Deciding to buy a greenhouse catapults the novice gardener into the big leagues. Even a small model provides the space and the conditions to extend the gardening season and try new techniques, such as starting seeds early, that just are not possible in most gardens. Here are four questions to ask yourself when deciding on a greenhouse that meets your needs.
1. How will I use the greenhouse?
The answer to this will help determine the size and the features you may want. Walk-in greenhouse kits designed for residential use range in size from 5×5 feet up to 8×20 feet. You can find smaller, portable kits for about $100, but more permanent kits can cost from several hundred up to several thousand dollars, depending on the size and features.
Smaller models are great for getting a jump on spring planting by starting seeds early, but if you want to grow plants to maturity, you will need a bigger model. Your plans for the greenhouse will also determine the “extras” you will need (see below). Of course, you will have to balance your gardening needs with your budget and the available space for constructing the greenhouse.
2. Where will I put it?
If you plan on growing plants to maturity or using the greenhouse over the winter, you will want maximum sun exposure—at least six hours a day. It’s best to situate the greenhouse so that its longest dimension faces south, which means most of the space will receive direct sunlight. This is especially true in the winter when the sun appears lower in the sky.
Select a spot that is convenient to get to and has access to water. You may also want access to electricity.
Before you purchase a greenhouse, check with the local building department to ask about zoning requirements, such as how close you can erect the greenhouse to the property line, and whether you need a building permit. In some locales, any structure on a foundation requires a permit, and some kits require a concrete slab or a wooden foundation.
3. What are my options in materials?
Greenhouse frames are available in a number of different materials:
Aluminum and galvanized steel. These provide the strongest greenhouses, but they are the most expensive.
PVC pipe. These don’t provide the structural heft of an aluminum or steel frame, but they are relatively inexpensive. PVC structures are often used for portable greenhouses.
Wood. These provide a rustic, classic look and are usually made of insect-resistant woods such as redwood or cedar. Be aware that wood components will require periodic sealing or staining.
While glass may be the traditional glazing material, greenhouse kit manufacturers are now turning to plastics such as polyethylene and polycarbonate panels because they are lighter and easier to handle. Polycarbonate panels can provide either direct sunlight or diffused light to the plants. They also come in a variety of thicknesses, making them a better insulator than glass. Look for panels that are treated to block the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
4. What extras will I need?
There are a lot of extras available to make your gardening experience more enjoyable:
Shelves and benches. Some kits come with shelves, but not all do. They make caring for plants easier. Make sure the frame can support the shelves and the plants.
Ventilation. Greenhouses get hot, so you will need at least one operable vent in the roof. Some kits feature vents that open automatically when the greenhouse becomes too hot. Larger models can accommodate ventilation fans.
Watering system. You can pull the garden hose into the greenhouse to water the plants, but automatic watering and misting systems are available. Some greenhouses include gutter systems that allow you to collect rainwater.
Heaters. Greenhouses placed in cold climates will need a heater for year-round use.
Sensors and controls. Keep the greenhouse functioning properly with controls that track the temperature and humidity levels and can automatically operate watering and ventilation systems.
A greenhouse kit can enhance your gardening experience, and the right kit will provide years of gardening pleasure.
Fran Donegan writes on home improvement for Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY author and has written several books, including Paint Your Home.
During the month of October, any family that signs up to become a Bay Star Home will be automatically entered to win a free soil test! Soil testing is the only way to know whether or not your lawn really needs chemical fertilizers. And when you accidentally apply unneeded fertilizer to your yard, you contribute to local water pollution. Also, as part of your pledge to become a Bay Star Home, you’ll receive a welcome packet that includes great tips from askHRgreen.org, local information from your city or county, and a garden flag or other gift in recognition of your commitment to a cleaner Hampton Roads. Get started now!
My 5-year-old LOVES worms. She is scared to death of most creepy crawly things, spiders in particular, but she practically turns the worms in our yard into pets. They come second only to roly polys. I get it. There is just something about digging around in the dirt and discovering little critters that is so enjoyable and satisfying. Turns out this love of worms also runs on my husband’s side of the family, because I recently discovered his grandmother has her own “pet worms”, or worm farm as she more aptly describes.
Marj and her worms.
Marj’s worm farm is all the way in Australia, but we visited my in-laws earlier this year so we had a chance to check out her worms for ourselves. Over the years Marj has turned most of her yard into an organic garden full of gorgeous flowers and tasty fruits and veggies. It puts my backyard to shame. Really it would put anyone’s yard to shame, so I should have known right away that she was onto something when she started talking about worms. Unlike my 5-year-old who simply enjoys collecting and talking to worms, Marj puts them to work.
Worms are great decomposers, and what needs decomposers? OK that’s a trick question, technically worms are detrivores and EVERYTHING needs decomposers and detrivores. They do super important work – remember the food web you learned in grade school – Producers, Consumers, and Decomposers? Producers are plants that make food with the energy from the sun and are eaten by the Consumers (herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores). Whenever anything dies or is pooped out, the decomposers break down the nutrients and return it to the soil to be used by more Producers. Does anyone else hear the “Circle of Life” from The Lion King in your head right now?
Worms at work in Hampton Roads.
OK that is grossly simplified but back to my original question…COMPOST needs decomposers! Decomposers break down organic materials (like kitchen scraps) into more stable and non-smelly compost that is full of nutrients and can be used as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Microorganisms are also decomposers, but worm composting, or vermicomposting, can get it done faster than microorganisms alone. Instead of throwing your organic material into a compost pile or bin, you feed them to your pet worms and after happily feasting on your leftovers and lawn trimmings, they do what we all do. They poop. But this isn’t just any poop. The material that passes through the gut of a worm is called a worm casting, and according to Moose Hill Worm Farm, worm castings are made up of bacteria, enzymes, remnants of plant matter, and animal manure that create water-soluble plant nutrients that contain more than 50% more humus than what is normally found in topsoil. And get this – worms can process their body weight in food each day, so a pound of worms can process a pound of kitchen scraps EACH DAY. Not only are you keeping kitchen and yard waste out of landfills, you are performing the ULTIMATE type of recycling: turning waste into a resource!
Here are a few resources and tips to get you started:
By now you’ve probably heard all about the Zika virus. Zika was first launched into the headlines when it was linked with birth defects in newborns. There has been additional scrutiny on the mosquito-borne virus because of the Olympic games in Rio. With athletes and spectators from around the world travelling to Rio, there is real uncertainty surrounding how widely the virus could spread. Recently, Florida reported its first cases of mosquito-borne Zika so now is the time for us all to take action to limit the spread of this nasty virus in our communities.
What can you do? Worldwide health crises don’t usually seem like the kind of thing an average Joe can solve but in this case, we all have the power to stop the spread of Zika by taking action to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes. The number one way we can do this is by preventing water from standing in or around our properties. Pools of water in containers around your yard, whether big or small, will provide the habitat needed by mosquitoes to breed. Look around your yard, identify these breeding grounds and correct the issue through tip, toss and cover. Watch this short video below to learn more.
Do you have old tires laying around? That’s a big no-no. Tires catch lots of water and turn into five-star resorts for mosquito breeding. Responsibly dispose of tires by checking our handy tire disposal guide listed by city/county below. Together as a community we can prevent the spread of Zika virus.
Chesapeake Residents may schedule bulk pickup online or by calling 382-2489. Up to two tires (without rims) will be accepted per bulk pickup. Residents may schedule 12 bulk pickups per year.
Gloucester Residents may drop off four tires (off the rim) at any Gloucester County convenience center. For more information, call (804) 693-5370
Hampton Residents may place up to five tires, including rims, at the curb on their regularly scheduled trash collection day. There is a max of 10 tires per household per year. For more information, call (757) 727-8311
Isle of Wight Residents may drop off up to four tires per day at any Isle of Wight County convenience center. For more information, call (757) 365-1658.
James City Residents may use the Jolly Pond and Toano Convenience Centers for disposing of tires. Coupons required. Call 565-0971 for more information.
Newport News Residents who pay the Solid Waste User Fee may drop off four off-rim tires per week to the Recovery Operation Center. Maximum of 12 tires per year. Passenger car and small truck tires only. For more information call 886-7947.
Norfolk Residents may dispose of up to four tires per household per month at no charge. Bulk pickup requests must be placed by 3 p.m. the day before collection. To schedule a bulk pick, please call 664-6510.
Poquoson Tires may be brought to the City’s old Recycling Center which is located behind the Municipal Building next to the pool parking lot. To cover the cost of the disposal of tires there is a $1 per tire fee. Purchase City decals in the Treasurer’s office and affix the decal to each tire prior to disposal.
Portsmouth Residents may place up to 8 tires (without rim) each year at curbside for pickup on scheduled trash pickup days. There are also three Portsmouth Recycles Day events each year where tires are accepted without counting towards the annual maximum. For more information, call 393-8663.
Smithfield Residents may drop off up to four tires per day at any Isle of Wight County convenience center. For more information, call (757) 365-1658.
Southampton Check back soon!
Suffolk Residents may use SPSA or special recycling events for disposing of tires. For pricing on year-round disposal, call SPSA at 961-3668 or find the next free recycling event here.
Virginia Beach Virginia Beach residents can recycle tires via the City Landfill & Resource Recovery Center. Up to four automobile or light truck tires with or without rims can be disposed of free of charge with proof of residency. Only waste generated at the primary residence of City of Virginia Beach citizens will be accepted. Waste must be delivered in a privately owned, non-commercial, vehicle that is no larger than a pickup truck bed. The City of Virginia Beach Landfill & Resource Recovery Center is located at 1989 Jake Sears Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23464. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you have questions call (757) 385-1980 or email WasteMgt@VBgov.com.
Williamsburg Residents may use the James City County Jolly Pond Convenience Centers for disposing of tires. Coupons are required. Call 565-0971 for more information.
York Residents may bring up to five tires per day to the Waste Management Center for disposal. Fees apply: $1.50/for standard automobile tires without rims; $3.00 if the rim is on. Tires 19.5” or larger are $5.00 (no rim) and $7.50 (on rim). Please call for fees on additional tire sizes, (757) 890-3780.
During the month of July, any family that signs up to become a Bay Star Home will be automatically entered to win one of 75 free soil tests! Soil testing is the only way to know whether or not your lawn really needs chemical fertilizers. And when you accidentally apply unneeded fertilizer to your yard, you contribute to local water pollution. Also, as part of your pledge to become a Bay Star Home, you’ll receive a welcome packet that includes great tips from askHRgreen.org, local information from your city or county, and a garden flag or other gift in recognition of your commitment to a cleaner Hampton Roads. Get started now!