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Greenhouse Basics

 

A mini greenhouse is useful year-round for protecting and nurturing plants

There are many greenhouse offerings on the market today that are affordable for homeowners. They're not just for exotics, either. They are useful year-round for many reasons:
-Storage for dormant bulbs and plants.
-Starting seeds in the winter-early spring for outside planting
-Protection from extreme heat or unexpected frost
-Temperature control for fussy blooms

Minis can be as small as a tabletop setup with grow lights or as large as a walk-in, fully-equipped shed. They are all minimally easy to install. Larger sizes are freestanding or designed to fit against an existing structure. Some are attractive additions to a deck or garden area.

For hobbyists, greenhouses will begin around two hundred dollars and range up into thousands. It's important to decide how it will be used and what type of plants will be grown. Then, shop around. On-line retailers and local garden centers will have a wide range of units and styles.

A lean-to attached to the side of a home or garage is attractive and practical. These are easy to construct and come in many sizes. Smaller units will have shelves that fill the interior and others are large enough to walk through. The benefit of these is access to electrical outlets for heating and cooling. Remember, though, that one wall will be solid, and that means less sun.

For any greenhouse location, be sure drainage will not be an issue. Even if it's placed against the side of a garage, consider raising the unit on a bed of gravel. Next, you'll need to plan for access to a water source.

Before investing in a freestanding unit, be aware of city ordinances and homeowners restrictions. Be considerate - and critical: how will the mini-greenhouse really look from an outsider's viewpoint? Location is the most important factor - meaning plenty of sunlight for most growing purposes. Tropicals will, of course, have different requirements.

When selecting size, be sure there is plenty of headroom. It should be spacious enough to work in - with plenty of turnaround room. Amazingly enough, larger models are more efficient to heat and cool in most cases. Think ahead - how much will you have to dedicate and what do you want to expand a collection in the future.

The frame will be dependent on the covering. Glass is the most expensive and the most attractive. Polyethylene film (PE) is light and does not need a strong frame. Double-layer structured panels (DSP) - in polycarbonate or acrylic are stronger than PE, but lighting will suffer. Fiberglass reinforced panels (FRP) are flexible, lighter in weight than glass, and provide good light transmission.

The next step is to decide how to anchor the structure. Here, you'll have to follow building codes for concrete foundations.

Heating, cooling, and ventilation are ongoing costs that should be calculated ahead of time. Gas or propane heat is inexpensive, if available. Natural venting may be possible in small units.

Accessories include: soil thermometers, light intensity meters, and humidity and temperature gauges. Many of these are battery-operated.

Tabletop hydroponics are fun for kids - they'll experience the miracle of sprouting seeds that will become herbs, vegetables, plants, and even fruits. Look for non-electric units for younger children (age 8 & up). These are listed as "toys," however, so if you want to nurture a little gardener, look for equipment that is designed for serious growing.

Finally, it is important for beginners to start with easy-growing plants. Research and consult with professionals and experienced hobby growers before any purchase. Become familiar with the varying needs of plants on your wish list and be prepared to provide the time necessary to make your mini-greenhouse a success.

 

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