Building a home greenhouse can extend your growing season through late fall and allow you to start early in the spring. This is perfect for winter squash and greens, or growing tomatoes and other plants that might not survive early spring frost, but could use a jump start on the growing season. Plus, a home greenhouse is a great place to store additional lawn mower parts or gardening tools if you don’t want to build a separate garden shed. Just be sure to shelter them from the moisture by building a cabinet or drawers.
How you use your home greenhouse will depend on the structural design you choose, the climate you live in, and whether or not you add a supplementary heat source. Check out these tips for design and materials, where to build and how to maintain the lawn around your home greenhouse.
Choosing the right type of home greenhouse for plants
The temperature inside your greenhouse will determine what plants you can grow, as will the size of the structure you choose. Certain plants need larger beds for their leaf and root structure, and if your home greenhouse will serve as a space for long-term growth rather than just preparing vegetables and flowers for spring planting, you’ll want to choose a larger structure. These guidelines for planting with respect to temperature and size will help get you started.
- Medium-sized cold houses can be used to start plants before the spring truly begins and extend growth into the fall. It should be large enough to host broad-leafed greens, branching squash and wide tomato plants. If you’ll grow potatoes or carrots youíll also want the beds to be deep enough for these roots systems.
- Cool houses will keep it slightly warmer, just above freezing, to protect your more sensitive plants like geraniums, during the winter months. You can also change how you use your home greenhouse, growing hot house plants in the summer and cool in the winter.
- A large warm house will support a broader range of plants, but youíll need warmer temperatures, around 60, or a supplementary heat source to be able to grow these plants throughout the year.
- Hot houses or conservatories are a lovely option for growing tropical flowering plants and fruits. But the natural local temperature must be sufficiently higher to support this growth. If you do choose to maintain a conservatory, consider a larger structure to display your plants to their best advantage.
What you need to build a greenhouse, including kits and sustainable materials
There are several design options available to choose from when building a greenhouse, including simple greenhouse kits and affordable DIY projects made with recycled materials. Any of these home greenhouses can be built as free-standing structures or attached to the wall of your garage or home. Choose the right design for your needs with these suggestions.
- Quonset: A popular choice because itís easy to construct and affordable. The circular frame can be created with PVC pipes and plastic sheeting for a few hundred dollars and is ideal for a cold or cool house. If you live in a colder climate, add a pipe at the top of the greenhouse to create a slope that will allow snow and wet leaves to slide off and prevent structural damage.
- Rigid frame or post and rafter: If youíll be using heavier materials like glass, fiberglass or double-wall plastic, one of these designs may be what youíre looking for. They have vertical sidewalls and rafters, creating a load-bearing design that youíll need a foundation to support. You will also need more materials for the post and rafter design.
- Sustainable home greenhouses: Using a rigid frame and recycled soda pop bottles, you can create a sustainable and affordable greenhouse. After youíve built a wooden frame and collected around 1,000 bottles or so, cut off the bottom of the bottles and stack them on top of each other to create pockets of air that are heated by the sun and pass that heat to your plants. You can feed bamboo through the soda bottles to provide more structure.
- Greenhouse kits: Not much of a handyman, but still want a home greenhouse? You can purchase easy-to-assemble greenhouse kits online or from your local home and garden store.
Maintaining your home greenhouse and lawn
To ensure optimal growth of your plants and vegetables, you’ll need to include proper heating and ventilation to control humidity. Consider a propane heater in the winter so you don’t have to worry about running gas or electric to your home greenhouse, and have windows in the top to provide air circulation. A soda pop bottle greenhouse will naturally have more ventilation than the other designs so you can forgo the windows.
You will need to water the plants in your greenhouse regularly. You can rig an automatic system or rely on hand watering. Be cautions when mowing around the greenhouse. You don’t want to damage lawn mower blades or trimmer parts by getting too close. Consider mowing up to six inches away from the house and using your string trimmer to get in close. Going slowly will help reduce wear and tear, but you may still need to replace your trimmer string if it’s repeatedly hitting the greenhouse. Another option is to add flower or garden beds on either side of your home greenhouse. This makes transplanting easier and creates a softer edge for your trimmer to maintain.