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How to Start a Backyard Greenhouse

If you are looking to start a greenhouse on your property, you’ve come to the right place! I’ll go over how we set up the greenhouses on our property and explain areas where we failed and others where we succeeded. A greenhouse is a fantastic investment for any gardener looking to expand their growing. And it turns out you don’t have to be a professional builder to get one started in your backyard.

We have two greenhouses on my property. One of them is a great kit you can get online from a company called Palram. We decided to go with Palram because they had the best reviews, and it looked like their product could hold a decent snow load. Since we live in New Jersey, it was essential for us to look for something that could handle our weather. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many horror stories of greenhouses collapsing under the weight of snow!

The Palram kits require a bit of finagling; they are certainly not the easiest to put together. Imagine Ikea furniture but with half the directions missing. However, as long as you have some patience and willpower, it is possible to put it together.

They do need some foundation, though. So we decided to use large 4×4 pieces of lumber to create the stable foundation for our greenhouse. Unfortunately, pouring concrete entails a permanent structure, which would require getting specific permits and other hassles. Plus, who wants to pour concrete? So we went with a much simpler foundation by using lumber.

I highly recommend getting one of the kits with windows that open. Greenhouses get REALLY HOT, and maintaining air circulation and temperature in the summer months will be a problem. So every little ventilation option will help you down the road.

I also recommend getting and installing shade cloth in your greenhouse. Direct sunlight will most likely burn your plants, especially if you are growing tropical houseplants out there! Shade cloth will also help with regulating the temperature. We do not heat or cool this greenhouse, and we currently use it for our non-tropical bonsai.

Our other greenhouse on our property is a high tunnel or hoop house structure. We found someone looking to sell their entire 60-foot high tunnel on Facebook marketplace, so naturally, we jumped on that opportunity. We disassembled and transported the whole thing onto our property but only ended up using 40 feet of it.

Hoop houses are primarily made from steel hoops that are staked into the ground and repeating intervals. The hoops are then connected with a structural pole that runs down the entire top of the structure.  Then you lay plastic on top of the whole structure and enclose it.

We decided to go with 6-millimeter plastic and double-layer it. When you double-layer it, you can run an insulation fan between the two sheets of plastic. Again, adding insulation in a greenhouse is excellent wherever you can because these things heat up fast in the summer and cool down fast in the winter.

Although initially, we were going to try an oil tank heating system for our hoop house, that was just a bit out of our comfort zone. Maybe it was the spilling of oil on our property on the first night or the challenge of moving a giant oil tank by ourselves, but we ended up deciding against it and going for natural gas.

At first, we ran the gas line ourselves, and we were super proud of it. I mean, what a triumphant feat for someone who knows nothing about gas lines! Well, it turns out we should have hired a professional because we ran the incorrect tube size. So after redoing it with an actual gas company, we finally had gas installed and a heater running. Unfortunately, it took us much longer than expected, so we had our heater up and running just in time for summer!

Now we are currently troubleshooting the summer heat in the greenhouse. We recently installed an evaporative cooling system that seems to be working awesomely so far. We also have a large exhaust fan to push hot air out of the greenhouse. And of course, lots and lots of shade cloth.

So whether you are looking to start with a greenhouse kit or go full throttle with a total DIY hoop house with heating and cooling, I hope this blog gives you the confidence to get started! It is definitely a project to feel proud of.

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