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greenhouses

Beginners Guide to Greenhouses

Did you enjoy gardening during summer but are frustated during the winter since you can’t continue to plant? Well there’s a solution for this, it’s called greenhouses! Avoid your beautiful grown plants to freeze during the winter by building a greenhouse, never worry about outside temperature or climate again. It’s like creating a climate within a climate that perfectly suits your planting needs.

People use greenhouses for very different reasons; some are interested in having fresh vegetables and fruits across the whole year which are 100% free of pesticides, others just love to have a nice planting hobby and be outdoors whenever they want.

So you’re asking yourself what’s needed to build a greenhouse? Read my following step to step instruction and you’ll be set to go sooner than you can imagine:

1 – If you’re a beginner and have never had a greenhouse before, so called greenhouse kits (about.com article featuring some very good products) are the right path to take. The variations are endless with most online retailers and local stores offering different kits for different needs. They vary in size, material and quality.

As soon as you know what you’re going to plant (how many flowers, what kind of planting etc.) you can chose a specific greenhouse kit. For starting out, I personally recommend a smaller greenhouse kit. This saves you both money and time when starting out and makes sure you don’t invest too much into something you haven’t tried before.

2 – A heating system. In most parts of the world, the winter is quite cold so if that fits your location, you need a heating system to keep a mild temperature across the whole year inside your greenhouse. In these climates, annuals normally just grow during summer and if you want to grow them during the winter months as well, there’s no way to do it without a heating system installed.  Another usage of a heating systems is to prevent your plants from freezing during winter months. To make things easier, the most common heating models are coming with a thermostatic controlling sstem that’s pretty much hands-off when it comes to regulating the temperature inside the greenhouse. It's a bit outdated, but you can take a look at this PDF file of the University of California about heating systems.

3 – To get the best results in your greenhouse, you might consider growth lamps as a part of your equipment. With these growth lamps you’re emulating the summer time to flowers, fruits and vegetables that are used to grow only during summer. During winter, the average sun time across a day decreases heavily which results in the plants not growing as much as they do during summer, even with a proper heating system installed.

4 – A good heat trapping is crucial for your greenhouse. Materials such as trapping glass or plastic generally let the heat in but do a good job in preventing it from going out.

The next point ist he location of your greenhouse. You have to consider the cardinal points when setting up your greenhouse. In our regions, the northern part / side of your greenhouse is usually the coldest part. During winter, the winds normally come from North. That’s why you should care absolutely most about a perfect insulation on the northern end of the greenhouse to prevent damages during the winter months.

As as perfect setup, I recommend to set up the heater at the northern end of the greenhouse. By doing so, the heat gets right where it’s coldest. Also make sure to set the doors of your greenhouse to South, you don’t want possible leaks in the doors being exposed to the colder northern part of it.

So now we’re at the stage in which we set the temperature of the greenhouse. The temperature should be regulated by the season – except summer:

During Fall, in the northern climates, you usually get the first frosts and heavy changes in temperatures. One day can be much different to the other.  Until the mid of October, the sun is relatively strong still and I would not recommend to turn on your heater during this time yet.

While winter months it’s a whole different story. There’s a high risk for your plants to freeze, so turning on the heater is recommended. The highest temperature I would set the heater to is around 30 - 35 degrees Celsius. The more the winter goes on (December to end of February) the days get much darker so it’s time to activate your growth lamp.

As soon as we reach spring, circumstances are changing again. The temperature begins to get warmer again and the days are longer. You can still face freeze temperatures facing very warm days. The suntime of each day is getting higher again as well. One mistake many beginners do is putting annuals out way too early. Make sure the temperature doesn’t fall into getting too cold before taking them out the greenhouse.

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Schweinderl