Sunday, August 17, 2014

Greenhouses make a great addition to any garden. They allow you to grow plant varieties that would not be suitable for outside areas, and to extend the growing season for other species. But for those first considering setting up a greenhouse in their garden, it can seem daunting to know where to begin. Here are a few pointers to get you started.

Heat
On sunny days, your greenhouse will heat up nicely as the sun's rays are refracted through the glass. But you'll also need other means of heating for colder times. Electric heaters are the easiest to install, but you could also use gas (although this method will require you to vent the greenhouse for fumes. You will also need some way of preventing the temperature becoming too high in the greenhouse. Avoid installing air conditioners for cooling, as these dry the air. Passive vents or exhaust fans will do the job, or consider constructing your greenhouse with windows at either end that can be propped open, to allow air to flow through.

Light
In winter the amount of light coming into the greenhouse is often not sufficient o support the plants, particularly if they are juveniles. Installing fluorescent or LED lighting above your grow beds will help ensure they have enough light.

Water
While the exact amount of water required in your greenhouse will vary depending on the species of plants you're growing and the temperature, as a general rule, plants and growing beds ill dry out more quickly than beds outside in the garden. So give plants a good soaking whenever you water. Avoid spraying the foliage too much, as this is one way disease can spread between plants.

Soil
One of the key components in the success of your greenhouse gardening is your soil. Most greenhouse novices begin growing in beds or pots (or a combination of the two). As such you need to have soil that drains sufficiently to prevent water logging, but also retains moisture well so that the water is available for the plant roots to access. The soil should ideally be slightly acid and, crucially, contain a lot of organic material. One of the ways to ensure this is to add compost.

Compost
Because the soil won't be getting organic matter - the rich topsoil full of nutrients and bacterial activity - from natural sources as the soil outside may, from, for instance, leaf litter, animal droppings, decaying plant material, you need to add a good proportion of compost to your growing beds. Some recommendations call for all much as a third of your beds to be made from compost. This will give the plants the most nutrient rich growing medium in which to thrive. Whenever possible choose an organic fertilizer, or, better yet, start your own compost pile using scraps form the kitchen and plant cuttings from the garden.

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