Building Greenhouses Plus Accessories
How to Build a Greenhouse Research Tips
We were overjoyed to have moved into a home that offered us our first real garden! Many hours of fun lay ahead in planning of what to do with it – create raised beds, put in a shed, build a greenhouse: we happily rattled off a list of plans, getting far ahead of ourselves before reality set in, largely the back to earth with bump reality of “er, do we actually know how to build a greenhouse?”
The truth is that we don't, but like any intrepid new gardeners, we were determined to find out. This involved my partner in many hours of looking on-line to seek information and to be honest, it's all out there. From greenhouse kits to off the peg or individual greenhouse design, there are greenhouse retailers and products across the nation that offer a wealth of starting points for those such as us!
Research Comes First
However, being tactile and highly visual folk, a bit of hands-on research was preferable, so as well as the virtual hunt for information, we toured garden centers and outbuilding specialists in pursuit of knowledge on how to pull our ideas together.
Such places can be really informative, so I would recommend this approach, so long as you know the basic questions that you want to ask. If you have any greenhouse plans, do take them with you and think about what you need to know, before you make your investigations.
Greenhouses - Not Just For Vegetable Seedlings
Style, Size and Glass Choices
If you know that aesthetically you would prefer to have a wooden greenhouse, then you will need to ask questions about the wood types, particularly the maintenance and life-span of such an investment.
You might have more specific questions in relation to greenhouse glass, for instance whether you want any solar panels to generate additional energy plus grow your plants; whether you want glass panels that open or not; or, depending on what you want to grow or if you have small children, a small garden and lots of ball games, you might want to investigate the suitability of acrylic versus actual glass. The list is as individual as your family and your space!
The size of your greenhouse will have a direct bearing both on its price and on what features it may include, so it's a good idea to actually get inside some erected greenhouses when you are shopping around. Once inside, check to see if the size will suit your needs, then ask questions about what features are included in that particular size of greenhouse. You may think that a small greenhouse will be cheaper, but if you require particular features, it may be that the costs will rise as these are added to the specification of your chosen greenhouse, even if you do choose to build it yourself.
We have the foundations and dwarf walling in place for a lean-to greenhouse, so it was vital that these measurements came with us, to see if it would be practical for this to be our basis or whether we should start from scratch. Keep your measurements and greenhouse plans on you for these visits as you will need to refer to them frequently, particularly when it comes to comparing your possible options.
Lastly, in weighing up our own greenhouse planning, we had to seriously consider an additional cost issue. If you are not confident that you know how to build a greenhouse so that it can withstand the elements, then this can lead to costly errors and repairs (both to the greenhouse itself and to your plants), meaning that building it yourself may not ultimately give value for money.
Even if, like us, you do intend having a go and building your own, do research the cost of installation by a professional, so that you have a realistic basis for comparison. However, do be aware that this can add significantly to the cost and can rise according to the size and specification of greenhouse that you ultimately choose!
Building a Raised Greenhouse
Choosing the Best Greenhouse Accessories
Finally, after planning, purchasing and perhaps even erecting it yourself, your greenhouse is up! However, before you grab your trowel and get planting, spare a few minutes identifying any other greenhouse accessories that you may need, to help you get the most out of your greenhouse gardening!
As well as the obvious gardening tools, here's a quick checklist of six items that could well prove to be the greenhouse equivalent of the latest must-have fashion item!
Digital or mercury, a thermometer is an essential item to ensure that conditions in your greenhouse are optimum for your plants, particularly if you are growing specialist plants. There are plenty on the market to choose from, but do consider that a digital thermometer can be much easier to read in the humid atmosphere of a busy greenhouse, especially if you want that at-a-glance information.
Greenhouse insulation helps your heater (such as this one) work more cost efficiently.
Insulation isn't just about keeping things warm in your house! Just as you'd tuck your children up warmly on winter nights, so should you consider 'tucking up' your seedlings and dormant plants!
An unheated greenhouse can be kept frost-free by greenhouse insulation, whilst insulating a heated greenhouse can maximize the effect of greenhouse heaters, which therefore become more economical to run.
Using Bubble Wrap to Insulate Your Greenhouse
Seed Trays and Covers
Always useful for starting off your seeds, a stack of these are not just useful, but if you buy quality items the first time around, you could recycle these indefinitely, giving you extra value for money.
Perhaps if you are not too worried about this as you know you will be giving some seedlings away, seed trays can be cheaply provided by re-using food trays that food items come from the supermarket in, just wash carefully first and use as either bases or covers! Adding covers to your trays will help to propagate plants and give additional warmth for optimum germination conditions and to prevent frost.
Lighting and Power
If you've installed your own greenhouse, then you will probably have dealt with the issue of lighting or power at an early stage, but if you have inherited a powerless greenhouse as part of a new home, it is really worth considering adding outdoor power.
Kits that include weather-proof switches and sockets can be readily obtained from greenhouse supplies outlets and many can be legally fitted by a non-specialist (but do read all instructions carefully).
If you have power but don't want the expense of heating the whole greenhouse, a plug-in propagator can be the ideal solution for allowing warmth to seedlings that need it, or for larger, more specialist plants.
Mostly working on a heated mat basis, there is a whole range available, starting from $29 to well over $100 (Amazon.com), for fixed or variable temperature models.
It sounds obvious, but do make sure you have a stock of plant labels and a permanent marker, so that you can identify your seedlings at all times! However good your memory, there will be times where you just can't quite be sure what's where, or when a ‘helpful’ pair of hands has moved things around: the last thing you want is to have painstaking labelled everything with a dry-wipe marker and then lost the information at the first round of watering! To be able to function effectively as a grower, you need to keep tabs (literally) on what is what and where it is!
Of course, your own essential garden accessories will relate to the type of vegetables and flowers you are growing so pick and choose from the above and decide on anything else that fits your needs, then it’s happy and productive planting all the way!
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