If you’re interested in having a greenhouse, but don’t have the space, budget or building skill for a traditional one, you’re in luck. Greenhouse gardening is a great pastime for all ages and skill levels. It offers a great deal of satisfaction as you plant, nurture and harvest what you grow. There are a number of alternatives to traditional greenhouses, and several are outlined below.
If space is tight or you’d like to start with a small greenhouse, one designed for a window is great for apartments or condos. You can purchase kits with glass panels that extend outward, which might need professional installation. However, if you don’t want to go through that process, you can extend the space for your little garden indoors just by placing a table or counter at your chosen window that has room enough for your plants.
You have to think small when considering a window greenhouse. Having a little herb garden right in your home will make cooking an adventure and is as simple as snipping off part of your plant and putting it right into the recipe. The area around your little garden will also smell wonderful. Window greenhouses have the added benefit of enabling the outdoor gardener to start seedlings much earlier than those who have to wait to plant them outdoors.
Cold frames aren’t technically greenhouses, but they use the same principles of convection that a greenhouse does. Much smaller in scale, cold frames are low profile—usually no more than a foot or two high. Some cold frames have a base set permanently into the ground: others are simply glass boxes that one might set over a collection of plants. Some cold frames have panels that can be opened or closed to adjust temperature and humidity.
These portable cold frames are great for sheltering seedlings while they are being acclimated before planting them in a garden. Many gardeners also use cold frames to grow lettuces and other warm weather produce, to enjoy them when they’re normally out of season.
A PVC greenhouse is among the most affordable greenhouse anyone can make. There are a number of plans you can find, but the average PVC greenhouse consist of just three items: The PVC piping, some corrugated plastic and clear plastic sheeting. The PVC is the frame, or “ribs” of the structure. The corrugated plastic runs along the length of the structure on top and acts like a spine, vertically crossing the ribs for stability. The plastic sheeting is the “shell,” which provides protection from the elements.
Due to the somewhat lightweight construction, PVC greenhouses aren’t meant to be very large or tolerate harsh weather. If you’re looking for a larger structure, but still don’t want the full-blown greenhouse, consider constructing a lean-to style.
This is built as an addition of sorts on to another building, such as your house. A lean-to greenhouse takes a bit of planning and construction, but if your yard space is limited, the lean-to greenhouse is a wonderful compromise. There is an added benefit to a lean-to style if your home is brick or stone—especially in the winter. The sunlight that comes in through the windows will warm up the side of the house, which may reduce your home heating just a little. But, the real benefit is that the wall will radiate the heat back into the greenhouse, keeping the plants toasty and warm at night.
There are plenty of alternatives to the standard greenhouse. Depending on what you have available and your general construction know-how, it’s easy to adapt a greenhouse to fit your home or lifestyle.