Build Your Own Green House

The controlled environment of a greenhouse lets you grow vegetables, exotic fruit and flowers all year. An easy guid to building your own.

Just imagine having a place where plants thrive all year. A greenhouse gives you a controlled, pleasant environment that can give you the sunlight, warmth and humidity plants need. Being able to grow exotic fruit, orchids, vegetables, herbs and flowers all year makes the greenhouse a place of wonder. Having a greenhouse is very rewarding, but building your own greenhouse is even better.

There are many different sizes and styles you can build. Decide on how big and what style you want. Make the greenhouse larger than what you think you need, because it will soon be full of plants, and you will want more space. If you have salvaged materials, design a greenhouse using those materials. Depending on what part of the country you live, will determine how much heat you will need for your greenhouse. If you live in a cold climate, be sure to insulate the greenhouse someway. In the warmer climates, you will more than likely need shade control. Every greenhouse needs ventilation, air circulation, heat in winter, humidity control and pest control. Decide on what you want to grow in your greenhouse. If you want to grow vegetables for instance, you will need maximum light and headroom. Whatever your primary plants need, that is the environment you want to create.

A greenhouse can be small and inexpensive or larger and as expensive as you want. Pick out the location you want your greenhouse to be. The closer to the house and/or garden it is, the more enjoyment you will get out of it. Find out about building permits and any restrictions there may be where you live before buying or building a greenhouse. Remember, greenhouses have to be maintained. You need water, electricity and heat. Think about what this may cost you where you live. All this will determine the size and style of the greenhouse.

Try to locate your greenhouse where there is plenty of room and sunshine. A solar greenhouse may be the answer for you. If you situate your greenhouse on a east-west orientation, it will receive more light than a north-south orientation.

A greenhouse can be free standing or attached to your house or another building.

The covering you choose to use is important. The best is glass, but it is also the most expensive. Plastic sheeting can be used, but will deteriorate fairly fast. Fiberglass or other rigid plastics are commonly used with great success. It comes in flat form or corrugated form. Heat retaining power is better than glass or plastic film coverings. In warm climates, a fiberglass greenhouse requires less cooling. Light transmission is good. Insulated panels of rigid plastic are available. Fiberglass can be put on a straight surface or a curved one. Some rigid plastics are UV resistant.

Foundations for a greenhouse can be solid concrete or a more lightweight foundation. Many use railroad ties to attach their greenhouse frame to. Others just stake the frame to the ground. Just be sure and secure it well for the place you live. Again it all goes back to how much money you can spend. Use your imagination and creativity. Figure out your needs and how much you can spend and go from there.

Many greenhouses have walls that are about 2 feet high, then the frame with the glass or plastic is attached to that wall. Others have the plastic all the way to the foundation. Whatever your choice, just be sure it is square, so the rest of the greenhouse will go up more easily. Preferably you will want water and electricity to your greenhouse. If it is very cold where you live, be sure the water lines are covered to prevent freezing. All electrical outlets should be water resistant to prevent getting shocked. Ground fault circuit interrupters should be used also.

About the easiest greenhouse to build is the attached greenhouse. It is connected to your house, so you have one wall already. Try to match the style of your home so the value will not be reduced. Water and electricity is nearby and it is easily accessible. It can be any size, but I would recommend at least an 8 by 12 foot structure. The roof against the house will be taller than the outside or opposite wall. Use a weather resistant wood. The wall attached to the house will be under the eave of the house. Attach a ledger board with long screws and use flashing to waterproof the joint. The attached wall is about 8 feet high and the front wall is about 6 feet. This way you can walk in the greenhouse without difficulty. Locate this greenhouse on the south wall of your house if you can, especially if you want it to be solar. The outside wall can be vertical or slanted for solar purposes. A slant of about 60 degrees is usually average. Put your choice of foundation in place and add the sole plates. You can use 2 by 4's for all the framing. Mark where you want the studs. Usually they are put at 2 foot intervals to accomodate the rigid plastic panels. Have a door framed out in one of the end walls. Be sure and have a place framed out for vents, as ventilation and air circulation is essential. Add the roof. When the frame is up you can then attach the plastic panels. The panels will meet at each stud, so lay a bead of sealant in the joint. Then the joint can be covered with resistant wood. The plastic is attached with water proof screw nails. Everything you use in your greenhouse should be waterproof.

The flooring for your greenhouse can be the concrete (if that is what you used for your foundation). Other options are to just leave the ground bare with a gravel walkway down the middle. You don't want to be walking around in the mud. Many put in decorative brick or rock that is laid in sand. Whatever you choose, it should be porous.

Think about using the greenhouse to its full potential. You want benches and tables and places to hang plants. You want a place to propagate plants. There are many accessories for greenhouses. You can install misting systems, automatic watering systems, heating systems etc. Think about what you can spend on these things. You don't have to have everything automatic. It will take some time everyday, but you can do the watering yourself. You do need air circulation, so it is nice to have a fan installed. Just be sure that the accessories you get are appropriate for your size greenhouse. When you do purchase accessories, be sure they are of good quality. If you buy cheaper ones, it may actually cause more maintenance and more frequent replacement. So, buy the best you can afford.

Other things your greenhouse will need is a place for storing potting soil, fertilizers etc. A tool rack is nice to have close to your potting area. I usually put a bucket with used oil in it nearby to put the metal parts of my tools in, to keep them from rusting. Keep your tools clean, as well as the entire greenhouse. This will keep disease down to a minumum.

For pest control in your greenhouse, you can use the "good bugs" to keep the bad bugs in control. Soapy water is sprayed on plants to deter insect pests also. When you see a plant that has an insect problem, remove it from the greenhouse and isolate it until you have the problem under control.

Cooling and heating the greenhouse is important, but differs depending on what part of the country you live in. The northern climates need to have well insulated greenhouses. The southern climates need to think about cooling. Swamp coolers are often used and also shade cloths. Of course ventilation is important in any location.

Different plants require different amounts of light. Find out what the individual plant needs and locate it in the best part of the greenhouse for that plant. Some plants love the shade and others need maximum light. A solar greenhouse will receive more light than the others. That is the whole purpose of them. It will save on the heating bill. If your greenhouse is big enough you can store solar heat in different ways. Some use stacked steel barrels filled with water, plastic milk jugs filled with water or a brick or rock wall. There are different solar systems, including active and passive systems. Find out what suits you the best.

If you are in an area where the earth can be dug fairly easy, you may want to think about a sunpit. These greenhouses are partly in the ground and this takes advantage of the earths insulation for cooling and heating. Ventilation and the other requirements for greenhouses still apply to sunpits.

With a greenhouse you can raise almost anything. You can propagate from seed or from cuttings. Your plants will quickly multiply. The greenhouse is a place of magic, especially for kids and the young at heart.

© High Speed Ventures 2011