Greenhouse Information Tips

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All kinds of Greenhouses

Where ever it is (and whoever its owner may be) a greenhouse
is bound to be one of three things:

  • it is a structure wherein certain plants are grown
    for the purpose of securing their flowers or fruit
    in other words,
  • a flower or fruit factory; or it is a general laboratory
    attached to the garden, where plants are
  • propagated, nursed to health when sick, and wintered
    if tender, and grown for use in the dwelling; or it
    is an indoor garden with all that the term implies
    of a place in which to loiter as well as to potter
    about a place of real charm and beauty as well as
    a suitable home for the plants which grow therein.
  • In this last character it may be more a conservatory
    than a greenhouse, although a conservatory is not,
    strictly speaking, to be regarded in the same way
    as a greenhouse, since it affords a home only for
    plants grown elsewhere and brought into it for show.

Some of the elaborate winter gardens are of this type
as well, being planned to be continually filled from
growing houses built for the purpose. But the garden
under glass is not of necessity carried on in this double
fashion since plants will grow in it even as they grow
out of doors or in the outdoor summer garden if it is
planned to that end. For the fullest enjoyment of a
garden enthusiast there is no doubt that this is the
better choice, since the varied operations of both gardens
may then be carried on supplementally and a variety
of effects be enjoyed-not identical with each other,
by any means, but along parallel lines.

Actually there is a greenhouse for every kind of place
and person. And there is sound reason for every kind
of place and person having one; for a greenhouse is,
not in any sense of the word an extravagance, save as
it is made one in the manner of handling. To the large
place it is an essential adjunct of both the ornamental
and practical gardens; to the medium sized establishment
it is a valuable addition to these; and to the tiny
plot of ground around a suburban home it is practically
a multiplication of opportunity by two at any rate,
if not by four or five. And going one step further it
is a garden where there is no ground at all since the
roof of a city residence will furnish an ideal site.
Similarly, it may require the time of several men, or
only one; or it may be its enviable owner’s own particular
hobby, sharing the heat of his house and not dependent,
therefore, upon separate stoking; and occupying him
in his off hours. If it is to be cared for in this way,
however, it is well to say at once that it should be
small; for, like a garden, a greenhouse may easily be
large enough to get out of hand and never be entered
in again!

The kind of greenhouse, which is decided upon, will
of course govern its location very largely. The purely
working glass, fiberglass or ploycarbonate house should
be placed where its relation to the garden that it serves
makes for the highest degree of efficiency in handling
the plants as they go in or come out; and apart from
this consideration there is actually no other, as far
as the building itself is concerned, aside from the
vitalness of its freedom from shade of trees or near
by buildings. It must have unhindered light and sunshine.

With regard to the garden’s appearance and design,
however, the location of a building of such aggressive
character is of tremendous consequence, and demands
the most thoughtful care. For improperly placed it may
irreparably mar the entire garden picture; and yet,
given proper thought, can be a most attractive acquisition.

Fitting it to the Place

Much study is now being given to greenhouse design
from an architectural as well as from a practical standpoint,
and structures that are pleasing in appearance have
been developed fit to assume a place in the garden scheme.
So it is no longer necessary to hide even the strictly
utilitarian building. But unless the greenhouse can
be made an acceptable unit of the general scheme and
not obviously an afterthought it is better not to let
it appear at all, but have it obscured by proper planting.

On small suburban grounds it must of course take a
relatively prominent place and may become in effect
an addition to the home. In this connection a transition
from dwelling to greenhouse by means of a glass corridor
will usually solve the problem of their relation to
each other by separating them enough to allow each its
individuality; which is far better than any attempt
to weld them into a single unit. As a matter of fact,
they cannot be so welded, and the effort actually to
bring them together may be to the detriment of both.

Sunshine to the fullest degree is of course requisite.
Choose a site, therefore, where this is insured and
permanently so. The angle of sunlight incidence at noon
on the shortest day of the year is 22 degrees; therefore
the greenhouse must be kept beyond this angle’s distance
from anything on its south side. Be careful also to
choose a well drained spot and a comparatively high
one, for poor drainage and damp conditions generally
are breeders of mildew; and with this handicap in surroundings
it is practically impossible to maintain the proper
atmospheric conditions under the glass.

These conditions being observed the points of the compass
may be disregarded generally, though if fruits on trellises
are to be grown the trellis should run north and south.
This will mean that where it is lengthwise the house
itself must run north and south, but where it is crosswise
the house will run east and west, bringing the trellis
north and south.

Its Shape and the Frame

The type of frame most generally in use today is the
modified curved eave, whether the structure is an even
span or a lean-to. It has very attractive rooflines,
gives a maximum of light to the plants, and allows ample
side ventilation above the benches. As to the form of
the house there is no question about the superiority
of the even span; and there is seldom any good reason
for building anything else. The lean-to may of course
be the only thing that will fit in certain restricted
places, but if it can possibly be avoided it should
be. Even when the greenhouse is to be attached to the
garage or wing of some existing building, it may perfectly
well be even span and stand end on instead of being
only half a house with excessive roof height standing
side on. Plants growing in a lean to are bound to ”
draw ” or lean strongly in one direction because
of the uneven distribution of light, and the difficulty
of proper ventilation.

The all aluminum frame house is naturally the most
expensive to build, but as maintenance costs practically
nothing and repairs are nil, its first cost is soon
more than compensated; and thereafter it is daily a
gain over the hoop house. Greenhouse glass must be the
pure white variety, and here again, as with the material
of the frame, quality is economy and the “double
thicks” glass, which weighs twenty-two ounces to
the square foot, should be used if possible. Glass that
is still heavier is often used in the modern houses
where the framework calls for large-size sheets. Ground
glass has been used for exotics, but in general it is
better to use the clear glass and depend for shade when
it is desired upon light fabric drawn across the span.
Summer shade for the roof must be provided for, and
there has been nothing better devised than a rolling
slat screen. Commercial houses of course freely practice
White washing or some such brush-applied shading material,
especially, but it is unsightly and does not, moreover,
allow for the entrance of the sun when you wish it to
enter. In practice the wash is put on the outside in
early summer and the weather removes it by late fall.

Keeping Things Warm

The very heart and soul of the greenhouse is its heating
system. It will make no difference how perfect its appointments
and its construction, nor how skillful its attendant,
nor how beautifully it is planned, if its heating system
falls short. It is then a dead thing as dead as a tomb!
In greenhouse heating, as in all others, it is desirable
to provide for greater capacity than the figures show
will be actually needed, since it is always more economical
to run a fire in check than under draft. Then, too,
there may come, once in a decade or so, a season of
untoward severity, during which only the excess heat
that has been figured on will save the night, if not
the day.

Unquestionably it is a wonderful idea, this greenhouse
one of turning summer into winter and temperate regions
into tropical and converting. Sunshine into flowers
or luscious fruits, generally right against the calendar.
Yet it is timely to remember right here and now that
this is not exactly what happens in a greenhouse. As
a matter of fact, gardening under glass is not simply
protected from the weather gardening, wherein the work
is carried on with the same materials as are used out
of doors; but rather it is gardening with very special
materials in most cases, as well as under highly artificial
conditions. In the greenhouse three of the four factors
of garden work are controlled, but the fourth is quite
beyond control. Temperature, soil, and moisture are
adjusted as delicately as necessity demands; but light
still remains outside the reach of all our cunning and
what is more, light is diminished always, however cleverly
we may build, quite apart from the fact that normally
light diminishes greatly in winter, just when we expect
the greenhouse to be most active! So that while we control
the three and increase these however we will, we diminish
the fourth in spite of everything; and create, therefore,
something quite different from any outdoor conditions.

A New World Opens up

Realize, therefore, that you do not need to confine
yourself to the plants of our outdoor gardens that we
may bring in and establish in gardens under glass-but
also a whole world of plants of another character (many
the result of careful and long breeding or selection)
which must be as carefully studied as new worlds always
are, in order that their requirements shall be understood
and met. Moreover, these plants come from widely different
places, and require a great deal more than simply protection
from cold to enable them to grow so far from their native
clime and condition; and they are not all of the same
taste and temperament, either-not by any means. Some
like much moisture and heat, others need little of either,
and still others come between and will be satisfied
with no extremes. This can be easily met by a careful
selection, according to the proposed temperature of
your greenhouse; or else by having a series of ”
compartments ” run at the different temperatures
to meet these varying needs. Of course your own common
sense tells you not to expect to grow everything that
may be fancied in your greenhouse, simply because it
affords protection to things that are not hardy in your
latitude. You will attempt growing only what you make
definite provision for when you are building.


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