The most basic considerations for your greenhouse are whether you want one that is attached or freestanding, where you are going to place it and what size will meet your needs. The efficiency and productivity of a greenhouse is greatly influenced by its design. Initial and long term costs of indoor gardening are also affected by the type of materials that are used in the greenhouse construction. Review all available options before making your final decision.
- Attached Structures -
Even-Span or Full-Size Greenhouse - An even-span is a full-size structure where one gable end is attached to an existing building such as a house or garage. This allows the greenhouse to have a pitched, rather than sloped roof. This style is often the largest and most costly option, but it provides more usable space and can be lengthened. The even-span has a better shape than a lean-to for air circulation which will help to maintain uniform temperatures during the winter months. A full-size structure can accommodate two to three benches for greenhouse gardening.
Lean-To or Half Greenhouse - A lean-to is a half greenhouse, split along the peak of the roof and attached to a house, barn or garage on one side. A lean-to is very useful where space is limited and they are the least expensive structures. By being attached to an existing structure they are close to available electricity, water and heat sources. Disadvantages include some limitations on space, sunlight, ventilation, and temperature control. The lean-to style has a slope rather than a pitched roof and may be limited by the height of the structure to which it is attached. The greenhouse nursery should face the best direction for adequate exposure to the sun. And you should consider the location of windows and doors on the supporting structure because snow, ice, or heavy rain might slide off the attached building onto the structure.
Window-Mounted or Extended Window Greenhouse - A window-mounted greenhouse is a nice choice for a hobby greenhouse as they are least expensive as well as decorative. They can be attached on the south or east side of a house, barn or garage. The window-mounted greenhouse provides a convenient space for growing a few plants at relatively low cost for heating and cooling. The window extends outward from the house a foot or so and usually allows enough space for two or three shelves.
- Free Standing Structures -
Portable Greenhouse - Portable greenhouses come in a variety of sizes and are economical and convenient for homeowners. They often come as a greenhouse kit that is easy to assemble and disassemble. The lightweight structure is ideal for starting seedlings for gardens, or for getting an early start on heat-loving plants in cold climates with short growing seasons. When purchasing a portable greenhouse make sure you choose one that will stand up to local weather conditions, especially if you live in an area with extreme temperatures and lots of wind.
Permanent Greenhouse - Many permanent greenhouses also come in kits that the do-it-yourself homeowner can assemble. They can be more expensive than other kinds of greenhouses, but they are sturdier and more durable. Permanent greenhouses come in many sizes, shapes and materials. Most permanent kits feature the ability to add on for future expansion and are the most versatile, when maintaining a good greenhouse gardening environment. The square or rectangular shape of a free-standing structure provides maximum growing space, allowing room for benches on both sides and across the back.
- Basic Greenhouse Models -
Cold Frames provide the smallest and simplest greenhouse environment and are usually made from polycarbonate panels. They are ideal as a hobby greenhouse if you don't have much space. They can be used to give you an early start with tender flowers, herbs, and vegetables. If you sprout seeds indoors, coldframes can also be used to harden the tender plants before they are planted outside. Coldframes can also be used during winter to protect sensitive plants. When coldframes are not in use, they make great storage containers for your seeds, bulbs, and other gardening supplies. They are generally not intended for growing exotic or delicate plants year round.
Grow Racks are the next size up in a portable greenhouse and can be an attractive addition to your patio or deck. They usually come with a vinyl cover and zippers or Velcro. The zippers or Velcro allow you to adjust the vinyl cover so that you can modify the air flow, temperature, and humidity. Special heat pads can be used under planter boxes to maintain the ideal soil temperature for your plants. Grow racks can even be an elegant indoor addition for sensitive tropical plants, or for sprouting seeds.
At Greenhouse Center, our goal is to provide useful information on choosing between the many different types of greenhouses available, buying a greenhouse kit, purchasing plants for your greenhouse nursery and how to maintain your greenhouse for indoor gardening year-round. Visit our Products page to see a sample of the large variety of greenhouse styles that are available.