For many gardeners, owning a greenhouse is the epitome of fine gardening. Not only does a greenhouse enable you to cultivate plants throughout the year; it also allows you to grow plants that otherwise wouldn’t survive in your climate. Desert plants, alpine plants, rainforest tropicals, and more are all possible no matter where you live because the world inside your greenhouse can be controlled to suit them. No wonder owning a greenhouse is a goal for so many people who aspire to being great gardeners.
Where you want to put a greenhouse determines its basic style: either lean-to, which is attached to another building, or freestanding. When a lean-to greenhouse is part of your home, it provides an oasis of greenery that’s easily accessed at any time, day or night, regardless of the weather outdoors. The warmth and humidity inside it can be welcome additions to a home in the depths of winter, but excess heat and moisture will need to be vented in summer. Freestanding greenhouses, of course, can be built wherever you want and easily oriented for optimum sunlight. These benefits make them very popular. But you’ll need to bring a water line to a freestanding greenhouse, as well as electrical power. And in winter, you may have to dig through deep snow in order to check on your plants.
Another choice when getting a greenhouse is whether to heat it or not. With an unheated greenhouse, you can expand your growing season by at least one hardiness zone, which means you can start plants about 2 to 3 weeks earlier in spring and keep them going about 2 to 3 weeks later in fall. This 4-to-6-week addition to the growing season is especially helpful for fruit and vegetable gardeners who can harvest produce over a significantly longer time. Of course, if you instead opt for a heated greenhouse, a whole new world opens up. Year-round you can even grow lush, colorful, tropical plants, the kinds that would surround you on a tropical vacation.
The benefits of owning a heated greenhouse go beyond growing plants to grace your home with flowers or make your meals more delicious. Some people enjoy a greenhouse just for the lovely greenery it contains, regardless of the weather outdoors. They might sit in a large, comfortable, wicker chair surrounded by greenhouse plants to read a book on a rainy afternoon or just to contemplate how sunlight sparkles on a snow-covered landscape. On a sunny January day in New England, the temperature inside a greenhouse can be 75˚ or more, giving you the feeling that summer has come bouncing back, even though true summer is many months away. What a pleasure it is to potter about tending your plants in the humid warmth of a richly fragrant greenhouse when the great outdoors is blanketed in white.
With just a little imagination, it’s easy to think of many things you might do with a greenhouse. Underneath his Hartley Botanic greenhouse one owner has put a wine cellar, giving him the perfect place to hold wine tastings for his friends. Another greenhouse owner grows aquaponic vegetables and fish, while yet another specializes in hydroponically-grown herbs, which are then sundried in the greenhouse. There’s truly no limit to the pleasures you can derive from owning your own greenhouse.