How To: Start a Backyard Greenhouse

Every gardener dreams about owning a backyard greenhouse, to provide the perfect environment for their plants, flowers and growing vegetables. A greenhouse also allows you to get a head start on spring planting and to extend the growing season well into the fall. Unfortunately, traditional greenhouses can be quite expensive and too large for the average backyard. However, there are ways to build your own without the large cost and need for space. Here are some tips and advice to consider when building your own backyard greenhouse. 

Check local ordinances: Check with your town’s zoning and building department to make sure you’re able to build a greenhouse on your property. Greenhouses are typically considered individual structures, so you’ll most likely have to apply for a building permit. If you live in a community with a homeowner’s association (HOA), you may have to get approval from the HOA, which might be difficult because many housing communities have covenants.

Find the right sunny location: Greenhouses provide a warm, sunny spot for your plants, so it’s important that it be situated properly in your yard. Prime greenhouse orientation is facing south or southeast in order to capture the early-morning sun. An east-facing orientation works well in most climates too. Try to pick a location that receives at least six hours of uninterrupted sunlight per day. If you live in a region that receives significant snowfall, be sure your greenhouse can support a blanket of snow without collapsing.

Find the right material: Glass is the most traditional material for constructing greenhouses. But glass can be heavy, fragile and expensive, so try using acrylic, fiberglass, or polyethylene sheeting. Acrylic and fiberglass are resilient, good insulators and have excellent light transmission. These options are also very affordable and easy to install. 

A majority of greenhouse frames are made of wood or metal. Wood is typically less expensive, easier to work with and suitable for small and medium-size greenhouses. Metal is stronger and more weather resistant than wood, but usually costs more. 

The floor of a greenhouse can be made of any number of materials, including gravel, wood decking, metal grates, poured concrete, or just bare dirt. Keep in mind, that a dirt floor is only practical if your yard stays bone-dry, otherwise it’ll become a muddy over time. Concrete is very durable, but can be expensive to pour and doesn’t drain well. A gravel floor is inexpensive, drains well, and can easily be refurbished by adding more gravel.

Regulate the temperature: Being able to regulate the temperature inside the greenhouse is important because it can get hotter in summer or colder in the winter. Use operable windows, rooftop vents or exhaust fans to expel hot air.  When the weather gets cold, maintain a warm greenhouse by installing an electric heater that’s equipped with a controlled fan. 

Building your own backyard greenhouse is simpler now than ever. Follow these suggested tips to have the most success! 

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