Greenhouse Vegetable Gardening (2015)
ACQUIRING A GREENHOUSE
A greenhouse is a fantastic asset. It offers many possibilities to any garden. it’s ours to set up and use as we like,—as a quiet corner to enjoy a cup of coffee or as a collection shed, or to give us an efficient boost in producing more vegetables by extending the growing season. You cannot, however, combine all those aspects into one single structure.
There is room for both a comfortable seating area and lush greenery in a bigger greenhouse.
Decisions and more decisions
Before you have the pleasure of actually owning a greenhouse, you’ll have to decide how you wish to use it. This is probably the hardest part of selecting a greenhouse. If your priority is to have a comfortable outdoor room, you’ll need to plan accordingly. On the other hand, if your goal is to increase your production of vegetables, you’ll have to make sure that the plants get all the added space they require. Naturally, you can modify the plan from year to year if your needs or preferences change, but the construction and covering materials of the greenhouse will reflect its originally intended use.
If you want to have both a comfortable seating area for your coffee break and to grow tomatoes, you’ll have to compromise. In Sweden, greenhouses that are smaller than 10 m² (107.5 ft²) don’t require a permit if you follow all current building codes. This often means that the greenhouse space is limited, and therefore requires proper planning.
A greenhouse is comprised of a foundation, framework and roofing material; additional technical components such as ventilation, irrigation, and interior decoration should be selected and purchased at the same time as the greenhouse structure. If you’re building a four-season greenhouse, you will have to plan for all the added elements before buying and laying down the foundation. A simpler heating system, such as a heating fan, can be added later.
A very simple and practical way to get started is to buy a greenhouse kit. There is a multitude of greenhouse models available, in a wide range of sizes and styles, from Victorian gingerbread houses to ultra modern elegance, and wooden beauties. If you’d prefer to build your own custom greenhouse, there are many different ways to do that too. There is as much pleasure to be derived from a simple greenhouse built from old windows as there is from one designed to meet specific ideas, needs, wants, and environments.
The main components you should have in mind when buying a greenhouse are insulation and heating. Is the greenhouse going to be used throughout the entire year or only during part of it? If you’re planning a four-season greenhouse and need to have permanent heating installed, your overall costs will be considerably larger than if you’re satisfied with late spring, summer and early fall usage. While the price for heating in the north of Sweden is significant, in southern Sweden the cold doesn’t linger quite as long, so the cost of heating tends to be lower.
Whether built from a kit or custom-made, there is grower’s delight in both types of greenhouses.
Before you have the pleasure of actually owning a greenhouse, you’ll have to decide how you wish to use it. This is probably the hardest part of selecting a greenhouse.
Whether you’re using your greenhouse for plantings or as an outdoor room, you will need to factor in the cost of heating. If you plan to use the greenhouse to overwinter plants, you’ll save money on other storage solutions. Large olive trees, magnificent trumpet flowers, a geranium collection and other favorites thrive in a sunny and frost-free greenhouse, and heating costs can be offset by not purchasing new plants every spring.
The greenhouse’s foundation needn’t be the big production many imagine it to be. If the structure is not going to be heated during the winter months then the foundation doesn’t take a lot of work. By all means dig, drain and lay down gravel, but it’s generally not necessary for a smaller greenhouse. The exception is if you want a fully covered floor, which in smaller greenhouses can be set atop base rails placed directly on the ground, without having to sink in concrete post anchors. Such simply anchored greenhouses have weathered storms since 1988. Accidents can happen, but seldom have greenhouses toppled over due to an inadequate foundation.
If the greenhouse is going to be used as a four-season room, then the building requirements change and require advanced foundation work, along with different sets of costs. At this point you have to consider the structure an addition to your main house, and the expenses will be commensurate with what it would cost to add a room—one with glass walls.
A larger greenhouse built from a kit and resting on base rails and slab.
Acquiring a greenhouse is simple and the cost can be kept reasonable. There are many affordable options, so you don’t need a complicated structure with an insulated foundation to enjoy it. It’s a bit like with cars—driving a sporty coupe is fun, but you’ll still make it to your destination at the wheel of a basic vehicle. The main thing is that it’s functional and that it gets the job done.
Price range doesn’t really affect the functionality of a greenhouse during the part of the year it’s being used. However, the price of the greenhouse will influence how long during the year it can be used.
Don’t let the high cost of a ‘dream house’ stop you from setting up a greenhouse. A cheaper greenhouse from a big box store will also give you a great deal of satisfaction. Just follow the recommendations in the accompanying leaflet and it can be adjusted and modified into a top-end model. My own greenhouses have been affordable options, and they’ve served me well during many years in different areas of Sweden, from central provinces like Uppland and Dalarna, all the way down to Skåne at the very south of the country. Gardening and spending time outdoors is a source of health and mental wellbeing; in a greenhouse—regardless of model or size—you can keep cultivating your health for the better part of the year.