So, you’ve decided you want a greenhouse.
You know what you want to grow, how you plan on growing it, and you even know full well the amazing advantages for making this transition.
Your first question may be: “Where do I even start? How do I go about this to make sure that my system becomes a success?”
There are a lot of good things to plan for before building and constructing your greenhouse. But there’s one very important thing among them to consider long before you ever break ground or unwrap that plastic: and that’s location!
Maybe you have a picturesque hobby farm, and you’ve got that spot you’ve always imagined would be perfect for such a structure. Or perhaps you’re a full-time farming and growing entrepreneur, and you’re not too picky about where your structure will go in the long run (just so long as it does the job!)
Regardless of which, you’ll have to take a good look at your desired spot and make sure that it’s an ideal growing area – and for a number of important reasons.
It’s not just about appearance, aesthetics, or convenience. There’s a whole lot more to location and your greenhouse than meets the eye.
With that said, let’s take a deeper look at what these factors may be!
Want to set up your greenhouse on that beautiful hillside you’ve always been admiring? Well – think again!
For the most reliable and stable structure possible, you’re going to want to choose completely level ground as a foundation. Slopes will, obviously, be difficult areas to work with under your cover, especially if you want those desired level rows, raised beds, or growing tables that are the most ideal.
Slopes also don’t contribute to a durable structure in the long run. But that’s not to say that you can’t level certain areas for building, just like you would with a house or another building for your target site.
Slopes and hillsides can have areas dug up, flattened, or bull-dozed to make them suitable, and/or then have foundations laid. Just be prepared for some extra labor and costs becoming a part of your project.
Most drainage problems have to do with slope, but not all slope issues have to do with drainage. This is why, separate from slope, you should take the drainage your chosen area into account.
Take a good look at your future site: is the land shaped in a way that water will drain away well from the soil underneath your greenhouse cover?
Is the site you’re choosing in a low spot or flood plain? Or is it on higher ground? Is it running length-wise along a slant, so that moisture from one end might drain down into another?
Areas that water drains into are very undesirable for greenhouse sites. Not only do they lead to standing water and soils too saturated for direct planting, but the moisture also creates a breeding zone for illnesses, diseases, fungal issues, pests, and more – all which have unhealthy impacts on your plants.
Further, sites with an uneven slope (where moisture could drain from one part into another) can lead to radical variations in quality among the plants you grow: with some receiving more moisture than others, particularly if you’re planting straight into the ground.
Like slopes, however, there are ways to get the drainage you want out of your site – that is, if you’re prepared for extra work and spending.
Installing drain tile is one example to get the drainage you desire. However, this may have some erosion and environmental impacts on other areas of your property, so this requires careful planning in and of itself as well.
3. ORIENTATION AND EXPOSURE
Opting for a level, well-drained building site is very important for your future growing structure. However, you’ll also have to think long and hard about whether or not your greenhouse will be getting enough sunlight – yet another important facet of your growing system!
To ensure that your setup will provide optimum sunlight for your plants, there’s really only a handful of details you’ll need to consider.
First of all: will your building go in a very clear and open area, far away from trees and other structures? Does your desired spot also give your building the ability to run east-west, rather than north-south?
This second part might not seem like a huge detail. But think about it: since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, greenhouses running in an east-to-west direction guarantee that all your plants get equal amounts of sunlight, rather than cast shade over each other (which happens in north-to-south buildings).
As it relates to orientation too, make sure that your greenhouse gets a great deal more exposure to the southern skies. This is where your plants will be getting most of their sunlight from throughout the winter especially (in the Northern Hemisphere, that is).
Placing your greenhouse just north of a tree line, for example, will cause the trees to cast shade on it all day. That’s definitely no good!
So, while you may have eyed that one pretty spot you’ve always thought would be perfect for a greenhouse, make sure to give this site another look-over before building. If only a north-to-south building might fit there – or it’s too close to a tree line – moving on to a different spot might be for the best.
4. EXISTING WEED PRESSURE
This aspect of your greenhouse site choice really depends on one factor: will you be planting directly into the soil under your cover, or no?
If yes, before setting up your structure, take a good look at what kinds of plants and weeds are growing in that spot to start with. Are there rigorous grasses, thistle, knotweed, poison ivy? Or are you looking at a site with relatively few invasive weeds to worry about?
Why even worry in the first place? Well, keep in mind that the plants growing there before you will be your weeding competition.
If you’re an organic grower especially, these will be the ones you’ll weed out and battle time and time again by hand, just to make room for the more fragile plants you’ll be growing commercially (or as a hobby).
Remember too that the bounteous, nurturing environment you’ll be creating for your directly planted crops will also provide advantages for weeds there as well – and you can bet that they’ll grow faster than and outcompete your crops with such benefits, if there’s plenty of them around!
So if you’re eyeing that site with the enormous stand of thistle or aggressive ragweed, maybe think of an alternative that won’t require nearly so much work – unless you’re ready and willing to weed.
5. WIND EXPOSURE
One last detail to keep in mind is wind exposure.
While plastic-covered growing structures are manufactured to be very stable, accidents can and do happen, with hardline winds and storms often being the most common causes for damage to greenhouse plastic: whether that be rips, tears, detached pieces, and more.
In the wrong windy situations, greenhouses can become almost like umbrellas. If too much wind catches inside them, the whole structure billows, breaks, and can even tear clear out of the ground if not built or fastened to a secure location!
Full wind protection can be a tricky thing to account for. Generally, avoid sites that are at the very tops of tall hills or ridges in windy regions, or from areas with very open north or western exposure.
The presence of tree lines, structures, hillsides, ridges, and more can all be protective against too much wind exposure on your greenhouse – but these things also cast shade as well, so you can’t be too close.
Strategizing the placement of your greenhouse so it perfectly balances sun exposure with wind exposure is the real challenge. Still, getting the most out of both elements is the sign of a successful greenhouse – and all it takes is a little planning.
WHERE WILL YOU PUT YOUR GREENHOUSE?
Has reading this article given you some ideas for where you’ll be placing your covered growing system?
Even better: does it give you some confidence in the process? I sure hope so!
Securing the perfect location for your greenhouse is one of the many ways you’ll ensure that your project will be a success, and it’s easy.
In no time, you’ll be growing healthy, beautiful plants in the spacious greenhouse structure you’ve been hoping for and picturing for so long.
But to get to make sure it truly lasts: ideal location matters!