The Perks of Green Living + 10 Steps to Planning Your Greenhouse

Outdoor Living and Gardening Year Round

Greenhouses are quickly becoming the new landscape for home & garden consumers. Today’s garden consumers want to keep their gardens year-round and have an outdoor living space that is trendy and up-to-date.
Greenhouse Gardening is becoming one of the country’s most popular hobbies. The purpose of a greenhouse is to shield crops from excessive cold or heat and unwanted pests. For those gardeners who want to continue growing plants and crops such as orchids, fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals year-round, a greenhouse is a perfect solution.

How Greenhouses Work

A greenhouse is made of glass or plastic that will allow sunlight to pass through. The sunlight will enable the ground inside the greenhouse to heat up, which makes the air warmer. The warmer air keeps the plants warm and continuing to grow when temperatures are cold outside.

Greenhouses Save Time

Greenhouses allow plants to grow quicker because the gardener has more control over the growing process. With the ability to control the conditions inside the greenhouse more confidently, the gardener can expect to see larger yields from fruit and vegetable plantings.

10 Steps to Planning Your Greenhouse

A well-planned and well-built greenhouse will give you a lifetime of gardening enjoyment. Grow organic fruits and vegetables, start your seedlings early, overwinter your tropical plants, and enjoy your favorite hobby all year long.

Consider these important factors when planning for your perfect greenhouse. Where is the best location for your new greenhouse? Do I want it attached to your home or freestanding in a garden setting? What are the advantages (and costs) of glass versus polycarbonate glazing? How will you heat your greenhouse in winter and keep it cool in summer? Do you need a foundation and permits?

Don’t worry if you do not know all the answers to these questions, a horticulturist at your neighborhood garden center can help you make your greenhouse plans successful. You can also contact a greenhouse house manufacturer, who will have a service representative that can assist you with planning.

Our friends at Arcadia GlassHouse recently sat down with us to walk us through planning our own greenhouse and provide us with some useful tips. Arcadia Glasshouse has been manufacturing greenhouses since 1980 out of their facility in Ohio. They are known for their engineering designs that aid in the greenhouse environment being more temperature and humidity-controlled.

Garden Greenhouse.JPG

STEP 1: Type

The first decision to consider is if you want your new greenhouse attached to your home or freestanding in a garden setting. Attached greenhouses typically have more convenient access without going outside and are more energy-efficient because one wall is already heated by your home. They do, however, require a frost-free footer and foundation, which can add high costs to the project.

Freestanding greenhouses typically have more flexibility in size and shape and can be beautiful in a landscaped garden area. They also benefit from having more light coming in from all four sides, and their foundations are typically lower in cost. Building permits are usually less stringent for freestanding greenhouses since they are considered an “accessory building.” Local Zoning permits often require a side yard and rear yard setback of 10 – 15 ft.

STEP 2: Location

One of the most common misconceptions about a residential greenhouse is that it needs to be located where it will get full sun exposure. While this may be important for commercial production greenhouses, it is not necessary for most residential greenhouses. In fact, full southern exposure will require shade cloth to keep the greenhouse cool in summer. Arcadia gave us this effortless way of remembering which direction to position our greenhouse: “West is Best, East is Easy, Southern is sunny, and Northern is shady.”

STEP 3: Design

Arcadia recommends only a durable extruded aluminum frame that meets the snow load and wind load requirements of your area. Welded aluminum truss designs are the strongest. Many low-cost aluminum greenhouse kits are made from flimsy stamped aluminum, and they do not have the quality to hold up in all weather conditions – so be careful. Galvanized metal frames will rust in a few years, and wood frames are pretty, but require extra maintenance and begin rotting after a few years.

Arcadia recommended we look for full-length glass panels that eliminate traditional overlaps and gaps. Their new 3-wall and 5-wall polycarbonate panels are unbreakable with excellent insulating properties.

STEP 4: Optimizing Your Space

Spend some time thinking about how you plan to use your greenhouse. Do you want the maximum amount of growing space? Do you want a sitting area for your own peace and serenity? Once you decide on the purpose of your greenhouse, you can start designing the planning benches or comfortable seating area.

STEP 5: Foundation Requirements

Any greenhouse that is attached to your home or garage will require a frost-free footer and foundation so that frost in the ground does not allow the greenhouse to move separately from the permanent structure. You might want to consult with a local garden center or contractor if you think that your greenhouse will require a foundation. Arcadia has its own full-time employees who travel across the country, installing greenhouse year-round, so we felt very confident in their expertise when it came to installing our greenhouse.

STEP 6: Glass vs. Polycarbonate

There are good reasons to choose both glass and polycarbonate as your preferred glazing option. Glass is beautiful and lasts a lifetime. Polycarbonate is unbreakable, less expensive, and more energy-efficient.


STEP 7: Heating Systems

If you plan to grow plants all year round, you’ll want to have a heater to keep your greenhouse warm on those cold winter nights. Small electric heaters are a good option in smaller greenhouses, while gas heaters are popular in larger greenhouses. Gas heaters require a fresh air intake and exhaust, so you will have a 3-4 inch hole in your greenhouse. Radiant floor heat is an excellent option if available.

STEP 8: Ventilation Systems

Proper ventilation is perhaps the most important option for your new greenhouse. Traditional roof-mounted ridge vents offer passive cooling, but there are more efficient options. A powered ventilation system with a motorized intake shutter and an exhaust fan will keep your greenhouse 10 degrees cooler and is designed to turn over the volume of air inside the greenhouse in less than 2 minutes. Circulation fans are essential to maintain air movement 24/7, which helps prevent bacterial and fungal infections.

STEP 9: Greenhouse Equipment & Accessories

You’ll want to consider some valuable options and accessories to optimize your growing experience. Grow lights are not usually needed for supplemental light, but they are helpful in extending the day length for optimum growth and flowering conditions during the shorter days of winter. Your vegetables and blooming plants typically require 12 to 16 hours of daylight.
Humidification systems are available as benchtop hydrofoggers or mist systems that can be controlled with a humidistat to maintain precise humidity in your greenhouse. The foggers are preferred in residential greenhouses because they emit a fine mist that often evaporates before landing on the plants. Misters work well, but they make everything in the greenhouse wet.
Automated watering systems are available to accommodate vacation schedules and long periods away from the greenhouse. Dribble tube systems release a timed amount of water to individual plants on a regular schedule and work very well. Overhead misting/watering systems are another option.

STEP 10: Architectural Design

Greenhouses can be functional and beautiful at the same time. Consider customizing your greenhouse with minor modifications and trim options to complement the architecture of your home. Cresting and Finials along the peak of the roof add a classic Victorian style. Arcadia has a Victorian-style glass greenhouse that has cresting and finials along the peak of the roof that we find utterly enchanting.

Writers Credit: Nicole Hall

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