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Owning a Greenhouse: The Ins and Outs and Dos and Don’ts

owning a greenhouseYou’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t have some sort of unfinished project stuffed in a drawer or in the back of their closet or workshop. Hey, it happens. And the ‘danger’ is there for this unfinished status to creep into owning a greenhouse if you don’t have a good experience. That’s why you need to keep reading. The following tips and information will allow you to get the most out of your greenhouse; both operationally and personally.

Your greenhouse should be placed in a location where it will get the most possible sunlight. This will almost always mean that you will want to build your greenhouse so that it is sitting south or southwest on your property. This will allow for the most direct light each day.

It is essential that you position your greenhouse near a water hydrant. It needs to be close enough to a hydrant that you can extend a hose around the entire circumference of your greenhouse. If you don’t have a hydrant you will need to put one in.

When constructing your greenhouse, follow all directions closely. Most kits come with a video, as well. Watch it. It is also worth noting that constructing a greenhouse is not a one-man job. You will need an extra set or two of hands.

Don’t forget the shade cloth. You might think it counter-active; you want the sun, right? Yes, but the greenhouse is absorbing the sunlight and using it for heat, as well. And let’s be realistic-there are times when the combination of heat and sunlight will end up frying your plants instead of growing them.

When selecting the type of shelving and work areas for your greenhouse, there is one word that needs to be your mantra…DRAINAGE. Everything you put in your greenhouse that will either hold a plant or be used for working with your plants and seedlings should drain. Greenhouse supply companies offer a huge assortment of shelving units, but you cannot get anything better or less expensive than the Seville Heavy-Duty Steel Shelving Units. You can buy them either in-store or online at Wal-Mart for less than $200 for a five-tiered unit using commercial grade steel. Five high is a bit much for the greenhouse, but you can put them together any way you like; two or three being optimal.

When configuring your greenhouse layout, you will likely receive all sorts of advice or have all sorts of ideas. But long story short, the best way to lay out your shelving is to go completely around three sides of the perimeter (leaving the door end free) and down the center one or two rows wide (depending on the width of your greenhouse) leaving three to four feet free on both ends. EXAMPLE: Using such a layout will allow you to maximize your growing space, allow you to get around your greenhouse with ease to water and rotate your plants and will provide excellent air flow.

The floor of your greenhouse should be gravel.

Depending on what you are using your greenhouse for (seasonal personal use or for profit) and what you are growing, you will need to figure out what works best as far as ventilation, cooling and heating. If you are raising orchids, you will need a lot more temperature and humidity control than if you are starting seedlings for your vegetable and flower gardens in late winter/early spring. There are really no hard and fast rules for this since the what, when and where can vary so greatly.

Don’t waste a lot of money heating and cooling your greenhouse unnecessarily. You will find that even in the winter time, sunny days will raise the temps in the greenhouse nicely from mid-morning to late afternoon-eliminating the need to run the furnace except at night. Likewise, having the door and all the vents open will keep things cooler in the summer’s heat (along with having a shade cloth over the roof) on all but the hottest of days.

Let’s go back to the shelving for a moment. Reserve a place for your work bench and potting area. Using a large cutting board will allow you to work without dropping seed through the shelves. You can also store soil and containers/trays on the floor below and hang tools from the edge of the shelf using ‘S’ hooks.

Your greenhouse can be an oasis from the stresses life. It can and should be the place you go to grow something beautiful and feel accomplished for doing so. And whether or not your greenhouse is for fun or for fun and profit, you’ll enjoy it more if you are using it as efficiently as possible.