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Kitchen Gardening

Everyone has Room For a Greenhouse

Let's move past the house-of-dreams, and get on to what we can afford in terms of both space and money.

  • Portable greenhouses can be very inexpensive. Photo by soapbeard under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • A greenhouse doesn't have to break the bank. Photo by Avia Venifica under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • There's more room than you think in this modest-sized greenhouse. Photo by niddynoo under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

I’m a gardener that tends to talk up microclimates because they’re truly gardening tools that are unique to gardeners everywhere. Of course, the microclimate that perhaps puts the gardener in the most control is a greenhouse. Often just the word “greenhouse” conjures up images of those monolithic stone and glass structures (but, maybe that’s just me).

I’m all for the stuff of dreams, but if we’re going to be real we have to face that most of us won’t own a greenhouse of that size, not to mention that expense. Let’s move past the house-of-dreams, and get on to what we can afford in terms of both space and money.

Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes. They range all the way from bread box cute (perfect for an apartment patio) to structures so grand, they make my entire house look ridiculous in comparison. Most gardeners will have one of the more modest varieties, which is really all you need.

The simplest types basically look like shelves with plastic covers that slide over the entire shelf unit. They’re approximately 62″ tall, 27″ wide, and 19″ deep. Of course, the size and style will depend on the company that produces them, but you get the idea. Of course, you won’t be able to walk into these little greenhouses, but there’s usually a zipper so that you can reach inside and arrange plants and seedlings. These basic set ups are priced anywhere from $65 to $120. Keep your eyes open for sales — because you can often do better than these prices.

The next (general) size up is a greenhouse that has shelves on two sides of a walkway. These houses may be 4′ x 4′ or 5′ x 5′, with a big plastic cover that slides over the top. Of course, with this size, you can unzip the “door” and step inside. They run anywhere from $150 to $240 or higher.

There’s also metal, 6′ x 8′ structures made with a simple frame and covered entirely with polycarbonate panels. There’s enough room to walk around in and at around $400, they won’t break the bank.

Another greenhouse that’s less expensive than the permanent buildings are the type that are semi-permanent. It’s not an east task, but technically they can be moved. Like a common storage shed, they’re basically metal with fiberglass glazing (the part that lets the light in, which can be fiberglass, plastic, or glass).

I had a  6′ x 8′ greenhouse at my last home and it came with an automatic vent opener, which is a nice feature because the vent allows the hot air to escape and lets in fresh air. This sturdy little greenhouse runs about $800 and up. The stronger greenhouses that have more bells and whistles and better glazing and so on can range from $1,500 on up very quickly.

What Can You Do with a Greenhouse

People often think of a tropical paradise when they think of greenhouses (often called a “hothouse”). But, a greenhouse can be so much more:

  • Start seeds in late winter to prepare for spring planting in a greenhouse.
    Harden off seedlings that you may have started under lights in your house so they can be planted in the garden outdoors.
  • If you have houseplants hanging on a porch overhang, you can over-winter houseplants in a greenhouse. This will depend on your climate and whether your greenhouse has heat.
  • Greenhouses are excellent places for propagating plants; such as seeds, cuttings, and grafts.
    Greenhouse are the right place to “hold” mature parent plant specimens over the winter. They’re the plants used to start more plants come spring.
  • Food crops can be grown in greenhouses year round. It’s a good place for small winter vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, radishes, and peas, as well.
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