There are a number of benefits to utilizing a greenhouse, even if you already have a fully productive/fantastic backyard garden. With a greenhouse you can garden all year around, you can raise your own seedlings and you can experiment plants that you have little chance of growing in the open garden. Additionally, a greenhouse provides a nice, cozy, private place for the gardener who needs some "private time" away from outside demands and distractions.
There are certainly a number of considerations to work through before you go out and buy or build a greenhouse,so here are a few to consider:
- Will your homeowners association or other local ordinances allow a greenhouse
- How big an area can you devote to the structure
- Do you want free-standing or attached
- Will you be installing or building it yourself
- Portable or permanent
- What seasons will you be using
- Will you need special consideration for wind
- Will you need electrical connections
- Where in your yard will you get optimal sun
- What is the best size for your greenhouse
- How much do you want to spend
There are literally hundreds of guides for greenhouses and greenhouse growing (we've listed a few in the left column of this page), but your needs will most likely be different than other folks, so be sure to do careful planning and consideration prior to making the decision.
Cold Frames and Hot Frames
If you are not yet ready to make the jump to a full sized greenhouse but do want to extend your gardening season, consider using a cold-frame. A cold frame allows you to plant your seeds outside the house, eliminate clutter inside, and keep your seed germinating and your seedlings growing even through a frost or two. If you have a basement window facing south with some space outside, you can incorporate it into your hot or cold frame. It will also provide a basic" course in themanagement of a greenhouse — the next step in gardening addiction.
Often called a "poor man's greenhouse," a cold frame can be as simple as scrap lumber and old storm windows. Cold frames capture solar heat, and if they slant to the south they can take advantage of the greatest amount of sun. It should not be too deep from front to back or you'll have trouble getting plants in and out.
On the days when the sun is bright you may have to provide some shade to keep the plants from sunburning, or lift the cold frame windows to keep plants from steaming. If the sun is bright enough the temperature inside a cold frame can easily reach 85° to 95°F when the temperature outside is only 15°F. But on cold nights when the temperature drops below freezing, a cold frame will need some extra protection. An old quilt or blanket under a tarp is a good cover. If you have nothing else newspapers will do, although they are a bit harder to handle.
Hot frames are a bit more challenging than cold frames, and the opportunities for frustration are multiplied. In hot frames, heat is provided either by rotting manure (the classic system) or by electricity (the modern way).
Decomposing cow, horse, and mule manure do not work the same way, and the heat of decomposition depends on the age, the kinds, and amount of litter present. When you're using manure there are no thermostats or controls, except the gardener's know-how. Electricity is much easier but a lot more expensive than manure, and there is still work for the gardener to do.