How Does A Greenhouse Work? And Should I Get One?

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Greenhouses are buildings designed for growing plants.

How Does A Greenhouse Work?

A greenhouse works because its walls and ceilings are transparent (or at least translucent). This allows the sun’s rays to enter the building but not to leave. This phenomenon creates a tremendous amount of heat inside the greenhouse.

Therefore, a greenhouse allows gardeners to grow plants all year around regardless of the seasons.

Most greenhouses go even further and possess the capabilities to control temperature, humidity, and lighting.

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Is A Greenhouse Right For Me?

To know if a greenhouse is right for you, answer the following questions…

1) Do you love gardening?
2) Do you miss gardening during the winter months?
3) Do you love fresh produce and beautiful flowers?
4) Do you want to save money on plants and seedlings?
5) Do you want to grow plants that don’t normally grow in your clime?

If you answered “yes” to all of the above questions, you probably already have a greenhouse.

If you answered “no” to all of the above questions, you definitely shouldn’t get a greenhouse.

If you answered “yes” to two or more of the questions then a greenhouse might be a good fit.

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What Factors Can Prevent Me From Getting A Greenhouse?

1) Not enough room on your property.
Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes but you’re still going to need a considerable amount of space especially if you’re looking to sell plants you grow. There really isn’t a rule of thumb but if you think you don’t have enough space then you probably don’t have enough space.

2) You can’t secure the proper permits or permission.
Local ordinances and HOA’s may prohibit the building of greenhouses. Before you start building your greenhouse make sure you’re not breaking the law.

3) You don’t have proper exposure to the sun.
Ideally, you’ll want your greenhouse to receive a lot of sun, about six hours of sunlight a day during the winter.

If your property lacks such an area, a greenhouse isn’t out of the question but it may force you to use more artificial heat during the winter months. That means more money. For instance, we knew of a design in Amherst, MA where the greenhouse was in total shadow all year round by the house, but a heating element was added and that was all it needed. (You can get tons of information on other websites regarding ways to heat.)

>>TIP: To save money and maximize space, build your greenhouse against one of the walls of your home or another building on your property. You’ll lose some exposure to the sun, but you’ll gain a sturdy wall in which to construct your greenhouse.

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Will A Greenhouse Increase My Property Value?

A greenhouse will NOT increase your property value. It won’t lower it either.

When you go to resell, most potential buyers will probably see the greenhouse as something they’ll need to tear down once they take ownership of the home (unless you sell to another green thumb).

A greenhouse will increase the value of your property to you! After all, you’ll now have a retreat and a place to garden year-a-round.

How Much Will A Greenhouse Cost?

Greenhouse can cost very little or as much as you want to spend. Needless to say, the more you spend the bigger and better it will be.

There’s a rule of thumb in the greenhouse community that you should buy the biggest one you can.


You’ll never wish for your greenhouse to be smaller.

Okay, I Want A Greenhouse. What Should I Do First?

As we mentioned earlier, make sure you can actually build a greenhouse on your property.

Next, figure out how much you can spend. This will help you decide your greenhouse’s size and the materials you can use.

After that, decide if you want to buy a pre-built greenhouse or if you want to buy a greenhouse kit.

A greenhouse kit will involve some DIY. If you’re not handy with a hammer just hire someone else to put it together.

>>TIP: You’ll probably end up spending more on your greenhouse than you originally assumed. There will be lots of things you’ll want or need for your greenhouse that you didn’t originally plan on buying. If you can, budget for additional expenses.

Where Should I Put My Greenhouse?

You can put your greenhouse just about anywhere but ideally you want it oriented east to west, and south/southeast of your existing home and/or other buildings. You’ll also want it built away from the shade.

Basically, you want to build your greenhouse where it can receive a lot of sun.

>>TIP: Erecting a greenhouse next to a deciduous tree is great idea. The tree provides shade in the summer, and then in the autumn and winter, when it no longer has leaves, the tree allows sunlight through.

What Materials Should I Use To Build My Greenhouse?

The materials you use to build your greenhouse depend on what you find aesthetically appealing and your budget.

Your frame can be made from a variety of materials including aluminum, wood, steel, or plastic. Aluminum is widely used.

The walls of greenhouses are often referred to as “glazing.” Glazing materials include glass, fiberglass, polycarbonate, and plastic sheets.

Plastic sheeting is quite popular due to its affordability.

Another option is a hoop house or a “high tunnel.” These types of greenhouses are generally cheap, easy to build, and a snap to heat.

Do I Need A Foundation For My Greenhouse?

Actually, you don’t.

You’ll need to build on a flat piece of land but you can build a greenhouse with a dirt floor. This won’t help control pests, and dirt floors can become quite muddy, but it will allow you to plant directly into the ground.

If it’s in the budget, definitely pour a foundation. Concrete is easy to keep clean, a breeze to maintain, and lasts a long time.

You can also use gravel. Gravel prevents mud, allows water to seep into the ground, and is cheaper than concrete.

>>TIP: Pavers work like gravel but are usually more cosmetically appealing. You can use them in and around your greenhouse to create a real handsome affect.

What About Electricity And Water?

You’ll definitely want your greenhouse wired and plumbed.

Greenhouse can be wired to run fans, heat mats, heaters, and automatic sprinklers. Additionally, they can contain sinks, faucets, and irrigation systems.

At the very least, you’ll want to be able to run a garden hose and an extension cord into your greenhouse. You’ll plants will need to be water, and during the winter they’ll need to be kept warm at night.

TIP: Remember that a greenhouse works very well at creating a warm space when the sun is out, but at night a greenhouse can get very cold. Large rocks and barrels of water placed inside your greenhouse will collect heat during the day and then release it at night.

What Else Will I Need For My Greenhouse?

Besides the usual accoutrements involved in gardening, you’ll also need shelving and benches on which to grow your plants (if you’re not growing them in the ground).

Other things to procure may include fans, heaters, coolers, humidifiers, irrigation, shading material, and vents.

Fans – Fans help to keep your greenhouse cool during the summer months but you’ll want them running 24-7-365. Air circulation is really important in keeping your greenhouse healthy.

Heaters – Unless you’re growing plants that depend on a certain temperature, the only thing your heaters will need to do is keep your greenhouse above freezing.

Coolers – In some climates, your greenhouse might need positive cooling. Don’t use a standard AC unit. Instead, use an evaporative air cooler. They won’t de-humidify your greenhouse.

Humidifier – Again, depending on your climate, you may need to humidify your greenhouse.

Irrigation – Unless you want to water by hand every single day, you’ll probably want some kind of irrigation system. You’ll also want it programmable so it will turn on and off automatically.

Shading Material – During the summer, shading material, usually some sort of dark cloth, will prevent sun damage. Just make sure you remove it from your greenhouse once autumn comes.

Vents – Vents are available that will open and close depending on the temperature. They can do so without the need for electricity.

>>TIP: Don’t forget a radio. It might be nice to listen to music, news, talk radio, or sports while you’re gardening.

Anything Else I Need To Know?

Just enjoy your greenhouse.

Whether you spend hundreds of dollars or thousands, make sure you love your greenhouse. It’s a place where you’re going to spend a lot time.

You’ll want it to be a sanctuary from the rigors of the world and a haven to recharge your batteries.

If you love gardening and being around plants then a greenhouse will change your life for the better. If you look at it that way, any amount of money you spend on a greenhouse will be a bargain.