If gardening is your true passion and you want to extend the garden season, then you might consider constructing a greenhouse in your garden. Naturally, there are plenty of prefabricated ones on the market, but since you happened to land on this article, you would probably agree that with a bit of time, patience and handicraft it is not rocket science to build it yourself. And here you can find some tips on how to do it in the best possible way if you are on a tight budget.
1. Planning a greenhouse type and location that will save you money in a long-term perspective
First and foremost, you have to decide how big you want your greenhouse to be, where should you place it, and if it should be a separate building or an attached one.
Best sizing for a greenhouse
Naturally, everyone decides for themselves on the needed size of the building, depending on the size of the garden, quantity of the plants and lots of other factors. An average size which would suit almost any garden and will satisfy almost any hobby-gardener is around 3×1,5 metres, which is around 10×5 feet. The height should be preferably around 2 metres or 6,5 feet, so you can freely enter it, not bending.
Which type of greenhouse is better value for money: freestanding or attached?
An attached one is a nice opportunity to transport the warmth of your house to your greenhouse and so enjoy the season for a longer time.
Attached ones can spoil the look of your house to some extent, though. Moreover, the increased humidity of the aligning room can lead to red rot, house mildew and mould.
Choosing the perfect location: sunlight exposure and wind protection
Where should you place your greenhouse to receive all the necessary sun and heat? The general rule is the southern or southeastern side of the building. An orientation to the north should be (if possible) avoided, because of the low sunlight exposure. This will let you get the most of early spring light to extend the planting season and will also allow you to place frost-sensitive plants there for the winter season.
However, speaking of an attached greenhouse, there is a risk that your greenhouse would be in the shadow due to surrounding buildings. Especially in winter months when the sun is low in the sky. A very good way to check the path of the sun for several seasons, when planning a greenhouse location, is the site suncalc.org. There you can easily get a sun exposure overview of the targeted site and decide if it is ideal for your greenhouse for all seasons.
When you are sure about the chosen location in terms of sun exposure, you have to make sure that it is not too windy. Wind damage to the walls can lead to compromising isolation of your greenhouse. You can achieve the needed wind-breaking by planting around hedges or bushes. Setting up a fence could also yield some benefit in this case.
Note: setting up your greenhouse near the huge plants like trees in order to get the needed wind protection wouldn’t be the best option since its crown will absorb some of the light and moreover, the falling branches can cause irreparable damage to your greenhouse.
2. Choosing a suiting material for your greenhouse
While planning your building, you can be pretty limited in your opportunities, depending on the building regulations in your area. So, first of all, checking that out would be a nice time investment and can possibly save you some money and effort in the end. When you already planned the type and location of your future greenhouse, it is a perfect time to get the best material with the most reasonable price.
Greenhouse frame material
Speaking about the frame you are free to choose between wood, plastic and metal. We would recommend constructing a wooden frame since, apart from the thermal efficiency of this material, it is the easiest to work with, when having only basic instruments available. Moreover, if you are on a tight budget, you could reuse wooden boards from furniture or an old floor. Also, a good option would be to ask local contractors or sawmill workers if they have any reclaimed wood. They can sell it to you up to 80% cheaper, compared to new wood. And if you are lucky, sometimes you can get some even for free.
Greenhouse walls material
Also, you have to decide on the material for the walls. You can choose between glass, acrylic glass, transparent polycarbonate sheets or plastic film. You can use the same type of material as well for your roofing. Keep in mind that ideally, the roof should be slanted, so that snow and rainwater can freely fall out of it.
The glass would greatly suit for building a greenhouse since it provides the necessary transparency and as a result sunlight accessibility. Glass also provides good weather resistance and offers your plants optimal protection.
You can choose between acrylic glass and regular glass.
Regular glass is noticeably cheaper and scratches-resistant, which assures that your greenhouse will preserve its transparency for a longer time. Unfortunately, it easily breaks. On the contrary, acrylic glass provides better transparency and is more solid.
Another alternative would be polycarbonate (corrugated) sheets. It is probably the best choice if your top priority is durability since it is much more shatter-resistant, compared to other materials. It is also more resistant to drilling, compared to other materials, which makes it the most practical one and the easiest to install. Moreover, its light diffusion quality will allocate sunlight between your plants more evenly. And its UV protection is going to protect them from harmful sun radiation. But all these advantages cost money, which makes it to an obvious disadvantage – its price. It is the most expensive material on our list.
Although lots of gardeners enjoy the stability and look of a greenhouse made of glass/ acrylic glass, lots of people are eager to build it from more flexible and cheaper material, such as plastic (polyethene) film. With glass, polycarbonate and acrylic glass you are quite strongly tied to the shape and size of the material. You do not have that freedom and flexibility, which you get building your greenhouse with plastic film. Setting up a greenhouse with the help of this material is much easier and quicker. Additionally, if you install it in two layers, leaving an air space between, you have a good opportunity to increase the isolation of your greenhouse and its ability to retain heat noticeably.
On the other hand, this type of material is known to be bad for the environment. Even if you utilize it in the right way. There is a risk of microplastics soaking into the soil.
In addition, plastic film is quite fragile against the strong wind and should be fixed securely. Although if you adjust it with the nails or staple gun, it can be easily destroyed. And generally, this material is much more vulnerable to weather changes. Greenhouses with plastic film walls can hardly survive a couple of seasons and start to shred after being in use for only a few months.
So if you are on a budget and don’t mind making some renovation to your greenhouse each season, then you should consider setting it up with the plastic film. It can also be a good choice for a gardener that has never tried greenhousing before and just wants to try it out.
About the author
Kimberley Cornish is a blog-author at Summerhouse24. His greatest passion is gardening and everything that related to it. If you want to know how to set up any type of garden building in a weekend, he is exactly the one you should ask for advice.