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Choosing Your Greenhouse

Choosing Your Greenhouse

Sometimes it seems like choosing a greenhouse can be a daunting task.  Here are a few pointers to help you make a decision.

Building vs. Buying

The first decision you need to make is whether to build your greenhouse or purchase a greenhouse kit.  Both require labor.

If you have a good carpentry skill set and access to the materials, then building may be the direction you would like to go.  Make sure to have a good plan!

Another alternative is to higher a contractor.  Get a good referral and check those references.

The greenhouse kits on the market today make a hobby greenhouse within reach of more gardeners than ever.  Prices and features range greatly, so look carefully and make sure the kit contains what you are looking for or that the accessories are readily available.


Decide your initial budget.  This will assist you in selecting a greenhouse that will fall within your financial requirements.

A lot of people I have talked to suggest getting a larger greenhouse within your budget guidelines and getting fewer accessories.  Accessories can always be added on at a later date.

Glazing Material

The materials your greenhouse is made out of will greatly affect the price.  The first thing to consider is the glazing, or windows, of the greenhouse.

  • Plastic Sheeting - The most affordable of the three, however the least durable.  It comes in a roll and unfolds into a large sheet.  Keep in mind that plastic sheeting will need to be replaced regularly.  Plastic sheeting is a favorite among those that have temporary greenhouse structures as it is inexpensive and less work to take down and reconfigure the greenhouse.
  • Glass - This is the traditional glazing material for greenhouses, however it is the most expensive and is fragile.
  • Polycarbonate - Extremely popular and moderately priced, polycarbonate is very durable.  Dual wall polycarbonate also has insulating properties.

Both plastic sheeting and polycarbonate are available as translucent instead of transparent, so it diffuses the sunlight coming into the greenhouse creating an ideal environment for growing plants.  Light diffusion also allows the light to reach more areas of the greenhouse

{mosgoogle right}Frame Material

The second material to consider is the frame.  The frame is important as it is what provides the structure of your greenhouse.

  • PVC - The most affordable and the least durable, PVC is flexible to create round structures however careful anchoring to keep it in place.  It is also a favorite among those creating temporary structures.
  • Aluminum - One of the popular choices in greenhouse kits.  It is lightweight and easy to ship, however make sure it is rigid otherwise additional reinforcements will need to be added.  Since aluminum is a metal, it will conduct the outside temperature inside.  Some kits will use a sort of "dual wall" construction to create an insulating air pocket inside the wall.
  • Resin - Another popular choice in greenhouse kits.  Offers the same benefits and drawbacks of aluminum however it will not transfer the outside temperature as easily.
  • Wood - If you prefer a more traditional look to your greenhouse or you are building it from the ground up, wood may be your choice.  Keep in mind wood has more maintenance required for upkeep, especially with the damp conditions of a greenhouse
Desert Greenhouse Guideline:  If you live in a hot desert, wood requires even more maintenance as the hot, dry climate takes its toll.

Floor Material

The floor is the base of everything standing inside the greenhouse.  In all the materials except for the concrete slab, make sure that you have adequate drainage.

  • Mulch - I have read a lot of mixed opinions about mulch.  It is inexpensive and easy to replace, however I have also seen people mention that it attracts insects.
  • 3/4 Inch Gravel - Washed gravel is available for purchase from nearly all rock yards and it is not as expensive as you would think!  It is great for holding moisture after watering it down to increase the humidity in your greenhouse.
  • Paving Stones - You can place down paving stones to give your greenhouse a flat "floor".  They have a nice outdoor look to them and are available in a wide range of colors and styles.  Price varies greatly upon those options.
  • Concrete Slab - The most expensive option and provides a very solid base.  The issues with a concrete slab is that there is limited drainage and may be slippery when wet.
Greenhouse Guideline:  Mulch does not seem to survive very long in the desert climate.  Also consider that part of keeping your greenhouse cool in the summertime is wetting down the floor.  Water cools down the air and keeps the humidity level up in your greenhouse, which is also important for your plants when you live where the air is dry. Gravel seems to work very well for this.

Site / Location

Decide where you want to put your greenhouse.  Keep in mind that part of the expensive of a greenhouse may be leveling or clearing the site you use.

Also think about how accessible it will be for you personally.  If you have to walk a long way from your house, will you go out there every day?

Does the site have the ideal amount of sun?  In regions where temperatures get over a hundred degrees, shade fabric or lattice may be needed to keep the temperatures down in your greenhouse.  Deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves in the fall) provide shade in the summer and allow sun through in the winter, so keep that in mind when selecting the site.

What about electricity or water?  If you would like those things in your greenhouse, that will also be a large factor in where you locate your greenhouse, otherwise there will be the added expense of adding those facilities to the site.

Does your area require a permit?  Some cities and counties require a permit in order to build a greenhouse.

Climate Control

All greenhouses require climate control, however the degree of climate control depends upon where you live and if you want to use the greenhouse in the hot part of the summer and cold part of winter.

For hot climates, mist systems, fans and vents will be needed to keep your greenhouse cooler.  For cold climates, additional insulation, heaters and grow lights may be required.


Make sure you do the research and be educated in your purchase.  A happier outcomes is surely the result!

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