Greenhouse Gardening for Beginners

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If you live for gardening, then this is for you. Greenhouses are dreamy and they can become a useful tool for your gardening. They can extend your growing season, increase the variety of plants you can grow, especially in the North and in colder climates. They are the perfect place for germinating seeds.

They have existed since Roman Times in a rudimentary fashion in which plants we’re moved in and outdoors to stay warm at night and to get as much sun as possible. The modern day greenhouse was created in the 1800s as a way to grow tropical medicinal plants in Europe.

Here’s a Guide to Greenhouse Gardening for Beginners that will help you understand all the basics, light, heat, ventilation, pests and more.

If you are just getting started, I always recommend starting with plants that are easy to care for. Succulents are my favorite beginner friendly plant. If you’ve advanced past succulents, the most popular plants to grow in a greenhouse are herbs and vegetables! Here’s a guide to getting started growing herbs from seed.

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Greenhouse Basics

Greenhouses can be fairly simple in construction and design. They can be big or small and have lots of different coverings or glazings based on your needs. We’ll talk about that more later. Ordinarily you will want to keep your plants in raised beds and containers. When considering what plants to include in your indoor space, use plants that are not pest prone. Pests can swarm and infest an inclosed environment like this quickly, so starting with plants that are not pest prone is ideal.

When starting a new greenhouse, create a pest free and safe environment from the beginning. If you are adding containers sterilize them first, using a solution of bleach and water. You will also want to use nice soil or sterilized soil – don’t use outdoor soil because it can introduce pests.

You will also want to mix in fertilizer to your soil right as you are getting started.

A greenhouse needs good drainage. An easy solution is using pea gravel for your ground.

Choose a South or East Corner

A greenhouse can be attached to your home or other structure and it can be freestanding. Both have their benefits. When adding a greenhouse to a structure, you can add stability. If you are in a cold area it will help it to stay warm.

A freestanding greenhouse is ideal if you need more light and increase the amount of hours of sunshine. Freestanding greenhouses will need to be properly weighted and perhaps attached to the ground.

To maximize the amount of sunlight, most people prefer to have a South or East facing greenhouse. If it’s longest wall faces South, it will give the most light to the most amount of plants. Be sure to check for shade and sun in the season that you are trying to optimize. For example, if you are trying to extend your season into the winter, be sure to know what the light is like where you are placing your greenhouse at that time of the year. Look for shadows of trees or any other obstruction.

When placing your greenhouse, you will also want to consider access to water and electricity for heating and ventilation.

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The amount of sun you want depends on the plants you want to grow inside. Glass is the prettiest and most common material for the greenhouse walls. It’s perfect if you want as much sun as possible, but there are also options that will produce more shade. For example, if you want to grow succulents outdoors, using a shady cover of plastic sheeting in white is ideal.

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Heating, Cooling & Ventilating

Now this is when you need to be careful and use your observations skills to ensure maintaining healthy plants.

First of all, don’t let your plants get too humid. Greenhouses will need less water than plants in the open air. Too much humidity can lead to root rot and mold. Watch for humidity and water droplets on the inside of the greenhouse walls. This is a sign that better ventilation is needed.

Just like people, plants need fresh air. Most pre-made greenhouses have built in vents, but you could use a fan too.

If you are in a cold area, be cautious of the temperature at night. Heating will be important in this environment, but not as much during the day as during the night. There are lots of heating options from expensive equipment to small electric heaters. Any heating can get too hot, so be sure that you are turning them off during sunny hours. Fans and ventilation will also help circulate warmth in the winter and prevent cold spots inside of your greenhouse that could kill your plants.

In hot areas, you could spray the pea gravel ground, or whatever ground you choose, in the summer to help keep it cool. You could also increase the amount of air flow or restrict a bit of light with white plastic sheeting to keep your greenhouse cooler.

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Best Plants to Grow in a Greenhouse

There are so many plants that grow well in a greenhouse! People love using greenhouses to germinate seeds especially for herbs and vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, and other plants that are fairly small are very common. Any seeds that are best started indoors and then taken outside are great for greenhouses.

Flowers are popular for greenhouses and in particular roses, orchids and African lillies are perfect in these environments.

It’s really versatile what you can plant and these ideas are certainly just the beginning!

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Greenhouses Don’t Make Miracles

Sorry if this is disappointing news that greenhouses can’t make sun appear where it isn’t and can’t make anything and everything grow in the dead of winter. What greenhouses are good at is extending your season. Meaning that you can make your life cycle a few months longer at the beginning and end of your season.

Regardless of your location, there will be trial and error that is unique to the specific plants you choose and your specific location. And that’s okay! Hopefully it’s a part of the fun of creating your own greenhouse.

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Common Pests in Greenhouses

I mentioned before that in a closed environment, plants can become very susceptible to pests. Starting with plants that are not prone to pests is ideal.

The #1 most common pest are ants. They can immediately take over and turn the whole greenhouse into an ant colony. If you see ants, protect the exterior with a barrier like borax or poison. Find ways to keep the ants out by protecting the outside of the greenhouse.

Other common pests are sap-feeding insects like aphids and whiteflies, pollen feeders like fungus gnats, and caterpillars and slugs. Caterpillars and slugs are usually easy to spot and can be removed by hand. But sap feeders and pollen feeders can be a bit trickier to spot but can be healed with a bit of diligence.

Sap-feeding insects can usually be removed by gently washing the plants in soap and water until the bugs are completely gone. Pollen feeders can be removed by removing the soil and replacing it with fresh healthy soil.

To prevent this monitor your plants often and when you notice an issue quarantine the affected plants immediately.

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Fancy Upgrades

If you are falling in love with greenhouse gardening there are a lot of upgrades and ways to deck out your garden. There are shelves, misting systems, additional lighting (which could further extend your season), hydroponic garden systems and all kinds of gadgetry!

Need inspiration for your greenhouse garden? Check out these gorgeous greenhouses here.

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