How to Build a Greenhouse in Your Backyard

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If you’ve got a green thumb, a greenhouse can fit right into your lifestyle. Here’s how to build a greenhouse in your backyard.

Milling through the produce department, you notice that the fruits and veggies look rough, use harmful chemicals and are way overpriced! The only other option you can think of is to grow your own food.

Many Americans started growing at least some of their food over the past few years. Recent surveys show that about a third of American families have gotten into food cultivation.

To keep your plants healthy all year, you need a greenhouse. But, how do you build one? Where do you start?

Don’t worry! We put together a guide to explain how to build a greenhouse from the ground up. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know!

What is a Greenhouse?

A greenhouse, also known as a glasshouse, is a structure created to safeguard delicate or out-of-season plants from extreme cold or heat.

Greenhouses in the 17th century were plain brick or wood constructions with a set number of windows and a heating source. As glass became more accessible and more advanced heating techniques became available, the greenhouse evolved into a simple wooden or metal structure with a glass roof and walls. By the middle of the 19th century, the greenhouse had changed from a basic haven with an unfriendly climate to a controlled environment designed to meet the needs of particular plants. 

To grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other plants that require specific temperature conditions, modern greenhouses are typically framed structures made of glass or plastic. The two primary structural types of greenhouses are the span-type greenhouse, which has an A-shaped, double-sloped roof, and the lean-to greenhouse, which has a single roof slope and leans against the side of a building. 

What is the Greenhouse Effect?

A glass-enclosed structure called a greenhouse is used to grow plants. The sun’s rays warm the greenhouse’s air and plants. The greenhouse must be warmed for the plant to grow because the heat that is trapped inside is unable to exit. The earth’s atmosphere is the same.

Due to the sun, the Earth’s atmosphere warms during the day. When the earth cools at night, heat is radiated back into the atmosphere. During this process, the heat is absorbed by the greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. This causes the earth’s surface to warm, which makes it possible for life to exist on Earth.

Things to Know Before Building a Greenhouse

Before moving forward with your greenhouse project, keep these things in mind:

1. Location is Important

The type of structure your greenhouse is made of and how much light it receives affect the plants’ ability to grow. The location also affects the greenhouse owners’ access to the building and the building’s susceptibility to storm damage.

2. Choose the Type You Want

The type of backyard greenhouse projects you intend to undertake now and in the future, such as producing enough vegetables or flowers to sell at a farmer’s market, will have a significant impact on the structure you choose. You should also take into account the different architectural styles that the proposed site has.

Consider the following two types of greenhouse structures:

Standalone

It’s a separate structure that’s typically located close to a garden. A freestanding building can be positioned anywhere on the property and offers more room for growth. Additionally, freestanding greenhouses are simpler to ventilate and better at distributing sunlight evenly throughout the plants without subjecting them to sudden temperature changes or icy air.

Attached Lean-To

On one or more of its sides, these greenhouses are built up against an already-existing structure. It is joined to the home or other structures. Lean-to greenhouses are not the best option for everyone due to the restrictions on placement around the home and growing space, but they are a great option for those with limited space.

The attached greenhouses include:

  • Window-Mounted: A few plants are grown in window-mounted greenhouses at very low heating and cooling costs. Simple installation tools are required, and single and double designs are available in various sizes to fit the most common window frames.
  • Even-Span: The attached even-span style is the one that is frequently considered when people think of greenhouses. The even-span greenhouse has the appearance of a freestanding structure. It does, however, have a single gable roof that connects it to a house or garage. Lean-to greenhouses are less expensive, but even-span greenhouses offer more design and space flexibility.

3. Remember the Weather

A greenhouse can be kept from blowing away if it is anchored to a foundation and has a sturdy structure if you live in an area that is prone to wind or storms. They won’t move if they’re fastened to sturdy footers or a structure like your house. In a storm, some of the glass may break, but those pieces are replaceable.

4. Frame and Form

The materials and shape of your greenhouse are two important considerations. While many are made of multiple materials, some are made entirely of glass or plastic. Others have pitched roofs, while some have rounded ones. 

5. Lights, Water, Action

There are certain requirements for a successful hobby greenhouse, regardless of the design, scale, or construction technique. The following elements are necessary:

Electricity

Electricity access can help control temperature and power fans and other habitat-controlling devices, whether you wire he greenhouse with outlets or use an extension cord from the house.

If you don’t want to deal with running electricity to the greenhouse, solar-powered products or do-it-yourself solar greenhouses might be more suitable. 

Heat

Heaters are required for tropical plants to overwinter in a greenhouse as well as for crops like tomatoes and seedlings to grow and produce fruit. The thermostat on some heaters lets you set the desired temperature.

Water

Water accessibility is essential. Hand watering with a garden hose is acceptable for the majority of greenhouse crops.

Floorings

Although it serves as a free floor, the bare ground gives pests easy access to your plants. In addition to making the ground muddy and uneven, water left on the bare ground may also harbor disease-causing bacteria that will harm your garden.

Pea gravel is a great, cost-effective option for greenhouse flooring. Gravel is simple to stand on and can be sprayed to keep the area cool on hot days. Pavers can be used to create a path as well. Mulch encourages fungus growth, so it shouldn’t be used in moist, enclosed spaces.

Air Circulation

When the greenhouse is heated in the winter, you must maintain air circulation to keep the temperatures steady. Warm air rises to the top when there is no airflow, while cold air gathers below near the plants. In the summer, automatic vent openers are essential. They avoid greenhouses heating up.

How to Build a Greenhouse in Your Backyard

The whole point of a greenhouse is to use the natural light from the sun to nourish your plants. You don’t want to put the greenhouse under a big shady oak tree that blocks all the sun!

For the optimal amount of sunlight, a greenhouse should face south or southeast. That way you can take advantage of the early morning sun. If the south doesn’t suit you, an east-facing greenhouse works well in most climates as well. Your main goal is to find a spot on your property that gets at least six hours of direct sun each day.

Note: If you live in an area that sees a ton of snowfall in the winter, be sure the greenhouse can hold the weight of a blanket of snow without collapsing on all your beautiful plants (or you)!

What Kind of Frame Will You Choose?

Almost every greenhouse that exists has a frame built out of wood or metal. Both have pros and cons, so choose the best material for your needs.

Wood frames are easy to build and won’t break the bank. Keep in mind that wood does degrade over time and isn’t the best material to use for larger greenhouses.

Metal is weather-resistant and lasts for many many years. Aluminum frames are lightweight and strong, but they aren’t cheap!

Some frames only have 3 sides and butt up against your house. For some of the best lean to greenhouse options on the market, check out this website!

You can buy a variety of frame blueprints online to use when you build your greenhouse if you plan on doing it all DIY style.

What Material to Use for the Covering?

A glaze is the outer covering of a greenhouse and most people use either glass or some kind of plastic sheeting. Whatever you pick for your greenhouse glaze, you want it to be clear enough for the sunlight to reach your plants.

Traditional greenhouses use glass glazing and it works well. But, glass is heavy, expensive, and fragile. So, glass is very hard to work with as a greenhouse glaze material.

Because of the pitfalls of using glass, most DIY greenhouses use glazing made with fiberglass, polycarbonate, acrylic, or polyethylene sheeting. These options will degrade, discolor, or become damaged much quicker than glass though.

Flooring Options

Here’s where you can get creative with your greenhouse. Choosing the flooring for your greenhouse is easy!

Some people prefer natural flooring like crushed shell or gravel, while others prefer a more formal floor made from wood planks, bricks, or poured concrete. Whatever you choose, make sure it is comfortable enough for you to stand on while you work out in the greenhouse.

Temperature Control and Ventilation

Most areas see drastic changes in the temperature and weather over the years. Summers can have brutal searing heat and winters come with biting cold winds. You need to have some kind of environmental controls in your greenhouse to keep your plants healthy.

For hot weather, make sure to have windows that open and rooftop vents or exhaust fans to keep the temperature down. In the winter, keep your greenhouse warm with an electric heater controlled by a thermostat.

We’re So Excited That We Wet Our Plants!

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to build a greenhouse, You’re ready to get out there and start building… right? Not always.

If you still don’t have a clear picture of what you want your greenhouse to look like or if you’re debating between automated environmental systems, try going to visit some operational greenhouses near you for some inspiration. You might even ask the greenhouse owner about any issues they have faced with their greenhouse operation and get some valuable advice!

Once you get your greenhouse built, what kind of plants will you grow? For more blogs about home, gardening, and much more, check out the rest of our blog posts today!

Before you even go buy a screw, you need to check with the local government to see what kind of building codes affect your greenhouse project. The last thing you want is a notice on your door telling you to tear down your brand new greenhouse because it violates a code.

Most cities have a process where you apply for a building permit and pay a fee, then wait for the city officials to approve or deny your request. Wait until you have the approval in hand before you move on to the next step.

Also, if you live in a gated community or a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA), they may have other bylaws restricting how and where you build your greenhouse. Check with them too before you start building.

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