Planning Small Greenhouses: 7 Tips for Success


Gardening is a passion for many people and it’s gaining in popularity each and every day as it once was years ago. Gardening can be useful for spending quality time with your family, growing healthy chemical free foods or just plain taking the stress out of your day while you tend to your plants in a peaceful environment. Adding a small greenhouse to your garden is a great way to extend your gardening experience throughout the entire year depending on which type of greenhouse you choose.

Once you have decided upon a small greenhouse, to either extend your growing season or provide year round gardening, there are a few things to consider that will enhance your small greenhouse experience yet need to be addressed. Consider the following 7 tips as a starting point for you to have a truly positive experience with your new greenhouse;

1. What is the main purpose of your small greenhouse?

Do you want to use your new greenhouse for growing flowers, growing vegetables or maybe a combination of both? Some gardeners use the greenhouse partly for growing but also have a seating and relaxing area that includes a table and chairs for just hanging out while sipping Greenhouses coffee and reading a book. Others have incorporated their greenhouse into a more tropical setting including ponds and even some fish with more exotic plant species. There are several ways to incorporate a greenhouse into your backyard garden setting and maybe you have a new and unique idea of your own. For whatever purposes you decide to use your greenhouse make sure you have a vision for your ideal outcome.

2. Choose the Right Location.

Now that you know the purpose of your small greenhouse and have a vision for its use, you need to spend some time determining the best location for the greenhouse based on your needs and wants.

It’s a good idea to do a little research on locating a greenhouse in your yard based on the needed sunlight for your plant types and your expectations for the overall gardening experience. Do a basic sketch of your yard, house and any trees and fencing that will affect the placement of your greenhouse and try to have a sense of scale to your sketch. Cutout a scaled greenhouse footprint you can use to test various spots that might be a good location for your greenhouse and get a feel for what that will look like in those spots and ensure a proper amount of either sunlight or shade.

Other things to be aware of are whether or not you have close access to water and electricity and will you be adding a composting pile or bin and maybe a rain- collecting barrel. Decide if your greenhouse will be part of a larger garden setting with an outdoor flower or vegetable garden where new young sprouts will be planted or maybe you only want to walk out the door of your house and into your greenhouse located close by. The main point here is to know where you want to build your small greenhouse prior to its arrival.

3. Look at examples of various foundations.

There a several types of foundations your small greenhouse can be mounted upon. The most common type of installation is setting the greenhouse directly on the ground and anchoring it with ground anchors. Another way to install a greenhouse onto the ground involves using a base that is trenched into the ground and filled with dirt to anchor it in place. You must be aware of the possibility of storms and high winds that can topple your greenhouse investment and you need to take a minimum of precautions for weather related situations.

Other types of installations include digging out a sunken floor that aid in retaining heat during colder months. Maybe you want a full concrete slab under your greenhouse with a slightly sloped floor and floor drain set up. You can build a knee wall around the perimeter of the greenhouse and build on top of that wall, which also gives you more headroom inside. Greenhouses need to have good drainage on the inside and the foundation you use needs to address this. Keep in mind that some of these installations are considered temporary and others are permanent. You need to check your local building codes to see if a permit is required for your type of installation.

4. Interior Flooring Needs.

If you’ve decided to build your greenhouse on a slab there may be no further consideration needed for the type of floor you want. If you intend to plant directly in the ground inside your small greenhouse you will need to provide some rock drainage under the plant bed area and you may want some type of stone or paver walkway down the center of your greenhouse. If you are using raised beds on either side of your walkway you can include gravel or crushed stone under the raised beds for a firmer surface to store items under the beds.

There are many options you can use on the floor of your greenhouse but keep in mind you want drainage to keep your greenhouse functioning properly inside and from pools of water forming.

5. Storage for Gardening Supplies.

There are several items every gardener needs in their greenhouse and you need to plan for storage of these items. Shovels, hoes, rakes, bags of soils, pots, seed trays, rope, hooks and many other things that just find their way into the greenhouse. Keeping your work area organized will really help to have a great gardening experience. Most greenhouses have some sort of potting bench or table so you can work on seed trays or re-potting, labeling and planting prep work. Plan to have this space in your greenhouse and provide adequate storage for your potting area tools and supplies so they are all close by when you need them. Knowing the purpose of your greenhouse will really help determine how much space you will need inside the building.

6. Choose the Right Size Greenhouse.

Considering all of the above elements will be the determining factors on how big your small greenhouse should be. If you only want room for some flowers and a couple of hanging plants or maybe a place to plant seeds and get an early start on an outdoor garden you can look at the lean-to style small greenhouses or lower square footage free standing greenhouses. Growing vegetables will require a larger square footage depending upon the types of vegetables you want to grow. Think about it in terms of a smaller outdoor garden and what yield you can achieve in a small space and then add in some room for storage, potting bench or other area for relaxing. I have said it and I’ve read it over and over again that whatever size greenhouse you think you need…get the next larger size. Choosing a smaller greenhouse is not the end of the world if you really like the opportunities it presents. A smaller greenhouse can always be used for seeding and sprouts for your larger greenhouse you acquire somewhere down the road. If your already an avid gardener it may be wise to look at the higher square footage greenhouses so you have all the room you need for both flowers and vegetables. Do some research and you’ll make a smart choice on an appropriate size that will meet your entire greenhouse gardening needs.

7. Installing Your Greenhouse.

After doing all of the necessary research and planning for the right type greenhouse gardening experience it will be time to install your new gardening facility. Whether you choose a kit or plan on building your own greenhouse it is going to take some patience to complete the job and start growing. Again, do some research on whether to build or buy a kit so you understand all of the benefits and pitfalls of each. There are several videos available on the Internet, and YouTube in particular, that will show you exactly what is involved doing this type of project. If you build your own greenhouse you will be buying your own materials, transporting them to the site and constructing it all on your preplanned foundation and it can take a few days. Choosing a kit will give you all of your parts pre-cut to size delivered to your door and can usually be assembled in one day. Plan on having some help with your project so you are not trying to do things by yourself and try to get someone that has some skill with this type of project. Often, I hear about someone that had good intentions of doing it all themselves but it became more than they could handle. The point of all of this is to be gardening in a peaceful environment and it’s OK to have someone else do the installation for you.


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