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The Art of the Greenhouse

Gardening in the north can be a challenge as we have a very short growing season, so many local gardeners use greenhouses to extend the season, and to grow frost tender plants.

Gardening in the north can be a challenge as we have a very short growing season, so many local gardeners use greenhouses to extend the season, and to grow frost tender plants. Vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and cucumbers do very well in a greenhouse environment as they enjoy consistent warm temperatures, a long growing season, and are not frost tolerant. Greenhouses are also used to get a head start on spring. Gardeners can start their seeds in the greenhouse to grow their own transplants/bedding plants. They can also get an early crop of spinach, lettuce, radishes, and other salad crops that are grown in the greenhouse in early spring when the outside temperatures are still too cold to grow things outside.

“There are lots of choices and things to think about if you plan to use a greenhouse."

Location of the greenhouse is important as you want to make sure that it receives lots of sunlight. Avoid areas with lots trees. The area should also be well-drained or raised, as you don’t want to be sitting in water for any length of time. Accessibility to water is something to keep in mind as you will need to water the greenhouse daily.

Greenhouses can be made out of different materials. The cheapest greenhouse would be one made of plastic. Plastic works well, but it is not permanent as it will need to be replaced after a couple of years (depending on type and conditions). Glass is a good choice as it lasts longer, but it can also break as it is fragile. Fiberglass and coroplast are both durable. The double walled coroplast is very good as it provides some insulation, just like a double paned window does in a house.

Air ventilation is very important when growing anything as poor air ventilation can lead to disease. An automatic roof vent works well, or having windows that open on opposite sides to allow the air to move. The vent or windows would open during the day, when temperatures are warm, and close at night when temperatures are cooler. When you have plants in the greenhouse, make sure that the plants are spaced, so that the air can move around them. Sometimes it is hard to not overcrowd the greenhouse with plants as you want to get as much produce out of the greenhouse as possible, but in the long run, you are better off to put a few less plants in the greenhouse so that you can get a healthy, bountiful crop.

Another choice to make when you have a greenhouse, is the method of growing plants. Some gardeners grow everything in containers and pots, that are placed on the floor or hung. The containers are emptied into the garden or compost at the end of each growing season, and then re-filled each spring with new outdoor potting soil or greenhouse soil. Other greenhouses have raised beds that are filled with potting/greenhouse soil and the plants are directly grown in the beds. If plants are grown directly into the soil, remember to practice crop rotation and enhance the soil each spring with compost, manure etc., Soil is very important as it is the foundation for a plant’s roots. Don’t skimp on the quality of soil as you will regret it later. Use a good quality, well-drained soil.

Gardeners that have a greenhouse certainly appreciate them, especially here in the north. Whether you decide to build a temporary greenhouse or a permanent structure, make sure that you do it right so you can get the most from it.

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