How to Choose a Greenhouse

How to Choose a Greenhouse

As we learn the health benefits of eating organic food, more and more people are interested in growing their own food.  Many try to perfect their skill and increase their yield.  Depending on where you live, growing plants in a greenhouse will allow you to provide a more favorable environment to produce healthier plants and to prolong the growing season to give you more harvest.

If you are new to growing plants in a greenhouse, you may have questions about how to choose a greenhouse that suits your needs.  While the size and your budget seems to be the most obvious factors, there are other points to consider as well.

  1. Purpose.  Determine the purpose of the greenhouse. Is it for growing plants, starting seedlings, an outdoor seating area/sunroom, or just a storage space? The size and design may vary according to its use.  The usage also affect the accessories you'll need to purchase.

    Beside the traditional use of growing plants, people have been using greenhouses to extend their living space to the backyard.  For example, some of the creative uses can be:

    - House a Jacuzzi Tub or Hot Tub
    - An Inspiring Art/Hobby Studio
    - A Tea House
    - A Planetarium
    - An Entertainment Room
    - A Yoga/Exercise Room
    - A cover for an endless pool / exercise pool
    - A Mediation/Relaxation/Reading Sanctuary
    - A retreat to enjoy fresh air and sunlight

    We've also seen greenhouses used as restaurant seating, a bookstore, and as part of a high school or university educational program.

    Always remember that a greenhouse is mainly designed to be used for plants, and you may have to deal with condensation, drips, and other considerations if you are planning to use it for another purpose.

  2. Location.  Ensure that the greenhouse size fits in the available space. Choose a location that receives adequate sunlight and has good drainage.  Most plants require sunlight to thrive, especially fruit bearing plants like tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, squashed and son on.  Leafy greens like lettuce can get away with less sunlight but still need some.  Study what you are going to grow and plan accordingly.  There are different styles of greenhouses that can fit in different places, for example a lean-to style can fit up against your house or other structure.  Some greenhouses can also be customized to have multiple wall attachment sides.  Greenhouses can also be build on a deck or other raised platform, and can be built with a partial or full wall taking the place of part of the greenhouse walls, or entirely up on top of a stem wall to raise the overall height of the greenhouse.  Other special considerations are whether you are building on a slope, will want steps, etc.

  3. Size.  The size of the greenhouse should match the available space and the purpose of the greenhouse. If you intend to propagate plants and seedings, you may want to add shelving and seed trays to the greenhouse and the greenhouse may not need to be huge. For growing vegetables all year round, you may need to invest in a larger greenhouse depending on the yield you desire.  Some higher-end greenhouses can be highly customized and configured for your size needs, and others have add-on extension kits that can be retrofitted even much later if you want to expand.

  4. Material. Consider the type of materials the greenhouse is made of. The frame will typically be plastic, aluminum, or steel.  Depending on your weather and your environment, different frame materials can be more suitable.

    The glazing materials could be tempered glass or polycarbonate. The price of tempered glass is slightly higher than polycarbonate, or is the same in some cases. 

    Glass is all clear and aesthetically pleasing.  It can last a long time if not accidentally hit by a heavy object.  In the case of broken glass, you can find a replacement easily in a local store.  Glass can let in too much sunlight and burn the plant but you can hang shade cloth or apply tinted or reflective films to control the lighting.

    The popular twin-wall Polycarbonate diffuses sunlight and prevents sunburn on the plants. The multi-wall polycarbonate has better insulation than glass glazing. It is more flexible and deflects force well, being quite resistant to puncture or breakage.  So it's durable.  It may turn yellow in the sun overtime if it does not have a UV treatment.  So make sure you are buying one that's UV treated.

  5. Weather: Wind load and roof snow load can be important considerations for, especially if you live in an area that experiences rough or snowy weather.

  6. Ventilation: A greenhouse should have ample ventilation to control the temperature and humidity levels. Most greenhouses come with roof vents to help ventilation.  The roof vent may or may not come with an automatic solar opener.  Read the product description carefully to find out or call the vendor to clarify when in doubt.

    Louver windows are not typically included in most greenhouses.  You may  add one or more if desired.

    An automated exhaust system with a thermostat is a great help with ventilation and most likely can be added to your greenhouse kit .

  7. Heating and Cooling. Consider energy requirements for heating and cooling the greenhouse. For extremely hot or cold areas, sufficient heating or cooling system is a must to keep your plants alive.

    During the day, direct sunlight can heat up a greenhouse and it is 30 - 40 degrees hotter inside.  At night, the greenhouse internal temperature will be the same temperature as outside without any supplemental heating or cooling. 

    Decide on the type of heating and cooling system that suits your budget and location.

  8. Accessories and Options: Some less-expensive brands and models come with a fixed set of options and accessories, and that may be fine for your use.  Consider if you will need a watering or misting system, benches, trays, hangers, shade cloths, a sink, solar-powered fans, automatic vent/window openers, additional doors, roof vents, or windows, decorative elements such as roof crests, finials, spandrels, and so on.

  9. Assembly: Decide if you want to assemble the greenhouse yourself or have it installed for you. Make sure that the instructions and parts are easy to understand.  Most greenhouses require more than one person and may be days to install.  The best practice is to have a enough people to help so that the assembly can be done as quickly as possible.  Leaving a half built greenhouse onsite can be disastrous when an unexpected storm comes through and damages the structure.  A completed greenhouse is much sturdier and can withstand the elements a lot better than a half-built one.

  10. Budget.  Consider the budget and prioritize the features that are essential for the greenhouse.  Greenhouse prices vary a lot depending on its quality, sizes, accessory package, assembly help and so on. 

    Quality greenhouses cost more. They have much stronger frame profiles, and come with professional grade glazing that has better insulation.

Following these steps will help you choose the ideal greenhouse for your needs.  You are also welcome to call us at 888-648-5333 to pick our brains, we'd love to hear from you!

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