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The Greenhouse Effect
March 30th, 2017

The Joys of the Indoor Greenhouse

Want to grow tropical flowers in a temperate climate? Or live in the frozen North and fancy some nice, plump, juicy homegrown tomatoes to garnish your mooseburger with? Then you need a greenhouse, also known as a hothouse. Hothouses are simple to construct and maintain, and come in a variety of sizes and materials to suite every home and pocketbook. You can even buy an indoor greenhouse if you don't have a backyard to call your own.

A History of the Greenhouse

The origins of the greenhouse are uncertain. The Roman emperor Tiberius apparently used a primitive form of hothouse to grow the cucumbers that he was so fond of. The modern greenhouse can trace its origins to 13th century Italy. From there, the concept spread across Europe, culminating in the giant "botanical gardens" of the 19th century.

Greenhouses Today

In our own time, greenhouses for home use have gained in popularity. They can be glazed with glass, fiberglass or plastic and have a steel, wooden or aluminum frame. They can be placed anywhere that has good access to sunlight. A lean-to greenhouse can be attached to the side of a building and are a good option for those with limited budgets and/or space. Those with even less space can buy a window-mounted reach-in. Freestanding structures are the most versatile type of structure, as they can be situated anywhere in your yard without regard to the placement of your home. Finally, the largest and most expensive kind of greenhouse is the even-span, a full-size structure attached to a building at one end.

Questions to Consider

When planning your greenhouse, several factors need to be taken into consideration. How will you heat it? How will you ventilate it? How will you supply light and carbon dioxide, both of which are essential for growing hothouse plants? Once again, several options are available, ranging from simple combinations of heaters and fans to sophisticated, thermostat driven air conditioning systems. As a general rule of thumb, the more you are willing to spend, the less work you will have to do monitoring and maintaining your greenhouse. Also, you need to calculate the capacity of the heating system. This can be done if you know the surface area and the amount of heat lost through the glazing material. The better insulated the material is, the less powerful the heating system needed. In other words, buying a greenhouse has the potential for many false economies, and skimping on your basic structure could prove to be very costly in the long run.