Building a Backyard Greenhouse


Whether you’ve been a plant lover all your life or you’re relatively new to the idea of gardening and excited about the opportunity, building a backyard greenhouse is a great way to really up you gardening game. A backyard greenhouse can maximize the production potential of even the smallest backyard gardening spaces.

Why Build a Backyard Greenhouse?

Backyard greenhouses offer an optimal space for growing various plants and herbs. There are different greenhouse frames, types, and kits available to suit a wide range of purposes. Your greenhouse can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be to suit the purposes you have in mind, including any of the reasons below.

Start seedlings.   For some people, tiny greenhouses are all that is necessary as the greenhouse is only a starting point for seedlings that will ultimately be transferred to the ground.

Grow herbs that are out of season.  Nothing complements the flavor of food better than fresh herbs. It doesn’t get much fresher than herbs straight out of your garden. Greenhouses allow you to grow your favorite herbs year round (depending on the type and location of the greenhouse and whether or not you’ve added heat in some regions).

Lengthen vegetable growing seasons.  Many vegetables have limited growing seasons due to the harshness of winter weather and possibilities of late and/or early frost. Greenhouses provide protection from these things so that you can grow your favorite vegetables even longer.

Save on grocery bills. The fact that you can grow your own vegetables can help you save a significant amount of money on groceries each year – especially once you learn other practical skills such as canning and freezing vegetables in addition to enjoying fresh vegetables from your garden.

Temperature control.  Some flowers and vegetables require certain temperatures in order to grow optimally. Greenhouses allows you to bring in heat when needed and fans when necessary, in addition to opening windows on some of the more advanced greenhouse designs, when temperatures soar.

Humidity control.  People interested in growing tropical plants, in particular, need to create a somewhat steam environment in order for the plants to thrive. At the same time, it is equally important to have a method for the air to circulate and be vented out on days (or nights) when there is excess humidity.

Pest control.  Squirrels consider bulbs to be special treats. That’s not even counting the bugs that like to feast on your favorite plants. While a physical structure doesn’t eliminate all potential pests from getting into your greenhouse and your plants, it does limit their ability to do so.

Protection from Mother Nature.  Even in optimal growing seasons, bad things happen that can devastate a garden. Late or early frosts occur killing delicate crops and seedlings. Excessive rainfalls drown plants in the ground or cause mold and mildew to grow. Hail can literally beat an entire garden to death in a matter of minutes. Excessive sun and heat can literally bake the ground you’re trying to grow your plants in. Greenhouses serve to protect plants from all these things and more.

Grow non-native plants, vegetables, and flowers.  Many people fall in love with the food of a region only to find that they cannot easily get fresh vegetables necessary for that food in the regions where they live. For instance visitors to New Orleans often discover mirlitons, a regional favorite (they even have a festival for mirliton), that is recommended for growth in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 11. If you live in Michigan and want to grow mirlitons then a greenhouse is your best solution to grow this particular vegetable.

Now that we know the many excellent reasons to build a backyard greenhouse, let’s explore the specifics about building one.

How Much Greenhouse Do You Need?

There’s no set in stone rule for how much greenhouse space is enough. There are simply too many variables to consider, including the following:

  • What are you going to grow? Different plants require different growing space.
  • How many people are you trying to feed (if growing vegetables)?
  • What is the purpose of your greenhouse? You won’t need as much space if you’re just sprouting seedlings.
  • How long do you intend to use it each year? People in regions with harsher winters might find it simpler to heat a smaller space rather than a larger greenhouse.

Of course, regardless of how much space you have, there’s a good chance you’ll always want a little more. With that in mind, there are a few things you can do to maximize the space inside your greenhouse.

SFGate Home Guides recommends that you look vertical for options when you run out of traditional space inside your greenhouse. Building shelves allows you the opportunity to multiply your growing space. If plants underneath aren’t getting enough direct sunlight, consider installing fluorescent lighting below the shelves.

The author also recommends using hanging baskets to grow herbs and strawberries. Others have also used specialty baskets to grow tomatoes and peppers upside down. One more thing you can do to get more garden in your greenhouse space is to use a portion of the floor as a vegetable planter.

Ensuring that your vegetables, fruits, flowers, and plants are getting appropriate amounts of sunlight, fertilizer, and water will also help to ensure that they produce their maximum yields meaning more goodies for you and your family to enjoy.

Considerations When Placing Your Greenhouse

There are three words you need to know in real estate – and they happen to apply to greenhouses too – location, location, location!

You need to plan the location of your greenhouse on your property carefully. It needs to be placed in an area that maximizes daily exposure to the morning sun while providing some degree of shade or shielding from the withering heat of the harsh afternoon sun during the dog days of summer.

In winter, though, when warmth becomes a concern, your greenhouse needs to be in a location that protects it from the worst wind that can reduce temperatures in an instant. Look for wind protection in the form of shrubs or a fence.

Pay attention to the footprint of the greenhouse as well. Whether you’re building one from the ground up or you’ve purchased a kit, size matters. You must get the size right for the space you have that meets the requirements mentioned above.

The actual construction is worth considering too. You can create greenhouses that are incredibly elaborate and beautiful to look at, but it isn’t necessary to do so if your primary concern is growing good food and beautiful plants. Find the right plan to meet your budgetary needs, along with these others, and you’re on your way.

Finally, don’t forget to plan ahead for things like heating the greenhouse in winter, if necessary, irrigation, ventilation, air flow, and flooring. Once you have these things nailed down it’s time to let the building begin!

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