Monday, 7 May 2012

5 Greenhouse Planning Tips

Good morning!

It is a beautiful day today, which means I should be enjoying it outside. I wish my computer didn't need to be plugged in all the time, or I could be writing this out in the garden. I don't really want to run a cord that far. 

For those of you who are considering a greenhouse, here are some tips to help with planning and utilization. The rising cost of produce and chemicals used by commercial growers is forcing even the most novice gardener to try their hand at growing their own produce. A properly designed greenhouse can extend the growing season in all but the harshest of climates.

1.     Size – it is important to know what your needs will be regarding amount and type of produce you will be growing. It is a good idea to build bigger than not big enough. A 6X8 foot size is perfect for a few tomato and pepper plants, but if your plans are to have a larger variety of produce you may want to go with a larger size. A 10X12 foot structure is ideal.
2.     Materials – There are several types of greenhouse structures available on the market, from pop-ups to poly-tunnels to conservatory-type glass buildings. A good starting point is a basic 2X4 stud frame covered in corrugated plastic. Roll plastic will work for one season and will do in a pinch, but the corrugated type is longer term. It will last several years so is worth the initial cost. When erecting your structure keep the wind factor in mind, as it may need additional anchoring if made from lighter materials or placed in a location subject to high winds.
3.    Ventilation system – The ventilation system is one of the most important factors to consider when building or buying a greenhouse. If you will be able to monitor the temperature during the hottest part of the day a simple roof vent and door will be sufficient. For those who are away during the day an automated system will be more desirable. Thermostatically controlled fans and cylinder vents are expensive options but may be necessary depending on your individual situation.
4.     Watering system – every greenhouse owner needs to have an irrigation plan in place. This could be as simple as walking a watering can back and forth from the rain barrel to a fully automated watering system. Most backyard greenhouses do not require an automated system, although it is not unheard of. A trickle irrigation system can easily be set up to ease your mind if you are away during the day.
5.     Growing area – pots or staging (shelving)? Will you be growing tall plants which would benefit from an eight foot high space, such as cucumbers? Or will you be growing bush and dwarf varieties of fruits and vegetables? One option is to put staging (built in shelving) on one side and leave the other side open for pots, a removable bench, or a combination of the two.

Once you have decided on the above characteristics, it is time to get building and planting. Within a few short weeks you will be enjoying the fruits of your labor; tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more.

A personal note: I cannot wait to have a greenhouse again. It has not been for lack of trying though. I made a very nice one out of cattle panels and 2X4s about three years ago. I put split doors at both ends, covered it in plastic and had it ready to go. I had gone into town for a bit in the afternoon, and while I was there got the picture below. 

I was devastated! Notice the clear blue skies? Apparently a whirlwind (one large enough to rattle the windows in the house) had come through the yard. I picked up the pieces, we bought some anchors and cable and I tried again. It wasn't meant to be because the wind knocked it flat again. I have tried a couple times since, even using an existing building frame. We live in a wind tunnel and my choice in placement wasn't the best apparently. The question is, do I try again or wait until we move? I think the worst part was I didn't even get a picture of the finished product - just the destroyed product. :(

One more tip: location, location, location! Do not put up a greenhouse made from lightweight materials in a wind tunnel.

Happy gardening!


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