Choosing between an outdoor garden and a greenhouse can be a challenging decision. We’re here to help. In this article, we’ll go over a number of greenhouse pros and cons. We’ll start by looking at the purpose of greenhouses, then dive into the different types of greenhouses available and the pros and cons of each. From there, we’ll cover the overall pros and cons of purchasing a greenhouse.
The Purpose of Greenhouses
Greenhouses serve several different purposes, all of which align toward a single purpose: Creating the best growing environment for your plants. Whether you’re gardening for pleasure, growing crops for sustainable living, or growing fruits and vegetables for your own business, a greenhouse will:
- Protect your crops
- Extend your growing season
There are several different types of greenhouse available; there are both advantages and disadvantages to each kind of greenhouse and to using a greenhouse for your garden or crops at all. Let’s delve a little deeper into each of these topics:
Types of Greenhouses
When choosing a greenhouse, there are several different considerations to keep in mind:
- Your budget
- How much space you have allotted for a greenhouse
- The temperature you need your greenhouse to maintain
- The materials you want to use
- The shape of the greenhouse and other aesthetic considerations
Greenhouse growing is not a one-size-fits-all project, so you’ll need to carefully consider which plants you’ll be growing, where you’ll put these plants in your greenhouse, and where you’ll keep your tools.
The structure and materials used in greenhouses vary. You can build a greenhouse out of natural materials, using straw bales for insulation and wood for structure. You can also purchase a greenhouse built with metal frames and expensive glass windows. What you’ll want depends on the scale of your operation; for an at-home garden, a smaller greenhouse should suffice.
Structurally, greenhouses can vary from small lean-tos to large, complex geodesic domes. Again, the style of greenhouse you choose will depend on its space and role in your garden.
The most important consideration may be how hot or cold your greenhouse is. Like structure and materials, there are advantages and disadvantages to running your greenhouse at different temperatures; it all depends on what kinds of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and other crops you want to grow.
- Cold houses (Can fall below freezing): These greenhouses are uninsulated, relying on passive heating. They’re built with simple frames and feature transparent walls or large windows to allow the sun’s rays to pass through. They’re inexpensive and extend the growing season, but they won’t protect plants from all of the harsh winters we see on the Prairies.
- Cool houses (7°C to 16°C): Perfect for cool-season vegetables and many flowers, cool houses use insulation and heating sources like electric heaters, along with thermal heat from the sun, to keep warm during the winter. They’re more costly than cold houses but allow you to grow year-round.
- Warm houses (16°C to 21°C): With warm houses, you can grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables year-round. They’re better insulated than cool houses, and they may have additional heat sources like heat pumps. Consequently, they’re more expensive.
- Hot houses (21°C and up): When you’re using a hot house, you can start to plant tropical fruits like bananas and citrus—provided you have enough space. These greenhouses tend to be quite large and very expensive to heat, with thorough insulation. The operating expenses alone put hot houses into the realm of professional greenhouse farming; they’re almost never suitable for hobbyists.
As you can see, larger, hotter greenhouses bring with them a high operating cost. They’re great for greenhouse farming, but they may not be suitable for more casual greenhouse growing.
Not everyone needs a greenhouse; there are advantages and disadvantages to using one for your garden. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons:
Pros of Greenhouses
The most obvious advantage of owning your own greenhouse is that it extends your growing season. A cold house will extend your growing season for a few months here in the Prairies; cool houses (and anything hotter) will allow you to garden and grow crops year-round.
Greenhouses also protect your garden from pests; you can prevent insects, rodents, and other pests from damaging your crops.
Depending on the type of greenhouse you purchase, you may also be able to grow a wider variety of plants, even those that can’t usually be grown in your area. Imagine being able to grow your own tropical plants, whether you’re growing citrus fruits or exotic flowers; it’s pretty incredible!
Finally, greenhouses give you tighter control over the environment your plants grow in. By choosing different parts for your greenhouse’s HVAC system and by automating watering with sprinklers, you can create the perfect growing environment for your plants.
Cons of Greenhouses
The most obvious disadvantage of owning a greenhouse is the cost. You may be providing your greenhouse heating, ventilation, and watering—if you are, expect to see your monthly costs go up. Those are in addition to the cost of actually installing a greenhouse. For many businesses, these costs may be well worth absorbing; hobby gardeners should remember that they can extend their growing season without buying the most expensive greenhouse on the market.
Another disadvantage to greenhouses is that they tend to need more maintenance than outdoor gardens. You’ll need to clean the windows and other transparent surfaces, use insect screens to keep pests out, and regularly maintain any heating, ventilation, or watering systems you have in place.
Finally, greenhouses are walled-off ecosystems; introduce a pest or disease, and it can spread fast. Additionally, you’ll need to introduce pollinators yourself if you want to pollinate your plants, and you may need to introduce other insects to prey on pests.
Looking for a Greenhouse for the Summer?
Here at Horizon, we build custom greenhouses, so you can have a greenhouse garden of your own. When you buy a greenhouse from us, you can rest assured that you’ll get a long-lasting, high-quality place to grow your garden. Greenhouses are a worthy investment for both hobbyists and business owners; ours are made right here in Manitoba.
Extend your growing season; call us for a greenhouse today.