Most of us think of building and maintaining greenhouses as a labor of love, a fulfilling hobby, or simply an aesthetic pursuit. We invest our time, effort, and money into greenhouses for the joy of gardening and the sake of surrounding ourselves with beauty. But efficient greenhouses can also give back in more explicit ways. From filling kitchens with fresh produce to supplementing incomes and increasing property values, greenhouse success can translate into personal success in countless ways and look like a thing of beauty surrounded by exotic flowers.
Of course, the primary benefit of a greenhouse is the control it affords. A well-made greenhouse will overcome seasons, sudden temperature shifts, and blights of harmful insects. In the UK, where wintertime freezes it makes gardening impossible, with a greenhouse we can cultivate exotic species and delicate produce, while substantially extending the growing season. To optimize space, the best greenhouse plants are those with the largest flowerings and blooms relative to their size. The more dense and diverse a greenhouse, the more efficient it will be, and the fewer resources it will require to equalize temperature and humidity. Green onions, hanging patio tomatoes, peppers, and carrots are efficient growers with consistently high outputs. Narcissus and Snapdragon are large blooming flowers with relatively low space requirements
Designing Your Greenhouse
Careful planning is the key to optimizing your greenhouse’s potential. This starts with construction and continues with each new plant addition. Most greenhouses will need to be oriented North-South, to extend the growing season and maximize sun exposure. In some cases, however, due to local wind threats or special crop requirements, an East-West orientation will be more efficient, as it best utilizes light during the earliest and latest growing seasons. But no single building plan is best for everyone. The decision depends entirely upon geography and local climate.
Thoughtful planning must go into how the greenhouse is constructed, thinking about how to minimize waste and prevent costly, avoidable problems. Plan by talking with your plumbers about this so you know what access to water pipes you have, what would be needed to be built in place for water access and the cost this may involve. All this will help maintain the greenhouse in the future so is worth planning well from day one.
The next important stage is to consider how best to utilize existing resources rather than buying unnecessary implements. Is there an abandoned outbuilding on your property? Old windows lying around? Perhaps an addition to a detached garage or boathouse can help circumvent the need to build a freestanding structure. Maybe a fragment of a low-lying wall can serve as a building platform. The beauty of greenhouses is that each is unique. No single design trumps the others. Lean-to structures, triangular houses, and arched-roofs have the potential to work equally well. In regions where the weather permits, plastic sheeting and PVC can replace glass and wood. Inexpensive aluminum piping is a sturdy and easily assembled option for those in harsher climates. Ultimately, the most successful greenhouses are designed for longevity. Keep in mind that greenhouses are wet environments, so wood structures will need to be sanded, primed, and painted to avoid rot.
Many minor additions can drastically improve greenhouse productivity, stability, and sustainability. Simple rainwater and dew collection systems can lead to substantial water savings. Ventilation fans (purchased at any local hardware store) make humidity regulation easy, moisture meters and thermostats allow for scientific precision and will facilitate year-to-year refinements, a portable potting bench will prevent countless head- and back-aches, and cheap solar lighting is an eco-friendly, wireless solution. Many simple solar lights can be purchased for around £60-£100. For those who need artificial heating, the best option is electric. It is emission-free and relatively efficient. But be sure to eliminate droughts wherever possible to prevent heat loss and reduce energy costs. Also clear away or trim back nearby trees to prevent potential damage and maximize light.
Economic And Lifestyle Benefits
As the prices of organic produce continue to climb, greenhouse gardening is becoming more and more economically logical. Not only does home growing ensure your family eats the cleanest and healthiest produce, it can also be a fulfilling business venture. By selling to local farmers markets or organic co-ops, many gardeners can at least cover greenhouse expenses, and some larger greenhouses can even become quite lucrative. Growing and selling local is also an important environmental contribution: one that is more important than ever in our rapidly globalizing world economy. And with the holidays fast approaching, don’t forget that hand grown plants make wonderful gifts.
But even despite the many material benefits of gardening, at the end of the day the best aspect of a greenhouse is its function as a sanctum. Greenhouses are therapeutic places of beauty, serenity, and growth. They are a place to find balance and release stress. So take this into careful account when designing your greenhouse space. Add personal decorative touches. Consider installing a simple macadam walkway, a reading nook, wooden scrollwork, a stained-glass windowpane, or a swing seat. Plan your floral arrangements with soothing palettes in mind. It is true that successful greenhouses are a healthy economic investment. But, far more importantly, greenhouses are an investment in the health of body and mind.
Author: Jenny Beswick loves home improvement ideas and making her garden the focus point in her home design. Consulting with a London Plumber, careful planning and creative designs are a few steps forward to a successful greenhouse. Keep us informed on how your development plans out!