Freestanding Greenhouses for All Plants

Updated on May 10, 2019
Tricia Deed profile image

Starting a variety of seeds in the greenhouse for my outdoor flower and vegetable gardens is my preferred method for starting plants.

A greenhouse nestled among trees in a backyard.
A greenhouse nestled among trees in a backyard. | Source

There are not too many variations on a freestanding greenhouse. The sole purpose of a greenhouse is to grow and protect plants. The exterior of the greenhouse may be decorative in order to make it more pleasing to the home landscape. Both the interior and the exterior can be customized to meet expectations.

The greenhouse is a multi-functional building for growing plants and storage. It’s a wonderful work area with just the right amount of space to fit the needs of the hobby gardener or commercial grower.

Other benefits include:

  • No pests: There is total control over interior environment for both plants and operator. Plants and people can escape those pesky bugs.
  • No heavy hand tools needed. Very rarely would there be a need for a heavy tool.
  • Year-round growth: You can grow all sorts of plants year round.
  • Allergy-free plants: In some situations a gardener has the opportunity to grow plants that do not cause allergies. This is one of the reasons why we grow orchids.

This article will break down the various attributes of freestanding greenhouses, as well as provide tips and tricks for you to build and maintain your own.

Interior view of a small greenhouse growing potted plants.
Interior view of a small greenhouse growing potted plants. | Source

Design

Greenhouses may be purchased or handcrafted by those who enjoy woodworking. The basic design of a freestanding greenhouse is an oblong box with two sloped roofs and a ridge. The ridge may be made from metal or wood and is placed at the highest point of the sloped roof. The type of plants to be grown will determine if the ridge is to be a simple strip or a ridge-vent style, which rids the greenhouse of warm, moist air.

Our hobby is raising orchids and they love humid air. But these plants also enjoy circulated air, which we provide with fans. Fresh air is supplied by screened windows.

The eaves or the roof overhang will be any length you choose. The purpose of the eave is to keep water away from the windows and walls.

The flooring may be the land itself, a concrete base, brick, or wood. Window types or screening will be determined by the climate.

The construction of the greenhouse may be of treated or red cedar wood, aluminum, brick, or concrete. Stain or paint may be used for added protection or décor consideration. Windows may be glass, screen, or polythene sheets (plastic film). Window materials depend on the building’s location and climate.

It has been our experience that wood seems to be the best material. Not only does it add to the landscaping, but there is more freedom in designing shelving, work table, storage bins, and assorted aids for hanging plants. There is more versatility and easy removal when changes need to be made. Plants are like children; their needs change as they grow. Metal and concrete are too difficult to repair. Wood can be easily removed or cut and replaced more economically.

A small polyurethane garden greenhouse suitable for a home gardener or hobbyist.
A small polyurethane garden greenhouse suitable for a home gardener or hobbyist. | Source

Size and Maintenance

The size of a freestanding building is determined by available land space, types of plants, or hobby and business use. As a hobby, land space is critical, and this limitation determines how many plants can be supported or how future additions may be added.

The size of the unit with the support systems will determine maintenance costs, including:

  • Heat and air supply
  • Solar panels
  • Exhaust fans
  • Vents
  • Watering systems
  • Zoning, building permits, and other legal requirements

Tips for Setting Up Your Own Freestanding Greenhouse

  1. Try to build a larger structure than what you think you need.
  2. If you're doing a lot of seed planting, provide a cool frame.
  3. Regulate light, heat, and moisture.
  4. Use natural light—a minimum of six hours per day.
  5. Use artificial lighting only when necessary.
  6. Indoor temperature should be kept at 80–85°F.
  7. The humidity should be kept at 45–50%
  8. Ensure ventilation to prevent moisture buildup. Leaves start producing moisture at 59°F.

Green lettuce growing in a mini-greenhouse.
Green lettuce growing in a mini-greenhouse. | Source

Edible and Ornamental Plants

Almost all types of seeds from fruits, flowers, vegetables, herbs, and trees will grow in a greenhouse. Depending on the plant variety, it may need to leave the greenhouse when it is ready to face the natural elements in your growing zone.

Ornamental plants from seeds or cuttings may also be started. Depending on the type of plant, it will need to be transplanted into the flower or vegetable garden.

Generally speaking, any plant that needs warmth, moisture, and humidity will survive in a greenhouse providing there is room for it. For example, tomatoes can grow in greenhouses. Growing many of these plants might lead to them needing to be moved to the outside vegetable garden, however, or you may find yourself drowning in an ocean of vegetation when they surpass available space.

A tall ornamental plant, such as palm trees, will outgrow the height of the home greenhouse and puncture the roof.

A small cold frame in a backyard.
A small cold frame in a backyard. | Source

Cold Frame Gardening

After seeds have blossomed into two-inch growths, they are then transplanted to a small outdoor greenhouse called a cold frame. The frame offers shelter from extreme heat, wind, and other harsh weather conditions that may damage these tiny plants.

There are three stages of transplanting:

  • Stage 1: Seeds are planted in containers in greenhouse.
  • Stage 2: Small plant seedlings are transferred to a cold frame for continued growth.
  • Stage 3: Larger plants are transferred to flower or vegetable gardens for direct contact with nature.

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