Foodies and eco-warriors alike have openly campaigned for the return of the home vegetable garden, and their efforts have borne fruit—pun intended. Today, more and more enthusiasts are rediscovering the joy of biting into a home-grown tomato and learning the difference in flavor between a store-bought carrot and one that was sitting outside in the soil just a couple of hours before making its appearance on a dinner plate.
But that kind of pleasure isn’t always easily available year-round, especially for those of us who live in zones where temperatures routinely drop below zero. The solution? Greenhouses. These productive additions to your home can be at once beautiful and bountiful, given the right specifications. Most DIY greenhouses are adequate for growing plants in from spring through late fall and even early winter. Some custom luxury greenhouses can even be modified to provide conditions that will grow vegetables all year long, leaving the homeowner and gardener with only the happy question of how much of what to grow.
Greenhouses are made of finite spaces. Getting the maximum amount of vegetables from the given available space is always an interesting challenge. Most seasoned gardeners recommend the following three steps to maximize the growing potential of their greenhouses:
Secure extra surface area
This is a two-fold step: One can maximize space by utilizing vertical planters and utilize unused spaces under plants on the floor.
There was a time when gardeners grew plants on the floor, even though greenhouses were technically indoors. This is a great technique for space utilization. This low-cost system pushed the limits of the space with minimal aisles. Today, we know that we can make use of companion crops to grow even more. Heavy feeders like vine tomatoes can be grown with shallow-rooted plants underneath them, such as garlic or basil. This not only maximizes space and feedings, but it also helps both species to thrive as they each ward off some of the other’s common pest threats.
The other solution involves maximizing vertical growing space. One method is to stack planters on shelves, as is done with shorter crops such as microgreens, leafy greens like bok choy and lettuce, and even root crops like carrots. Another is to utilize hanging baskets to grow vines and certain varieties that do well in raised containers such as tumbling toms and cherry toms. A final similar solution comes from the practice of aeroponics, where plants are grown in towers that make use of a lighter growing medium. This minimizes the need for pesticides and fertilizers. It also gives the gardener a better chance at growing all-organic produce.
Mind the environment
The beauty of growing in a greenhouse is that you can modify the conditions to be in favor of your chosen crop. But if you’re a beginner, you might want to consult with experienced local growers before you even begin planting. Learn what conditions you will need to replicate in your greenhouse to provide your plants with the optimum conditions for flourishing.
Plan for pollination
For fruits and some vegetables, you won’t get a harvest unless pollination takes place. Therefore, it is important that you understand what conditions would be able to ensure a better rate of pollination. High humidity, for instance, may be great for some varieties of leafy greens; the same conditions won’t give you a lot of tomatoes. Low humidity dries out pollen and makes it non-viable. Some gardeners have taken to keeping pollinators such as bees and other insects to facilitate the process further. Commercial hives are available for purchase from several reputable dealers if you are so inclined to do so.
Growing your own food serves both an ecological and cheap function. Also, it can provide you and your family with much healthier, tastier options than commercially grown produce. A greenhouse easily facilitates this. With a little extra planning, you can harvest enough to last you through the winter.