stores. To water the plants manually, one can also use watering cans and other containers.
Pest control is a must when plants inside the greenhouse are getting affected by harmful insects. Some pests that are quite common in greenhouses in the UK are aphids, whiteflies, fuchsia gall mites, cabbage moth caterpillars, box tree caterpillars, vine weevils, flea beetles, slugs and snails. Using an organic pesticide made with neem oil and natural oils can be a homemade remedy to get rid of pests naturally. But if there are chances of heavy damage, one may need to call a pest control team.
Want to find out how you can keep your greenhouse warmer during the winter? Have a read of an article we wrote about whether or not a garden greenhouse can be double-glazed!
Greenhouse Maintenance Tips
Maintenance of the greenhouse is essential in order to keep the greenhouse neat while ensuring the plants get the best nutrition. One needs to balance between the hot air and the cool air depending upon the plants’ needs. Here are some maintenance tips for effective greenhouse gardening.
Regular Greenhouse Cleaning
To maintain a greenhouse efficiently, one needs to clean it on a regular basis. After potting soil during the seed sowing phase, it is essential to sweep out the extra soil from the ground. While the plants are growing, cleaning dry leaves and other unnecessary elements is equally important.
Keeping the Doors Open During the Day
To let the plants get fresh air, it is essential to keep the greenhouse door open during the day. It will also ensure that the plants are getting direct sunlight and warm air that is required for their proper growth. During the night, one can install LED grow lights.
Placing the Tender Plants Outside During the Day
Greenhouse ventilation and heating might not be enough for the baby plants to grow properly. Placing them outside during the day is essential in the growing season. Hence, one needs to take them out from the greenhouse shelves and greenhouse benches and place them open in the garden for at least five to six hours during the day.
Covering the Plants during Cold Nights
In colder months, one needs to provide extra protection to vegetables and other tender plants. Depending on their growing schedule, one can cover them with fleece or any other shade cloth for optimum protection. This will help the gardeners keep the temperature high by up to two degrees or more than the normal temperature of the day.
Just like any other form of gardening, it’s important to follow a few basic tips to excel in greenhouse gardening. Knowing the right tips can help any beginner greenhouse gardener to flourish a greenhouse with lots of healthy plants, be it vegetables, fruits, flowers, tender plants or exotic plants. The plants for greenhouse growing can differ based on their specific needs. A gardener is said to be successful when all the aspects mentioned above are followed carefully.