For many of the decisions we make in life, there are pluses and minuses. That goes for greenhouses too.
There are pros and cons when it comes to greenhouses. If you are a backyard organic farmers' market grower with other small to medium-size farmers nearby, starting your plants early in the season and extending the season into the fall can be a big advantage. It enables you to sell your veggies for a good price.
A greenhouse will protect your crop from frost, getting you off to a great start earlier in the spring and extending your harvest later into the fall.
For those of you who are home gardeners, a greenhouse can help you turn your gardening hobby into a full-time passion. Besides extending your growing season, a greenhouse can help you become a more successful gardener.
Although greenhouses offer many benefits, they also have some drawbacks. Foremost among these is installing a greenhouse if you don't already have one on your property. You will have to invest some money to buy a greenhouse. Or if you are handy, you can save money by building your own. That will only cost you your time and some basic materials.
Pros and Cons of Greenhouses
For most folks, the benefits of having a greenhouse far outweigh the costs. If you are thinking about buying or building a greenhouse, DripWorks is happy to share the potential upside with you. Here is a list of some of the more obvious benefits of a greenhouse as well as some of the potential hurdles.
Benefits of Owning a Greenhouse
- Optimal conditions for plants = quality control
- Protection from adverse weather such as excessive rain, drought, extremes in temperatures and high winds. These will not cause a problem for the plants you grow in a greenhouse.
- You can increase the variety of fruits and vegetables you can grow in your area because you can control the temperature, humidity and number of hours of light the plants need. It becomes possible to grow varieties that normally would only survive in warmer conditions.
- A greenhouse can increase crop yields because it lets you start the growing season earlier and end later.
- You will have the ability to grow some crops year-round, giving you a stable harvest. When crops such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, basil and many others are grown out of season, growers can command a higher price. Supplemental lighting may be needed as the days get shorter in the fall and winter. Do your research on the cost of the required heating and lighting to find out if it will result in a profitable venture.
- Profit per square foot can increase if you choose the growing system that suits your crop: containerized in smart pots, row crops on drip tape or hydroponics. Drip irrigation with a timer is the best system for being able to automate efficiently for containers or row crops. Misting systems can be installed for starting crops from seed and keeping the soil moist. A layer of row cover suspended above them starts by using metal hoops can keep the plants warmer without increasing the heating costs.
- Plants can grow faster, especially when they are on an automatic fertilizing system. A system with one of these fertilizer injectors will operate as the water flows through drip tubing to all the plants.
- Heating, cooling, misting and fan systems can be installed, giving the plants optimal growing conditions. Humidity and warmth are important for some crops. You can provide these benefits in a greenhouse.
- Pests and the damage they can cause will be minimized in the closed system a greenhouse provides.
- You will reduce crop loss from storms with a well-built greenhouse.
- Water resources can be used more efficiently when a drip watering system and a timer are installed.
- You'll have protection for sprouting seedings in trays on benches without worrying about insects and birds damaging your starts.
- You will enjoy the freedom to choose what you want to grow and who you want to show off your plants to. The ability to raise plants not typically grown in your region will give you bragging rights. You can raise plants for friends, for sale or by joining a gardening club.
- Greenhouses can double as storage sites for your garden tools and larger equipment like rototillers, mowers and other accessories. They also provide a place to keep fertilizers and supplies. And building a greenhouse can be customized to be an attractive part of your property. These structures can be made of wood or metal. They may be built freestanding or against your home, garage, garden shed or an outbuilding. Just remember the greenhouse should have south- or east-facing walls.
- Greenhouses are good for your physical and mental health. They give you regular, routine exercise, a focus for your creativity and an escape from the blues that can creep in during the long winter months.
Challenges of a Greenhouse
- Upfront costs can be mitigated if you have a local window shop that has seconds of dual-pane or used windows for sale. Once you have collected enough windows for the building, you can do your own design drawings.
- Regular maintenance may be necessary. But if you are going to cover the greenhouse with a quality, double-walled translucent paneling that diffuses the light for optimal plant growth, Solexx precut rolls are the best choice. They deliver longevity and the ability to hold in the heat. Reinforced polyethylene rolls of material that is tear- and puncture-resistant as a covering material provides another, less expensive way to go.
- Operational costs associated with controlling the climate inside your greenhouse (heating, cooling, ventilation) can be mitigated with the use of solar roof vents that can be opened either automatically or manually and vents near the bottom of the walls. Solar-operated fans can be installed to pull hot air out of the greenhouse. Passive heating can be provided by lining the lower parts of the south-facing wall with gallon milk containers filled with water sitting on wooden planks. These will warm up during the daytime and give off passive heat when the sun goes down.
- Vandalism and theft can be an issue in some locations, but most homeowners' insurance policy will cover your greenhouse too.
- Ventilation during the summer months is another area to address. Solar fans located at a high point in the eaves or side walls will pull out the hot air if there are vents located in the low point of the north or east wall.
- Possible pollination issues can be a problem because a greenhouse is a closed system compared to gardening out in the open, where insects and birds can work their necessary magic. Farmers and gardeners must manually pollinate if it's necessary.
- Plenty of knowledge from experienced growers or websites is needed to grow new types of plants. There are many places to turn to, such as the internet, local nurseries, your local agricultural extension service and friends. Your knowledge and experience will grow with each season.
There you have it. Greenhouses can add another dimension in your effort to grow your own food or flowers.
If conditions inside the greenhouse are optimized, your chances of success are very good. Your growing season can be extended from early spring to late fall regardless of weather.
So do your research, because there are many greenhouse or hoop-house manufacturers online. DripWorks.com has quality greenhouse-covering materials and entire greenhouse and hoop-house kits available for the backyard gardener and the small farmer. Go to the website for pictures and information or give us a call and ask for a catalog.