Ballpark Estimate: $500 to $2,000
Wouldn’t you love to have beautiful flowers blooming in your yard all year long? You don’t need to move down south or escape to a tropical island to make this concept a reality. All you need is a greenhouse that will provide a safe haven for your delicate plants and flowers to thrive despite the weather conditions outside.
While your neighbors are shoveling snow and shivering in the dead of February, you can escape to your greenhouse, tend to your plants and help them grow. Do you want to grow your own fruits and vegetables, cultivate a collection of exotic plants or get a jump start on growing bulbs for your outdoor garden so you can transplant them outdoors when the weather is warm enough? All of these, and many other goals, are possible if you invest in the right type of greenhouse.
Most greenhouses are purchased as a kit, which should contain the basic parts you will need, such as the foundation, walls and flooring. (Depending on how sophisticated your greenhouse is, there may also be extra accessories and equipment you’ll need, such as plumbing and a heat source.)
Considerations Before Buying
In order to determine the type of greenhouse kit that will be the best fit for you, there are some important cost factors you’ll need to consider up front. For instance, how serious are you about gardening? If this is a small hobby you dabble in, you may want a simple frame greenhouse. If you take your gardening quite seriously, it can be worthwhile to invest in a more solid greenhouse. The climate you live in will also make a difference. If you experience very cold winters with extreme temperature changes, you’ll need to take this into account when determining what type of greenhouse will hold up to the conditions. In addition, you should think about the lighting of any greenhouse you select. While you might assume that natural sunlight is best, the sun’s direct rays can be too harsh for some delicate plants. Therefore, diffused light in your greenhouse is usually your best bet.
Exploring Your Options
There are a number of different types of greenhouse kits you can find.
Portable greenhouse kits are one of the simplest options. These can be a good choice for people who want to get a head start on the growing season, and they are usually easy to take apart and store during the winter months since these won’t be as durable as a more permanent option and they may not be able to stand up to extreme wind and snow. Portable greenhouse’s often don’t require any heating equipment or electricity but rely on the sun’s strength to keep the inside warm.
Permanent or freestanding greenhouses are more solid structures. These can also be purchased in kit form, or can be built from scratch according to greenhouse building plans. While smaller greenhouse kits may be manageable for you to build yourself, larger and more elaborate greenhouse designs are better left to a contractor to handle since these can be difficult and time intensive to put together correctly. Permanent greenhouses can be found in a number of styles. These include:
- Lean-To: A small greenhouse that’s built right against the wall of your house or your garage and can often be attached to your power, heat and water right through the wall. That makes this an appealing option for many gardeners.
- Classic A-Frame: A typical greenhouse is in the “A-Frame” style. This is a basic house shape, with a peaked roof and slanting sides. This shape can withstand harsh weather conditions well. The only downside is that heating this greenhouse can add up because of the ceiling height.
- Modified A-Frame: If the heating bill is a concern, you might select a modified A-Frame greenhouse, which has a roof with a gentler angle. This provides more space inside and is also less costly to heat as well.
- Barn-Style: Then there’s a barn-style greenhouse, which is similar to an A-Frame greenhouse but has a barn-shaped roof and straighter walls, providing adequate space for an array of plants.
- Quonset Hut: Other greenhouse styles include quonset hut greenhouses, which are round. This shape makes them efficient to heat, but they are also tight on room.
- Gothic Arch: This greenhouse is a more practical variation with straighter walls and a curved roof that comes to a point at the top, making them very attractive to look at and offering more growing space.
In addition to your greenhouse style and design, you’ll also need to determine the heating types and temperature you desire inside. There are three common greenhouse heating options: cool, warm and hot. Achieving and maintaining the optimum temperature is achieved through a variety of methods, including a heat sink, a heater, heat lamps, fans and ventilation systems.
Cool greenhouses maintain a temperature of about 40 degrees F. You don’t need a heating system but can usually achieve this goal through proper insulation. This is a good option for hearty plants that need a little protection but don’t require high temperatures.
You can also opt for a warm greenhouse, which is one that reaches about 50 degrees F and can be a good environment for many common plants.
A hot greenhouse typically holds a 70 degree F temperature, which makes it a safe setting for many exotic and sensitive plants. Often heat lamps are needed to keep delicate plants doing well through the winter inside this structure.
You can also select a solar greenhouse, which relies on the sun’s power to heat it. Many people pick a combination style that has solar and also traditional heat (such as electric, gas, propane and natural gas) so during the dead of winter they can be sure that the structure can maintain the temperature it needs.
The Elements of a Greenhouse
You can expect most greenhouses to have several key elements. There’s the frame, which can be made from wood, aluminum, steel or PVC. You’ll need to be sure that whatever you select can support the siding material and will also hold up to your weather conditions. If wind is an issue, you’ll probably want to avoid wood and opt for one of the sturdier greenhouse options. Common siding types include fiberglass, polycarbonate or polyethylene film. It’s also a good idea to have some kind of foundation for your greenhouse. Options include concrete, pavers and gravel. There are pros and cons to each material, so you’ll need to see what works best for your situation. Finally, be sure that you have an anchor kit with your greenhouse, which includes essential ties to secure your greenhouse down so it won’t be damaged in inclement weather.
Where to Buy
You can buy a greenhouse from your local garden supply shop or seasonal store. You can also check at home improvement stores in your area like Home Depot and Lowes to see what they offer. In addition, you can talk to landscaping companies and see if they build greenhouses or direct you to business or contractor that specialize in them. You can also search online for your greenhouse. Some websites that offer a large selection of greenhouses and greenhouse kits that are appropriate for hobbyists on up to commercial growers include Gothic Arch Greenhouses, Greenhouse Megastore, and Greenhouse Catalog. You’ll probably find a greater selection of greenhouses by ordering online, but be sure to check out the shipping fees because these can be quite heavy.
How to Choose
If you’re just starting out with gardening, you may want to select a greenhouse that’s small. Just keep in mind that it’s nice to have room to grow in the future as your interest develops. Some greenhouses can be expanded with extension or add-on kits.
Many new horticulturists begin by building a basic greenhouse that allows them to extend their growing season, and then possibly move into gardening year round, if the structure is conducive to this. To this end, your best bet is to have a greenhouse that will stay warm in winter and cool in the summer. (Of course you may need heating elements and fans to accomplish this.) This can be essential to keep your plants comfortable.
You’ll also want to select a greenhouse that will be low maintenance and will also be appropriate for your typical weather conditions. This includes selecting something that’s been UV-treated to ensure that it won’t be damaged by the sun’s rays over time.
Cost for a Greenhouse
What you can expect to spend on the greenhouse can vary in cost, depending on what you desire. The prices for most greenhouse kits are for the parts only. You’ll need to do the installation yourself or else hire a professional contractor to put the greenhouse together for you.
Here are some examples of greenhouse kits and prices:
- If you want a small portable greenhouse rack that can fit on your porch, or a very plain greenhouse frame with a fabric cover, these can be found starting at a price of $100 or less.
- Basic greenhouse kits with more room for growing cost between $200 to $1,200. (You can find lean-to styles, portables and also permanent greenhouse options in this common price range.)
- Larger traditional style permanent greenhouse structures that are made to hold up to tougher weather conditions can cost from $2,000 to $8,000, depending on what size, shape and features you select.
- You can also order a soup-to-nuts greenhouse kit tailored for more serious horticulturists that come with all of the equipment and accessories you need. These greenhouse costs from $10,000 to $20,000.
- Having a contractor build you a custom-made greenhouse with heat and water will typically cost between $10,000 to $50,000, depending on your specifications.
So you can spend anywhere from $100 to $20,000 for a greenhouse kit (or possibly even more if you prefer to have a contractor build you a greenhouse from scratch.) with an average cost of $500 to $2,000.
It’s a good idea to check with your local city or town hall to find out if you need a building permit before you put together your greenhouse. If so, this will be an additional expense.
Less Expensive Options
If you want to dabble in growing plants in the winter but aren’t ready to invest the time, energy and effort in purchasing a greenhouse kit and erecting it in your yard, you may want to start with a small window greenhouse or indoor greenhouse box. These are easy-to-use and inexpensive options and can allow you to have a taste of this hobby before you invest in something more elaborate. These types of mini greenhouses can often be bought for a price of $100 or less.