Backyard gardening is a great way to provide for some of your own fruits and vegetables, and can be a wonderful year ’round stress reliever too, depending on your climate. You may at times wonder how to overcome the problem of getting on with the business of planting during the winter months when it is quite difficult to plant or grow anything because of the bitter cold; you may even have an indoor shed that is exposed to lots of sunlight and would want to make use of this space for gardening.
A convenient answer to both these problems is to buy or build a homemade greenhouse. Greenhouses are used to grow crops due to their construction and the materials used; the internal environment is perfect for the germination of most seeds and shoots. They are usually built using glass, plastic, PVC pipes or wooden planks and sometimes mesh screen. They allow light to enter, but reduce the amount of heat which leaves the structure creating a sort of ‘hothouse’ for plants. Inside your greenhouse you will have moist soil and possibly a few bricks which will help to convert the light energy from the sun into heat. This heat is stored within the greenhouse and is slowly released during periods of cold. There are also portable solar greenhouses which are quite efficient in this light to heat conversion.
A portable greenhouse can be constructed and placed anywhere whether inside or outside provided the area it is being placed receives a lot of sunlight, and can be moved whenever you choose, allowing you to grow your fruits, vegetables or flowers all year round. If it is a small greenhouse then it will have shelves on which you can place your pots or seed beds or you can construct it around your regular planting area if you wish to start planting directly into the garden, but the weather doesn’t permit, or your seedlings need to be kept warmer than the external climate permits.
You may use your greenhouse to plant seeds for replanting, or you can allow your plants to stay in the green house till maturity depending on the type of plant and the time of year you decide to plant. A greenhouse extends the traditional planting season allowing you to have plants growing all year round. Have you ever been at home during the winter and get that sudden craving for a nice juicy tomato, but are too far away from the supermarket and wish you had a few growing outside? Well you now have the solution. Generally, a small greenhouse like the one pictured left will likely be used for bringing plants on in early Spring or late winter, rather than growing them in there for their full life cycle. That is more likely to require a full sized greenhouse that can house larger plants, however even this can be portable.
Seedlings can be placed in specific areas in the greenhouse, but it is best to tag your seedlings anyway just to be sure that you remember where everything is. Try to keep the soil inside the greenhouse moist at all times as the internal environment tends to be warmer which will cause the soil and plants to dry out more quickly than usual. You may even create a simple greenhouse watering system by running a rubber hose or pipe that has been pierced at ten cm intervals and connect it to a container with a tap in which you collect rain water or in which you pour the water from your rinse cycle from your clothes if you do not add fabric softener or other agents (though if you do use grey water, be sure to alternate this with rain or tap water).
Greenhouses come in different sizes and varieties so if you decide you would prefer to buy one rather than build your own, then you will not be at a disadvantage. There are numerous books on setting up your greenhouse as well as how to control the temperature inside and make the best of your crop. It is probably a good idea to do as much research as you can on the mechanism and use of greenhouses before you begin using them to ensure that you make the best of your greenhouse environment.