Freestanding Greenhouses for All Plants

Updated on March 12, 2020
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.

Greenhouse Interior View

Interior view of a simple constructed greenhouse.
Interior view of a simple constructed greenhouse. | Source

Function of A Greenhouse

The sole purpose of a greenhouse is to grow and protect plants. The exterior of the greenhouse may be decorative to make it more pleasing to the home landscape. They can customize both the interior and the exterior to meet the owner’s expectation.

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 the interior environment for both plants and operators. Plants and people can escape those pesky bugs.

  • No heavy hand tools needed. No need for heavy bulky tools.

  • Year-round growth: it may grow plants of all seasons during the year.

  • Allergy-free plants: In some situations a gardener grows plants that do not cause allergies. This is one reason we grow orchids.

Building Size and Costs

Land space will determine the size of a free-standing building, types of plants, or hobby and business use. Commercial growers invest in large land tracts as relates to their horticulture interest. A hobbyist works with space around their residential area.

We grow a variety of orchids. We thought one building would be sufficient. The orchids have multiplied like rabbits. Thank goodness we allowed for expansion. We have met several people who wanted their love of plants to be a hobby. However, with the passing years, their plants grew into a business.

What are the costs of building a greenhouse? There are many variables. The low end of an estimate is about $3,500 and the top end about $18,000 for residential locations. Are you a handyman? You may cut these costs from 25 to 50 percent less.

Selection of support systems such as heat and air supply, solar panels, exhaust fans, vents, watering systems, and electricity will determine maintenance costs. Other expenses will include zoning, building permits, and other legal requirements.

Polycarbonate Greenhouse

Polycarbonate greenhouse kit to assemble..
Polycarbonate greenhouse kit to assemble.. | Source

Greenhouse Construction

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.

Fresh and circulated air is provided by screened windows, fans, vents, and air conditioning.

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, pebbles,a concrete base, brick, or wood. Window types or screening will be determined by the climate.

Windows may be glass (avoid direct sunlight), screen, or polythene sheets (plastic film). Window materials depend on the building’s location and 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.

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 potted or hanging plants. There is more versatility and easy removal when changes need to be made. 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

Cool Greenhouse

A small greenhouse in a private garden of Australia.
A small greenhouse in a private garden of Australia. | Source

Greenhouse Tips

  1. Build a larger structure than what you think you need.
  2. Provide a cool frame for planting seeds.
  3. Regulate light, heat, and moisture.
  4. Use six hours of natural light per day.
  5. Use artificial lighting when necessary.
  6. Keep indoor temperature settings at 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Maintain humidity 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

Many 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.

It may also start ornamental plants from seeds or cuttings. Transplant eligible plants to the flower or vegetable garden.

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. Move outside plants to the vegetable or flower garden. These plants need space. Moving them will eliminate drowning in a sea of vegetation and short changing their production.

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 Box

The cold frame is a small wood container with a protective glass or plastic cover. This container provides seedlings shelter from wind, other harsh weather and provides warmth. This container helps young plants acclimate through the middle stage of growth. When plants gain their strength and can weather the elements, we plant them into the garden.

Three stages of transplanting:

  1. Use seed-starting trays in a greenhouse.
  2. Transfer seedlings to a cold frame for continued growth.
  3. Move larger plants to flower or vegetable gardens for direct contact with nature.

Moving these plants in their three stages of growth will eliminate shock and promote growth.

What Type of Greenhouse Should You Build?

Are you a garden hobbyist?

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