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Greenhouses: 10 Quick Tips
1. Size is the primary - but not the only - difference between hobby greenhouses and commercial greenhouses. Construction materials can vary as well, though modern advancements have brought commercial-quality metal and glass greenhouses within the budgetary reach of hobbyists. But if you'd like to start with something simple, try mini greenhouses or terrariums.
2. Lean to greenhouses are designed to be attached to an adjacent wall or building that functions as one (or more) of its sides. Because it's dependent on another structure, a lean to greenhouse will be limited in its potential locations. Look for an east or south exposure with five to six hours of daily unobstructed light.
3. Cold frame greenhouses are unheated structures primarily used to harden off or acclimatize seedlings and young plants. Cold frames also lengthen the growing season by providing a sheltered environment in which to start planting before last frost. A sunny spot with good drainage and wind shelter is ideal for a cold frame greenhouse.
4. Metal, PVC resin, and wood are the primary choices for greenhouse frame materials. PVC resin usually has the lowest up-front cost, and is a durable, low-maintenance material. Metal frames will retain more cold, but aluminum offers unmatched strength and weather-resistance. Woods such as cedar make for gorgeous greenhouses, but are more high-maintenance than metal.
5. Glass greenhouses may be the premier choice in terms of beauty, light penetration, and durability, but today's polyethylene and polycarbonate greenhouses offer glass-like performance at a lower cost and lighter weight. Polycarbonate also creates more diffuse light, which helps prevent scorching.
6. If you're not sure how large your greenhouse should be, it's usually best to buy the largest one you can afford (that means both initial cost and operating costs, i.e. heating and cooling). Greenhouses have a way of filling up quickly, and you'll need the extra space for new plants and moving around.
7. Dome greenhouses have become increasingly popular as gardeners discover the unique benefits of their eye-catching design. A dome has more natural structural stability than a house-like design, and its reduced structural support screens out less light. The circular interior of a dome greenhouse also allows for less rigidly linear displays.
8. Indoor greenhouses can be used to start seedlings or to grow orchids or tropical plants that simply won't thrive in your hardiness zone. An indoor greenhouse is also a lifesaver for plant-loving apartment dwellers without access to a yard or community garden.
9. One of the advantages of purchasing a greenhouse kit is that many manufacturers offer extension kits that can be added to their base kits. However, greenhouse extension kits add length, not width, so look for greenhouse kits that will be wide enough for both your current and future needs.
10. If this is your first greenhouse, keep in mind that you're also going to need greenhouse supplies such as heating, ventilation, and watering systems, as well as shelves and benches, etc. If it's large, you may also want to check if a building permit will be required for the structure.
Find more information in our Greenhouse Helpful Information section!