Expert Advice on Greenhouse Growing

Learn about this expert advice on greenhouse growing. You’ll be amazed by the many uses of a backyard greenhouse. Not only can you use it to grow crops in cold weather to extend the growing season, you can also use it to provide food and shelter for poultry and livestock. Another benefit of the greenhouse is that it’s a great place to put worm bins.

| October/November 2007

Expert advice on greenhouse growing. Build a greenhouse in your backyard, and you’ll be amazed at its many uses.

Expert Advice on Greenhouse Growing

A greenhouse is one of the most valuable additions you can make to your property. If you want to be more self-reliant by raising more of your own food, a greenhouse — large or small — can help you meet many of your needs and goals. With a greenhouse, you can plant fall and winter crops to extend the growing season and enjoy fresh food year-round. It also can provide food and shelter for poultry and livestock, and it’s a great place to put worm bins. Here’s a little about my greenhouse, and the many ways I use it.

The Greenhouse Structure

Start With Simple Components. Most greenhouses are made from sheets of plastic stretched over a metal frame. You can buy a kit with all the essential components. Mine is a Paul Boers “gothic” style kit (the arches come to a peak at the top, which is better for shedding snow). I paid more up front to get 1 1/2-inch galvanized steel pipe, rather than 1-inch, for added strength. If your area gets any snow or heavy wind, this heavier pipe is a good investment.

I also recommend using 6-mil plastic that has been treated to resist ultraviolet breakdown. It’s readily available from any greenhouse supply, and the version I use is guaranteed for four years. I use two layers of plastic with a small, energy-efficient blower to inflate the space in-between. The inflated “bubble” increases the insulating value of the cover, sheds snow more readily, and resists “chatter” in the wind, resulting in better wear.

Protect Your Foundation. When I first put up my greenhouse, I installed a wooden foundation to attach the “channel lock” into which the plastic cover is secured. Because I avoid using chemically treated wood, I used 2-by-8 pine boards with several coats of linseed oil. That was a bad idea — the boards rotted out after five years. My solution was to install a single course of 4-inch hollow concrete block on a small poured footer, then lock a better grade 2-by-4 (sealed against moisture) onto the top of the block foundation using J-bolts pushed into wet concrete in the holes of the blocks. The channel lock is still screwed into wood, but the wood is never in contact with earth or rain. With applications of sealant as needed, it should last as long as I do.

Choose the Right Size. The larger the greenhouse, the better its ability to buffer temperature extremes. That’s because a larger greenhouse will have a larger amount of thermal mass — in the form of soil — that is warmed by the sun during the day, resulting in warmer nighttime temperatures. Another reason to choose a larger greenhouse is that you’ll find more and more things you want to do with it.

11/24/2017 1:15:56 PM

I now live at 9,247 ft Altitude. Growing season maybe 85 days. Ground is rocky and not good. So just bought my first greenhouse, a small one, I hope to use to start plants and stretch the growing season. So thank you for this, its a start. Depending on this next year, I may just move to bigger and better. I have 3 4' by 8' raised gardens and one of the options is hoops covered with plastic. Anyway any further advice would be appreciated.

11/24/2017 9:42:32 AM

Great article. I have a leanto greenhouse with a custom-built cedar frame and insulated knee walls. I mainly use it to start veggies and for the heat-loving tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I am considering adding LED grow lights so I can extend the growing season a bit longer. If I go with 12volt lights, I hope to setup a solar panel with storage batteries so the lighting cost will be negligible. I’m also researching setting up a solar collector to heat the water I’m storing in my rain barrels in the greenhouse and circulate it at night to keep the air temperature higher or provide bottom heat for my benches.

11/2/2015 1:28:04 PM

I'm a simple in-home gardener (just simple micro greens and herbs in my kitchen) but I'm interested in starting the venture outdoors with a DIY greenhouse! One thing I was wondering: I know indoor grow lights are really important for my plants there a benefit to having some lighting in a greenhouse? Or does that defeat the purpose? If not grow lights, maybe some sort of task light just so I could see better in the early morning/evening hours? I love my LED grow lights, and the company I got them from have similar LED task lights that I thought would work because they're pretty compact and easy to hang in a small space. Would love some advice on this! Thanks!

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