If the time is finally right for you to get that greenhouse you’ve always wanted, here are 10 tips to help you plan for the perfect paradise at your home.
Article contributed by Arcadia GlassHouse www.ArcadiaGlassHouse.com
1. Attached or Freestanding?
Decide if you want your new greenhouse to be attached to your home or freestanding in a garden setting.
a. Attached greenhouses are more energy efficient and have easier access, but do require a footer and foundation. Avoid the north side of your home – it’s too shady.
b. Freestanding greenhouses have better lighting conditions, less building code restrictions, and can look beautiful in a garden setting.
2. Best Location
Locate your greenhouse where it will get good light, not necessarily full sun. A southern exposure will require 60-70% shade cloth in the summer. Deciduous trees provide nice shade in the summer while allowing more light in the winter. West is best, and East is fine, but a northern exposure is best suited for Phalaenopsis, ferns and low-light plants.
3. Design & Integrity
Select a greenhouse frame with structural integrity and beauty – it’s going to be a part of your home for a long time. Decide if you prefer straight eave sidewalls or curved eaves. Extruded aluminum frames and welded truss designs are the best quality and will meet local building codes for snow and wind loads.
Straight eave - freestanding
Curved eave - attached
4. Optimum Size
Plan ahead and design your greenhouse for optimum growing areas with plenty of space for benches, an aisle, and perhaps a large-plant area. 10 to 12 foot widths are the most popular, allowing for 3 ft. wide benches along the sides and a wide aisle in the center. Popular sizes include 8x12, 10x20, 12x24, 20x32 and many others. Select a greenhouse with high sidewalls (6’+) so you have room for hanging baskets.
5. Foundation Requirements
Any greenhouse attached to your home will require a 36” – 42” deep foundation, which does add some cost to the project. Freestanding greenhouses can sit on a concrete pad or wooden base with a gravel floor. Brick or stone kneewalls look nice and are more energy-efficient because they act as a heat sink, but they are more expensive than a glass-to-ground style greenhouse.
6. Glazing Options
Single-pane glass is a beautiful, cost-effective option for smaller greenhouses, but it is not very energy efficient and will cost more to heat in the winter and will require shade cloth in the summer. Select a greenhouse with full-length glass panels and h-channel rubber seals for an air-tight installation.
Double-pane glass is your most attractive and energy-efficient option. 7/8” thick, Argon-filled, Low-E glass is the best quality, but costs about twice as much as a single-pane glass greenhouse.
Polycarbonate glazing is becoming increasingly popular because it is almost as energy-efficient as double-pane glass at half the cost. 8mm triple-wall and 16mm 5-wall polycarbonate will last 15 – 20 years before it needs replaced. Polycarbonate provides diffused sunlight for an excellent growing environment.
7. Heating Systems
You’ll want to have supplemental heat in your greenhouse to grow all year round. Small electric or gas heaters are available with thermostat controls. 240 Volt electric heaters are popular in smaller greenhouses because they work in an air-tight environment. Gas heaters are typically less expensive to operate in medium to large greenhouses, but they do require an exhaust flue. Contact us to properly calculate the BTUs required.
8. Ventilating Systems
Proper ventilation is critical for keeping your greenhouse cool in the summer and for proper air circulation to keep your plants healthy. A powered ventilation system with a shutter-mounted exhaust fan and intake shutter is your best option, keeping your greenhouse 10 degrees cooler than passive cooling ridge vents. Full-length polycarbonate roof panels are a nice feature because they are unbreakable and snow, ice, leave, etc. just roll right off. A circulating fan running 24/7 will keep your plants healthy all year round.
9. Equipment & Accessories
Think about benches, lighting, humidification, cooling and watering systems that you may want. Greenhouse lighting is not typically required for growing plants, except to extend the day length when starting seeds or forcing flowers. Foggers are our favorite source of humidification and come with an automatic humidistat control.
10. Architectural Design Enhancements
A greenhouse can be a valuable addition to your home if you make plans to integrate it with your existing style and architecture. Select a paint color, roof pitch, or stonework that will complement your home or garden setting, then finish it off with cresting, finials and landscaping.
Arcadia GlassHouse manufactures high quality residential greenhouses in many standard and custom sizes with a full range of glass and polycarbonate options.
A complete 10-Step Planning Guide and greenhouse brochure is available on the company’s website, or call to discuss your interest with an experienced horticulturist.