Guest Article by Holly VicHammond
If you are thinking about building a greenhouse, remember these three things: warmth, light and moisture. An effective greenhouse provides these elements consistently using tools such as lights and heaters to ensure healthy growth year round. Greenhouses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but regardless of design, make sure to include warmth, and moisture in your DIY greenhouse. The following tips will help you create an effective growing-environment for your plants.
Location, Location, Location
The location of your greenhouse is crucial. You can put the greenhouse anywhere, but ideally, you want to make use of the natural elements as much as possible. This means sunlight, not shade. Pick up spot that is level for optimal growing land. Remember that dogs and greenhouses don’t mix, so stay out of high traffic areas like sidewalks and your dog’s favorite part of the yard.
You will need to set up a simple foundation. It does not have to be fancy; a square made from landscape timbers will provide adequate support. Cover the ground inside the timbers with landscape fabric to help keep out weeds and then fill the square with gravel for drainage.
When it comes time to build the frame, a store-bought kit comes in handy. Kits contain premade pieces that snap together to create the structure. If you decide to go without a kit, you will need to follow the instructions accurately unless you have experience in building design and construction.
If you opt for a complete DIY greenhouse, you will need materials such as pressure treated wood, fence posts or even PVC piping to complete the structure. Elements for the walls and the ceiling can include safe glazed panels or UV stabilized polyurethane plastic. Stage the greenhouse with a work area for potting and plastic or fiberglass shelves to hold your plants.
Keeping plants warm during the winter months is an absolute necessity. The greenhouse should be kept at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the cold season. If your building is large, you might consider gas heaters for a long-term solution. Set heaters at a safe distance from the plants and then place one or more thermostats in key locations away from both the door and equipment to get an accurate reading of temperature.
The structure should have vents in the ceiling to help circulate air during the hot months. In addition, you should use fans or an evaporative cooling system to keep the heat out during hot summer months. These small evaporative units are similar to air conditioners, but less expensive to run.
If you picked your location right, you have plenty of natural light, but you will need to add more. Ideally, you want the plants to have light at least 12 hours of sunlight a day. You can purchase plant grow lights or hang a socket three feet above the seedlings. Use a 125-watt high-pressure sodium bulb instead of the standard light bulb to simulate sunlight.
Maintaining proper humidity can be a challenge in a greenhouse, but hand misting should be enough for small areas. Keep spray bottles full of water around the room. As it starts to heat up, misting will add just enough water to the air. Larger structures might benefit from a watering and misting system. If your greenhouse is in an area that will accommodate a waterline, you can set up overhead misting with timers. Use the same line to create an irrigation system that will keep the soil moist but not flooded.
A greenhouse is a lot of work to put up, but once it is running, not that hard to maintain. If you are a gardener at heart, building your own greenhouse gives you the chance to grow all year round in a plant-friendly environment.
Holly is a dedicated green advocate and vegetarian. She loves keeping up with her garden and encouraging others to start their own gardens. She blogs on behalf of Sears and other great brands in her spare time!