by Christia Gibbons
While greenhouses in TV shows or movies usually set the scene for a tryst or, well, murder, let yours be a haven for growing vegetables in the winter, orchids all year-round or nurturing whatever meets your planting desires.
And trysts are just fine, too.
Greenhouses provide controlled, adaptable environments no matter the heat or cold outside. When deciding what size, shape and use you want in a greenhouse, consider light, exposure, foundation, proximity, materials.
Materials: Galvanized steel is lightweight but sturdy, especially good in windy and/or snowy weather. You can use wood, but it must be pressure-treated lumber like cedar or redwood to resist extreme weather conditions.
When it comes to walls, glass can be heavy and expensive, but film, while economical, is not insulating enough for colder regions. Rigid plastic may be shatterproof, but it retains heat — good or bad depending on your planting plans.
Proximity: Where you place the greenhouse matters; against a house makes water/gas/electricity connections easier. It should not be near a pool deck. It should have a level path leading to it wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow.
Foundation: Make sure you place/build your greenhouse in a level area where water doesn’t gather. You might consider digging a foundation and filling it with concrete.
Exposure: An overly exposed site can be costly to heat in the winter and keep cool in the summer. You want a placement that protects your greenhouse from wind, but you don’t want too much shelter or you may not have enough light.
If your greenhouse is unheated in the winter, your plants can be helped by one or two layers of horticultural fleece during the night. Bubble wrap around pots can insulate plant roots and prevent cracking pots.
Light: Southern exposure is considered best for lighting (northern is likely to be too shady). East or west is OK. Keep in mind that many plants need six hours of sunlight, so while shade is good, too much and you’re need supplemental lighting.
Your greenhouse can be as technical as you can afford or as simple as your philosophy dictates when incorporating these tips. Either way, the key to success might just be a reliable and accurate thermometer to monitor humidity and temperature.