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  3. A Guide to Greenhouse Site Selection and Preparation
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  2. Greenhouse Gardening
  3. A Guide to Greenhouse Site Selection and Preparation

A Guide to Greenhouse Site Selection and Preparation

Are you ready to embark on the exciting journey of starting a greenhouse? Choosing the perfect site for your greenhouse is a crucial step that can greatly impact the success of your gardening endeavours. From maximising light exposure to ensuring convenience and safety, there are several factors to consider when selecting the ideal location. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key aspects of greenhouse site selection and preparation, providing you with the knowledge to make informed decisions and create an optimal growing environment.

greenhouse site selection

Overview

  1. Choose a sunny spot with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  2. Avoid windy spots.
  3. Level the ground. An uneven surface can cause water to pool and damage your plants.
  4. Prepare the soil. The soil should be fertile and well-drained.
  5. Add compost to the soil to improve drainage and fertility.

Orientation for Maximum Light Exposure

One of the primary considerations when putting a greenhouse is its orientation in relation to the sun. To ensure year-round growth, it is recommended to align the ridge of the greenhouse in an east-west direction. This configuration allows for maximum light during the winter months and facilitates faster heating after cold nights. Conversely, if your greenhouse use is limited to the summer season, aligning the ridge in a north-south direction provides equal sunlight exposure to each side, reducing the risk of overheating on hot days.

Ample Light and Avoiding Shade

Light is essential for the growth and development of plants inside a greenhouse. It is important to position your greenhouse away from large trees that can cast shade and inhibit the amount of light reaching your plants. Not only can shade encourage the buildup of green algae, but falling branches and leaves can also cause damage to the greenhouse structure and block guttering.

Additionally, honeydew from insects on tree foliage can make glass or plastic surfaces sticky and dirty. Furthermore, tree roots may disrupt the greenhouse’s foundations and make planting inside the beds challenging. Select an open area in your garden that receives abundant sunlight throughout the day to ensure optimal growing conditions.

Convenience and Accessibility

Consider the proximity of your greenhouse to your house and other areas of your garden. Since you will be visiting the greenhouse regularly for tasks such as watering, ventilation control, and plant maintenance, it is advisable to position it as close to your house as possible. Easy access to the greenhouse saves time and effort, making daily tasks more convenient. Whether you need to dampen down the plants, open vents, or quickly grab some fresh produce for your meals, having the greenhouse within close reach enhances the overall gardening experience.

Ventilation and Airflow

Proper ventilation is crucial for regulating temperature, humidity, and air circulation within the greenhouse. When selecting a site, ensure that there are no obstructions blocking the windows and doors of the greenhouse, as these are the primary sources of ventilation. Unobstructed airflow helps prevent the buildup of excessive heat and humidity, minimising the risk of diseases and plant stress. Adequate ventilation promotes healthier plant growth and increases the efficiency of the greenhouse’s climate control systems.

Safety Considerations

If you have children who frequently play in your garden, it’s important to take their safety into account when choosing a location for your greenhouse. Avoid placing it in high-traffic areas or near play areas to minimise the risk of accidental damage. Although modern greenhouse designs often incorporate reinforced safety glass that does not shatter into sharp shards, it is still advisable to position the greenhouse in a location where it is less likely to be in the way of active play or prone to accidental collisions.

Access to Utilities

To expand the functionality of your greenhouse and enhance your gardening experience, consider the availability of utilities such as electricity, water, and gas. Running utilities into the greenhouse, especially during the base construction phase, can significantly enhance the growing environment. Electricity powers lighting systems, heating, and cooling equipment, while running water enables irrigation and facilitates easier maintenance. Positioning your greenhouse closer to your house makes it more convenient and cost-effective to connect these essential services.

Choosing Level Ground and Suitable Soil

Selecting level ground for your greenhouse is essential for stability and proper construction. Slopes can complicate the installation process and affect the alignment of internal structures such as staging and shelving. Avoid putting your greenhouse at the base of a slope, as it tends to retain cold air, making it unsuitable for successful winter growing.

Furthermore, consider the quality of the soil at your chosen site, especially if you plan to plant directly in the beds inside the greenhouse. Opt for a location with decent soil, as poor soil can hinder plant growth. If the soil quality is subpar, it can be improved by incorporating organic matter or creating raised beds. Avoid areas with stony or rocky ground, as they can pose challenges during the construction process and limit plant growth.

Properly Preparing the Greenhouse Base

When building your greenhouse, the foundation or base is of utmost importance. It must be secure, level, and properly prepared to ensure the structural integrity of the greenhouse. Most greenhouses come with a separate metal frame base that should be secured and levelled before the rest of the frame is constructed. Neglecting this step can lead to problems down the line, including glass breakage or even the entire greenhouse being lifted off the ground during high winds.

The choice of foundation depends on factors such as soil type, budget, and personal preference. Here are some common options:

  1. Soil/Earth Base: This option involves concreting in the leg posts at the corners of the frame directly into well-compacted soil. While it is the most cost-effective choice, it is suitable for smaller greenhouses (up to 8ft x 10ft) and requires regular monitoring to prevent subsidence.
  2. Perimeter Base: Building a solid perimeter using materials like breeze blocks, paving slabs, or concrete provides a stable structure for the greenhouse. It requires precise measurements and accurate levelling during construction but allows for planting directly into the centre soil or gravel.
  3. Slabs or Paving Base: This decorative option offers easy maintenance, durability, and good drainage. It is ideal for using grow bags or pots inside the greenhouse. Ensure that the slabs or blocks are firmly fixed to prevent movement.
  4. Concrete Pad: The most practical and long-lasting option, a solid concrete base provides stability, easy maintenance, and protection against rodents. Standing water may be a concern, so consider incorporating drainage holes to mitigate this issue. While it is the most expensive choice, it offers the highest level of durability and versatility.

Other Considerations

Climate Considerations:

When selecting a site for your greenhouse, it’s essential to consider the local climate and how it will impact your gardening efforts. Different regions have varying temperature ranges, wind patterns, and precipitation levels, all of which can greatly affect the performance and success of your greenhouse.

If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, such as hot summers or cold winters, you’ll need to choose a site that can accommodate these fluctuations. For example, you may want to position your greenhouse in a location that benefits from natural shade during scorching summers or provides some wind protection during chilly winters.

The wind is another crucial factor to consider. Strong winds can damage your greenhouse structure and disrupt plant growth. To mitigate this, select a site that offers natural windbreaks, such as existing buildings, trees, or shrubs. Alternatively, you can create artificial wind barriers by constructing fences or installing windbreak netting.

In terms of precipitation, consider the average rainfall in your area. If you live in a region with heavy rainfall, ensure that the site has adequate drainage to prevent waterlogging and potential root rot. On the other hand, if you’re in an arid region, you may need to plan for irrigation systems or water storage solutions.

By understanding and accounting for the unique climate conditions in your area, you can choose a greenhouse site that optimises plant growth and helps your garden thrive.

Pest Control Considerations:

When selecting a site for your greenhouse, it’s important to take pest control into consideration. Certain areas may have a higher prevalence of pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, or rodents, which can damage your plants and impede their growth.

To minimise the risk of pest infestation, avoid locating your greenhouse near overgrown or weedy areas. These can serve as breeding grounds for pests and increase the chances of them spreading to your greenhouse.

Consider implementing physical barriers, such as fencing or netting, to keep pests out. Additionally, you can employ natural pest control methods, such as introducing beneficial insects or companion planting, to help deter pests without relying on synthetic chemicals.

Regular monitoring and maintenance are key to early pest detection and prevention. Inspect your greenhouse regularly for signs of pest activity and take immediate action to address any issues. By selecting a site that minimises the risk of pest infestation and implementing effective pest control strategies, you can create a healthy and thriving growing environment for your plants.

Environmental Impact:

As gardeners, it’s important for us to consider the environmental impact of our greenhouse operations. When selecting a site, take into account factors that may contribute to environmental degradation, such as light pollution, noise pollution, and the use of synthetic chemicals.

Light pollution can disrupt natural ecosystems and affect wildlife behaviour. If possible, choose a site that minimises light pollution, such as avoiding areas with excessive artificial lighting at night.

Similarly, noise pollution can disturb both wildlife and neighbouring residents. Consider the proximity of your greenhouse to residential areas or quiet zones, and position it in a way that minimises noise disruption.

Reducing the use of synthetic chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilisers, is crucial for environmental sustainability. When selecting a site, prioritise areas where you can implement organic gardening practices and reduce reliance on synthetic inputs.

By choosing a greenhouse site that minimises environmental impact, you contribute to the preservation of natural ecosystems, promote sustainable gardening practices, and create a healthier environment for yourself and your community.

Conclusion

In conclusion, selecting the right site for your greenhouse is a critical step in creating an optimal growing environment. By considering factors such as light exposure, convenience, ventilation, safety, access to utilities, soil quality, and proper base preparation, you can set yourself up for success in your greenhouse gardening endeavours. Take the time to assess your garden, plan accordingly, and enjoy the bountiful rewards of a well-placed greenhouse. Check out our full range of Greenhouse Gardening articles here.

Updated on April 10, 2024

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