Greenhouse Plans

By Bill Keene

Whether you are a novice or a veteran gardener, whether you want to grow only tomatoes or fancy tropicals, whether you want to set up a stylish elaborate greenhouse to reflect your personality or a purely no-frills functional structure, greenhouse plans are the essential requirement you are going to have to address. An amazing range of plans are available in abundance on the net and in your local nurseries or book stores. The easy way is to purchase greenhouse kits that come complete with all the needed material and plans for setting up.

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Gardening Inside Your Greenhouse

A greenhouse represents a major investment for most gardeners. Even the smallest and simplest types of greenhouse do not come cheap these days. They also demand an investment of your time. So why should you consider a greenhouse.

Perhaps the main advantage of a greenhouse is that is provides the gardener with a longer growing season. This is particularly important in colder areas. A greenhouse will provide an early start for seedlings, warmer conditions for tender plants and a frost free environment for plants that will not survive out of doors.

Another, less often recognized, advantage is that a greenhouse allows a gardener with mobility problems to garden at table height in warm conditions. Plants can be raised to a convenient height for the gardener in a greenhouse. Simple staging, either home made or bought for the purpose will create an environment in which a disabled gardener can enjoy all the pleasures of gardening without having to bend or stretch or get chilled.
A greenhouse can become a favorite place to sit and enjoy the rest of your garden. On a cold winter day the greenhouse will keep the wind of and provide a sheltered spot to think about next year’s plans.
What you use a greenhouse for will depend on your own personal preferences. Beautiful displays of alpines can be created in a greenhouse on benches covered with gravel. It may seem strange to grow plants that are essentially hardy in a greenhouse but it makes sense. Alpines hate to get wet. They are used to being frozen all winter but will not survive damp conditions. Their flowers are often small and can best be appreciated when placed on a bench.

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Types Of Greenhouses

After you decide that you want to build a greenhouse, you have to decide next what type to build. This should not be a difficult one to address, provided you know what kinds of plants you want to grow.  You will need to answer questions such as:

  • What will my greenhouse be principally used for?
  • Do I want a large or small greenhouse?
  • Will the greenhouse be the main attraction of my garden?
  • Is my garden exposed to strong winds?
  • Are there young children or wild animals in the area?

Factors such as cost and space will determine the type of greenhouse you build.  If you do live in a windy area, it may be worth to spend the extra money for a solid and sturdy greenhouse.  If you live near a large hardware store or a nursery, or even a do-it-yourself home center, go and visit some models.  The customer service representative should be able to provide you with valuable information before you make a final decision.

So as not to mislead you, while there may be different types of greenhouse designs, we’re talking about the same greenhouse.  You get to decide which type you want it to be. 

For example, if temperature is the main factor, because of the plant varieties you want to grow, then there are three types in terms of temperature control.  There are also different types of greenhouses based on structural design.  We’ll start with temperature control factors.

For temperature control purposes, three types of greenhouses exist: 

  • a hot greenhouse
  • a warm greenhouse
  • a cool greenhouse.

Hot Greenhouse

A hot greenhouse’s inside temperature is maintained at a minimum of sixty five degrees. You can at some future date increase the temperature, but a hot greenhouse is intended for growing tropical and exotic plants. If you live in a very cold region, you will need to install heating and lighting equipment to satisfy the requirements of tropical and exotic plant species.

Warm Greenhouse

The temperature inside a warm greenhouse, on the other hand, is at about fifty-five degrees F.  At this temperature, a larger variety of plants can be grown, perhaps as many as you would in your outdoor garden.  You may still need to resort to the use of additional heat and light during the winter months.

Cool Greenhouse

A cool greenhouse (frost-free greenhouse) is maintained at a temperature ranging from forty to forty five degrees F.  This temperature is ideal for growing seedlings or any plants that do not need warmer temperatures to survive.  A cool greenhouse is perfect for starting your plants and vegetables in anticipation of the summer months.  Generally, the use of heat or lights isn’t required for a cool greenhouse.

As for structure, there are generally three types: 

  • lean-to
  • detached
  • ridge and furrow or gutter connected.

Lean-To

The lean-to type of greenhouse is rarely used for commercial purposes because of size restrictions, but is the most popular among hobbyists.

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How to Build Your Own Greenhouse

A person may have the pleasure of building his own greenhouse. He may choose from various designs and sizes he would like to build. A greenhouse gives a person comfort whenever he attends to his plants, vegetables, flowers, and orchids. It also provides the needed sunlight and humidity for these plants. He may relax and enjoy every time he visits a place where he has exerted all his effort of building such a wondrous place.

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Greenhouse Basics

A greenhouse is also called a glasshouse or a hothouse.  It is a structure where plants – fruits, vegetables, flowers – are grown.  It attracts heat because the sun’s electromagnetic radiation warms the plants, soil, and other components within the greenhouse.  Air is warmed from the hot interior area inside the structure through the roof and wall.

 A greenhouse uses a special kind of glass that acts as a medium which selectively transmits spectral frequencies.  Spectral comes from the word “spectrum”. 

 In layman’s terms, a spectral frequency can be defined in terms of the following principle:  any object in the universe emits, radiates or transmits light.  The distribution of this light along an electromagnetic spectrum is determined by the object’s composition.

 Therefore, the glass of a greenhouse traps energy within the greenhouse and the heat in turn provides heat for the plants and the ground inside the greenhouse.  It warms the air near the ground, preventing it from rising and leaving the confines of the structure. 

 For example, if you open a small window near the roof of a greenhouse, the temperature drops significantly.  This is because of the autovent automatic cooling system.  An autovent is simply a device used by greenhouses that maintains a range of temperatures inside.  This is how greenhouses trap electromagnetic radiation and prevents convection (transference of heat by currents within a fluid).

 Curious about how the idea of a greenhouse came about?  It goes back to the days of the Romans, who – as history annals show – were the first people to create a structure to protect plants.  Using heated pits, they put up slabs of rock to form primitive greenhouses.  The term “glasshouse” which is the correct name of this structure, was adopted sometime in the 17th and 18th centuries.

 At that time, however, the error was in believing that heat was more important than light for plants to thrive.  Structures were being built to exclude the entry of light, but by the time the glass tax of 1845 was abolished, the design of greenhouses started to change. 

 Builders realized then that a curved roof instead of a flat one allowed higher concentrations of the sun’s rays, and that by using iron instead of wood, the greenhouse could be structurally reinforced and made capable of absorbing more light.

 A man named Joseph Paxton, a horticulturist, appeared on the scene and introduced changes to the greenhouse design concept.  He was famous for the Palmhouse at Kew Gardens which he built in 1842.  It measured 110 meters long, 30 meters wide and over 20 meters high.  Nine years later, he built the Crystal Palace.

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Why Build A Greenhouse?

A growing number of people at least have one greenhouse story to share. 

 The idea of growing food at controlled temperatures all year round and extending the growing season have set fire to people’s imaginations.  No wonder the greenhouse building industry has recorded phenomenal growth. 

 From construction plans to tools and accessories for greenhouses, individuals are working on all fours to satisfy the increasing demands of consumers who have made building their own greenhouses top priority.  This trend, which started humbly in the 70’s, is now a full-fledged endeavor on the part of greenhouse entrepreneurs and “homesteaders.”

 One greenhouse story told by a woman was particularly moving.  Months before the spring, her husband bought the materials required for building a greenhouse.  His plan was to attach it to the house. 

 The woman had protested because he was at the same time going through radiation and chemotherapy treatments for his cancer.  His wife said he should be resting instead of puttering about with shelves and glass and plastic. 

 What he said broke her heart.  He wanted to build and finish the greenhouse while he still had some strength left, because he knew for a long time that she had always wanted one in their backyard.  He said he wanted to see the joy in her face when she started planting her tomatoes or gardenias or whatever else she wanted to put there.

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