I love greenhouses. If you’re wanting to grow more than a few herbs and don’t really have much more room for such endeavors, a greenhouse might just be what you need. It doesn’t have to be some sort of behemoth using up your entire backyard, it could be nothing more than a box with a see through lid or top. This one on the right is maybe a little large for most people, but you only need one a fraction of this size.
Using a greenhouse for growing indoors allows you to keep your plants out of the elements, such as the driving rain, critters and temperatures incompatible with your crop.
Some greenhouses are actually big enough to entertain in. Geodesic domes seem to be popular these days. For the most part it’s round and if you have one that is 15 ft. to 20 ft. in diameter, you can plant on the outside and keep a small table and some matching chairs in the middle for serving tea and finger foods to your garden club. I can’t think of a better place to show off your fresh vegetables.
Nowadays, you can find plans to build your own for free all over the internet. So if you’re the handy type, perhaps you would prefer to follow the instructions of some folks that have already done it successfully. There are many different styles and sizes to choose from. Although the plans may be free, the materials will obviously cost. Some plans can be completed for as little as $50 while others may run $1000 or more.
Maybe you’re only kind of handy, like me, and you would prefer to put together a kit. This does sound like something I think I might be able to pull off. It would certainly go a lot faster as long as all the parts and nuts and bolts showed up and the plans weren’t to difficult to follow. From the research I’ve done, these can run you anywhere from about $800 to $12000, depending on size, and types of materials. In some cases people selling kits may also have an agreement with individuals or companies in your area that will come to your house and assemble it for you.
The difference in materials could be metal as opposed to pvc, and clear plastic or vinyl of some sort instead of glass. Some may even be built with wood. I’ve seen the use of Teak, Redwood, lumber treated to resist water and insects and reclaimed wood from other projects being torn down. Lately, I’ve seen a few good deals for double pane insulated windows on Craig’s List.
Some other considerations might be esoteric as opposed to functionality. If you do a lot of garden parties or entertain often outside, it might be important to have a greenhouse very pleasing to the eye. However, if you are in a more rural area and care more about the use you are going to get out of it, then it might be nice for it to look good but even more important to be able to hold everything you’re interested in growing, as well as being able to regulate the atmosphere without costing an arm and a leg.
Often times, a kit will have options like venting, and/or heating and cooling devices. If you are interested in growing year round, you might want to consider artificial lighting fixtures for when the days get shorter. I saw a kit for sale the other day that also listed a solar array setup to help alleviate the cost of artificial lighting. I didn’t get the price, I’m sure it would be astronomical to my wallet.
There are many commercial farms using high tunnels for growing in these days. They find it a money saver when it comes to irrigation, and normal atmospherical conditions.
Another consideration is weather. If you live in the midwest and some parts of the south, tornadoes are a problem. There probably isn’t much you can do to prevent a tornado with 200 mph winds from tearing your greenhouse to pieces or relocating it two counties over. However, for most other high wind situations, there are ways to anchor your greenhouse.
The Different Styles
The most common greenhouse currently seems to be a tunnel or hoop style. This commonly is achieved by bending pvc, aluminum or steel pipe from the ground on one side to the ground on the other side resembling an old wagon from the pioneer days. It’s much taller, of course, and relatively easy to put together. Using steel pipe would create the sturdiest and most wind resistant greenhouse. I’m not an expert in aerodynamics, but it seems to me the wind would flow over it easier than other designs making it less likely to be destroyed. A polycarbonate plastic or clear vinyl can be pulled taut over the top from the bottom on one side to the bottom on the other side. There are roller designs that you can attach to each side or even just one side of the covering, that allows you to roll the plastic up some from one end to the other letting in fresh air. This will allow you to cool it down if you feel it’s getting too hot and also lets butterflies or bees in to help pollinate any of your blooming plants. If you have a vent on the top, you can open it, open the flaps on the bottom of the sides and as the hot air escapes out of the top, it will draw in cool air from the bottom. This is also a great type of off grid air conditioning system for a small house.
There are space saving greenhouses designed to allow you make the most of a small area of your back yard. If you can find an extra 6 ft. on the side of your house or maybe up against a fence, that is a very good place to build a greenhouse. It should be pretty strong and wind resistant if you anchor it right to either existing structure. It is a good idea if possible to angle your roof toward the sun at a ninety degree angle.
My all time favorite style of greenhouse is called a Walipini. This type is actually built into the ground. The front roof pointing toward the sun is at a ninety degree angle, while the floor is about 4 ft. below the outside surface of the ground. The back wall is built up around 6 ft. above the ground and dirt is pushed up against it for sheltering it. This helps to control the temperature and allows for more endurance. On the back wall of the Walipini in the bottom pic is a bunch of 55 gallon drums. These are usually filled with water. In the winter time, the sun streaming through the glass roof will warm the barrels, and after the sun sets and temperatures begin to drop, the barrels will retain and radiate a certain amount of heat. This could benefit you greatly when the electric bill comes a callin’.
Not everyone can use one of these awesome greenhouses. In some places it might be too hard to dig. In other places the water table may be too high.
However, I don’t think there could be a more cost effective structure available for growing indoors.
Leave some comments and let me know what you think about using greenhouses for indoor farming. If your interested, sign up for the newsletter we’re putting together. We won’t send them out too often, but it should be chalk full of tips and ideas for indoor farming.