Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today.
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When it turns cold at the end of the gardening season, many of us who want to continue working with plants dream of having a greenhouse in which to work in warmth.
If you don’t have a greenhouse but are considering one, here are some things to think about and research this winter as you create a greenhouse plan.
Decide what works best for your budget and space. A lean-to attached to your home or garage, a sunroom or shed with south-facing windows, a freestanding building or cold frames and hoops with plastic coverings within the garden area. There are kits available online for many of these options. You can give a little work to some local construction workers or check out the do-it-yourself plans. Always take into consideration the snow load you receive at your home when choosing a design and materials. What works in more moderate climates might need some adjustments to work here in Routt County.
Decide whether your greenhouse should be built with wood or metal. Wood looks nice and is less expensive than metal, but our harsh weather (hot sun and cold winters with lots of snow) can wreak havoc on wood, causing it to splinter, crack, bow and decay.
Decide whether to cover your greenhouse in glass, plastic, fiberglass or acrylic. For the best light, glass is preferred, but it also is expensive. Fiberglass and acrylic (polycarbonate) glass are durable but also are expensive. These types of coverings and the flexible polyethylene glasses can scratch pretty easily and so might need to be replaced after a few seasons. A plastic or plastic/cloth combination cover will let in less light and need to be replaced more often but is an inexpensive option for starters.
Know where the wind blows the hardest on your property and where the south and west sun will come into your greenhouse in the spring and summer. Know where shade might interfere with needed sunshine or might help with too much sun. These answers will help you choose orientation and know where to insulate and offer respite for your plants from scorching sun.
Heating, cooling, water
Other considerations when choosing the kind of greenhouse to build is access to electricity and water. If you plan to work year-round, heating is a necessity for those really cold days. If you plan to keep some plants in the greenhouse during the summer, a cooling system or windows that open will be necessary for hot days and to aid with air circulation. Access to water is necessary, whether you pull a hose around into the greenhouse or want to run a waterline to the structure. If you’re only working with native perennials, then a heating and cooling system won’t be necessary since these plants are used to the freezing and warming cycles of our climate and will just go dormant when the weather gets cold.
So while our weather starts turning cold and you’re forced indoors from the garden, hop online or visit the library and start looking at greenhouse options so you’re ready to build your dream greenhouse as soon as the weather permits in spring.
Marty Fisher contributed to this article.
Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the CSU Extension Office Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.