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



Brace your greenhouse to protect it from heavy snow. Ussery uses 2-by-4s as braces — the arrow points to a hole drilled into the board that the bolt slides into.

Brace your greenhouse to protect it from heavy snow. Ussery uses 2-by-4s as braces — the arrow points to a hole drilled into the board that the bolt slides into.

Photo by Harvey Ussery

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.

kimharden
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 inside...is 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!


kimharden
11/2/2015 1:21:58 PM

I'm a simple in-home gardener (mostly 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 inside...is 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 well....because they're pretty compact and easy to hang in a small space. Would love some advice on this! Thanks!


zornitza young_1
6/14/2010 10:31:01 AM

I recently purchased a small hobby greenhouse.It will be up in the fall. Our winters are pretty cold here in MD and I want to find a way to heat it during the night. I searched and searched for some solar-panel type of heater without success...Does anyone have suggestions for me? The heat-sink is not suitable in my case since it will take up a lot of floor space. I was thinking the best thing would be some sort of a water heater that heats up during the day and releases at night, but I couldnt find anything like that already made. All solar water heating systems are complicated household systems..I dont mind investing in some solar panels to make the water heat faster than just painting a barrel black and letting it sit there, but it seems its either that or a really complicated system, nothing it between. I find that hard to believe...I will appreciate any suggestions! Thanks in advance!!!


larry kerschner
9/1/2009 4:43:25 PM

I am new to greenhouse gardening. I built a 10 x 30 greenhouse from Solex against the back of an outbuilding. I'm just getting ready to plant winter crops but am pretty disappointed by what I grew this Summer. My main concern is that it is now obvious that I have kept it too wet (I discovered moss and two kinds of mushrooms today when I was clearing out the beds; I have in ground beds and raised beds) even tho we had a warm to hot summer in the NorthWest this year. How do I get te wtering right especially in the Pacific NorthWest? Any suggestions would be appreciated.






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