How to Design a Greenhouse for Your Home
Some people focus on filling the larder, while others wish to tenderly care for herbs or specialty plantings and in all of these situations, a greenhouse is ideal.
Greenhouses may be designed and fabricated to suit a universe of gardeners and goals. Perhaps the backyard garden has become too small or insufficiently productive. The desire to develop new skills, experiment, or escape a perceived rut are all reasons to consider a greenhouse. The novice might proceed cautiously to ascertain whether that "inner gardener" actually dwells within. Accomplished gardeners may say "full speed ahead."
Some people focus on filling the larder, while others wish to tenderly care for select flowers, herbs, or specialty plantings such as cannabis. In all of these situations, a greenhouse is most useful. These examples illustrate that there is no one, simple answer when it comes to designing a greenhouse. Essential factors to consider are the goals, budget, layout, structure, and materials. Of course the greenhouse must be optimally situated.
Purpose and Intention
One gardener may desire a modest, simple environment to start a handful of seeds or nurture seedlings. More ambitious types might wish to extend the growing season with a more robust structure that can withstand time and the elements. A new greenhouse might be dedicated to propagating dozens of desirable vegetables, herbs, flowers, or medicinal plants. It is necessary, then, to know what will be grown and the quantity of each. This factor, together with the budget, will directly impact the size and materials used in the project.
Structure and Materials
Goals, budget, time, skills, and resourcefulness will dictate the size, layout, skeleton, and covering material used to create the greenhouse. For homemade projects, imagination sets the limits. Kits are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, materials, and features to be assembled on the selected site. Comfortable and complete access to the plants is required to water, fertilize, inspect, and prune them. Customized fertilizers may even be concocted at home with simple ingredients for specific plants. For example, see the nutrient solution from Weed Seeds USA.
A modest budget will likely necessitate repurposing or scavenging existing materials. On a frugal budget, a grower might re-use old storm windows or patio doors, the pile of bricks that the mice and chipmunks hide in next to the garage wall, that dusty old roll of plastic, or that pile of stray lumber that has accumulated over time. Inexpensive or free materials are often found on Craigslist. Use social media and other personal contacts.
A great way to cement or renew a friendship is to haul away their trash and convert it to your treasure. Assuming the proposed structure will be visible to neighbors, don't ignore aesthetic considerations and neighborhood standards. A larger, more-formal structure might be regulated by homeowners association rules or municipal codes. On the the other end of the budget spectrum, with money to invest and a lack of time or skill, there are prepackaged greenhouse kits in every price range to choose from.
All planning and construction will come to naught without a proper site to locate the greenhouse. Generally, it is most desirable to have an unobstructed southerly exposure that provides steady sunlight over the course of the day. Existing structures and landscaping should, therefore, be located to the north of the proposed site. Be sure to have easy access to fresh water, and access to electricity will be necessary if you contemplate lighting, heating, air circulation equipment, or other features.
The uses to which a greenhouse might be put are as varied as the size, design, and complexity of the structure itself. Research thoroughly, spend some time with a pen and paper, and consider what it is you wish to achieve with your greenhouse project. And then the tough part: begin the work.