Add a greenhouse in 2014 for growing food and flowers and entertaining.
Greenhouses are the “new” wine bar hobby for adults. They’re great for stretching your growing season or plant selection. Grow your own fresh herbs way past summer and add some exotic plants to your collection. Greenhouses come in all sizes, shapes and price points.
If you want to start small, try an affordable kit about size of a small darkroom, or about five feet by seven feet, in the $300 to $500 range. Some smaller, wall-mounted units also sit against your home and have shelving to hold plants that need the warmth of a greenhouse during cooler months.
You can build your own greenhouse, finding help and plans online, order kits that you assemble, or buy completely assembled greenhouses. Naturally, the price goes up for fully assembled and depending on size and features. A larger and more complex greenhouse costs more because you’ll need to add all of the elements that occur in nature – sun, heat, light, water and air circulation. That means a foundation to hold your DIY structure or kit, hard-wiring for electricity, a location near a hose bib or other water source, a sunny southern exposure and a ventilation system.
The lighting is partly for some plants during short winter days and partly for tasks. When you’re in the middle of cooking dinner and want some basil and a fresh tomato, no need groping in the dark! Greenhouses also need supplemental heat for cloudy days. Look into how to retain heat with passive solar ideas, such as water drums, and how to use solar panels to provide electricity for lighting and heat. Many of these ideas add to your upfront costs but save money down the road. You need water for misting and watering plants and a sink to drain water. The air circulation is critical to prevent carbon dioxide depletion and overheating. You can buy solar-powered automatic vent openers to take care of the problem when you’re not around.
When planning for a greenhouse, be sure to check local regulations. You might have to consider permit, zoning and setback ordinances before starting. Then choose the greenhouse that meets your needs and budget. Think about the plants you want to grow, whether you want to propagate or graft more plants, and how you want to use the space and whether your kids will participate in your projects.
Here are five practical plants to consider from the start: tomatoes, peppers, rosemary, basil and thyme. Lettuce is another popular edible. Add a few favorite plants that need more warmth and humidity, like orchids and ferns or a plumeria.
Dream big! If you have the space and budget, you can turn a larger greenhouse into an extra room for entertaining and personal time. Imaging a wine tasting surrounded by orchids or reading a book on a chilly Saturday afternoon in your warm, sunny greenhouse.
Learn more about greenhouses from our January 11, 2014, show and from FarmTek.