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Gardening 101: A beginner’s guide to greenhouse gardening

Greenhouses can be an ideal space to grow crops in a contained environment. Whether you’re looking to set up a space to grow crops year-round, or you just want an enclosed space to keep them away from animals, greenhouses can be a good way to accomplish a controlled harvest — so long as you don’t overcrowd, and you don’t bite off more than you can chew (until you’re ready).

Inside of a greenhouse
Zanda Photography/Unsplash

What is best to grow in a greenhouse?

To have a good idea of what to grow in a greenhouse, consider: What can beginners grow in a greenhouse? You won’t want to try overwhelming yourself with too many unlike plants if you’re new to the space or gardening, and it may be best to stick with plants you’re familiar with at first. Those are often plants that thrive indoors and ones that you’d typically grow in your garden, like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and peppers.

Even though the greenhouse will be a contained space, you’ll still need to consider the outdoor conditions when deciding what plants to grow when. You should grow plants that prefer warmer temperatures during the warmer parts of the season and plants that prefer cool temperatures during the cool parts of the season. These will vary depending on what zone you’re in, so be sure to do some research before deciding what to grow first!

Do greenhouses need lighting for plants?

Natural light is always the best way to go for a greenhouse, at least during warmer months when there’s plenty of daylight for the plants to thrive from; however, if your greenhouse is set up to be able to grow plants during the cooler months as well, you may consider other greenhouse lighting requirements such as grow lights. You may need grow lights for a portion of the day in order to provide the plants with the proper amount.

Make sure to do your research for which grow lights are best for the environment you’re in and the plants you’re growing. The wrong kind of light can potentially stunt the growth of the plant, which is the opposite effect you want it to have.

Greenhouse with watering system
Christin Noelle/Unsplash

How often should you water greenhouse plants?

Like regular gardening, each plant in the greenhouse will have different watering preferences. You’ll want to treat them similar to your indoor houseplants; they won’t need to be watered every single day. There are plants and vegetables that need their soil to dry out between watering to prevent drowning or rot. It all depends on the climate they originated from. A good rule of thumb for most plants is to wait to water until the first inch or two of the soil is dry.

Make sure when you water, though, that you do so thoroughly. You should water them until it starts to drain from the bottom of the container, then give the soils some time to dry out. It’s also important to keep a regular watering schedule, especially when you’re growing fruits and vegetables. If the soil dries out too much between watering, the production of the vegetables could decrease, and your harvest will be smaller than you had initially imagined.

How big should a greenhouse be?

The key thing to keep in mind when deciding on a greenhouse is that your plants will grow. They’ll grow from starters into sprouts that need to be potted, and possibly outgrow that pot and need a new one. So try not to overestimate when you’re starting out. You’d hate to buy too many seeds and have more plants than you know what to do with.

The recommended minimum size for a greenhouse is 10 feet x 10 feet if you intend to grow a decent amount of plants. However, if you’re looking for something smaller to start out and don’t want to grow too much off the bat, you can always start with one as small as 6 feet x 6 feet. It won’t have a lot of space, but it will house those tomatoes and peppers until you can get a handle on how greenhouse gardening works.

Remember to keep it simple your first time around. You’ll have an easy time adjusting if you work with plants you’re familiar with in an unfamiliar environment instead of attempting to grow unfamiliar plants at the same time. Basic plant care is a must when growing in a greenhouse, so be sure to read up on the ones you intend to get.

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Kiera Baron
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kiera Baron is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding digital artist, based in Upstate NY. She is currently one…
A complete guide to cleaning your greenhouse for beginners

When you first installed your greenhouse, it probably looked like a glittery glass castle for your lovely plants to grow and live in. However, weather, soil spills, and birds have made their mark on your greenhouse over time and now it's probably looking cloudy and nasty. So how do you clean a greenhouse?
Why worry about a clean greenhouse?
You may be wondering if you even need to worry about cleaning your greenhouse. If you don't mind the dirty look, maybe you could leave it as it is? Unfortunately, it's much better for your greenhouse and your plants if you give the greenhouse a deep clean at least once a year. It'll make it easier to use when it is clean and organized, and the walls of the greenhouse need to be clear so they can let in as much light as possible. Additionally, a clean greenhouse is less likely to spread pests and diseases to your precious plants. And lastly, things last longer when you care for them and greenhouses aren't cheap.

When should you clean a greenhouse?
There's no right time to clean a greenhouse; whenever you can is better than not at all. However, we suggest cleaning it when there isn't so much to do in the garden and it isn't so hot out. Usually, the fall is when the garden chores slow down and it starts to cool out, making cleaning the greenhouse much easier on you.
What is the best way to clean a greenhouse?
You can use whatever cleaning method works for you, but here is our step-by-step process that we recommend.
Step one: Empty the space
Of course, we know you can only empty a greenhouse so much if you have tender plants that need to stay warm. But as much as you can, take out the tools, buckets, and bags of soil. It will be much easier on you if you don't have to fuss with items in your way as you clean the walls and floors. This also allows you to go through what you have and declutter if necessary.
Step two: Rough dusting
Over the season, spiders and bugs and maybe even some mice have tried to make homes in your greenhouse. This has probably led to a few cobwebs and dust piles around the corners. You'll want to remove these large areas of debris before you start the deep cleaning. Use a broom to knock down the cobwebs and sweep up the floor; you've probably spilled some soil during the summer!
Step three: Clean the walls
The panels of your greenhouse will now need to be deep cleaned. You can use a bucket of warm water and a sponge to wipe them down, but we also recommend bringing a long-handled brush to make life easier. This way, you can dip the brush into the bucket of soapy water and scrub down the walls with the long-handled brush. You'll be able to reach every inch of the walls without killing your back.

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A complete guide to the best lights to choose for your greenhouse
Houseplants under grow lights

Just like growing houseplants indoors, growing plants in a greenhouse requires specific care and a suitable environment. Even though the greenhouse will have some light from the sun coming in, the glass panes are often filtered in some kind of way to prevent your plant’s leaves from scorching. Enter grow lights. They’re used most commonly in darker spaces or during colder months; however, they're greatly beneficial to your greenhouse plants and help ensure that the plants are getting the light they need to thrive.

Can you have an indoor greenhouse?
Absolutely! Indoor greenhouses are revered for how sustainable and inexpensive they can be. An indoor greenhouse with lights can be installed anywhere in the home where you have the space, and it’s a perfect place to grow things like fruits, herbs, and veggies indoors. If you’re only planning to grow a couple herbs, you can get something as small as a tabletop greenhouse! It will fit a few plants, won’t take up too much space, and will add to the aesthetic of a room while letting you grow plants in a unique way.

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Good, better, best: Portable greenhouses for your winter garden
greenhouse in winter

There are many exciting plants to grow in your garden, but not all of them are suited to your particular climate. A greenhouse can significantly extend the range of plants you can grow, as well as what seasons you can start those plants in. A full size greenhouse is expensive and hard to move, but portable greenhouses are much more accessible. There are a lot of factors to consider though, including durability, what materials it’s made of, size, how easy it is to put up and take down, and, of course, cost. If this seems overwhelming, then why not let us do some of the work for you? We’ve got three portable greenhouses for your consideration, with all the factors laid out for you!

Good: Costway Portable Mini Greenhouse
The Costway Portable Mini Greenhouse covers all the essentials of a greenhouse. It's made of clear plastic fitted over a hard plastic frame. The plastic covering is waterproof, and lets in light. It comes with four shelves, two for each side, and has enough floor space for a couple additional potted plants. This greenhouse is easy to assemble and is lightweight enough to be moved easily whenever you need to, weighing only 16 pounds when assembled.

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