Have you ever considered greenhouse gardening? Growing plants in a greenhouse can expand your gardening horizons far beyond the limits of your geographical bounds. With a backyard greenhouse, the growing season lasts year round.
Is it mid-winter in your backyard, with snow piled deep on the ground and an arctic nip in the air? Not in your greenhouse, where it’s a delightful, sunny 72.
Do outside conditions make it impossible for you to grow the plants you love right now? Are you months away from enjoying homegrown, summer savory tomatoes? Not if you have a backyard greenhouse. You could be serving your very own homegrown summer veggies with Christmas dinner – picked Christmas morning.
Growing in a greenhouse will give you the freedom to grow almost anything you want, anytime you want, without waiting for a by-your-leave from Mother Nature.
Isn’t Gardening in a Greenhouse a Frighteningly Expensive Pastime?
To be sure, you can spend lots of money on a garden greenhouse if that’s what you want to do.
There are some beautifully elegant backyard greenhouses available that would complement the finest of mansions in appearance and aesthetics.
But there are also some surprisingly cheap greenhouse kits that you can purchase and assemble to create your own fully functional greenhouse. Or you can build your own greenhouse from scratch, and really save some money.
Thanks to modern greenhouse technology and space age materials, virtually anyone who wants a greenhouse can have one, no matter how humble or majestic it may be.
What Can You Grow in a Greenhouse?
What do you want to grow? That’s the more appropriate question, because you could grow virtually anything you want in your greenhouse.
Sure, there are exceptions. Not every plant on Earth is a candidate for greenhouse growing. But when you’re deciding what to grow in your greenhouse, you’ll find that there really aren’t many limitations.
And for the most part, the limitations you face will be of your own choosing. If you choose not to heat your greenhouse during winter, for example, the list of plants that will be candidates for your greenhouse will be shorter. Or if you decide not to use artificial lighting to extend the day length during the short, dreary days of winter, that will be a limiting factor.
But the magic of a greenhouse is that you can create almost any environment you choose. And with that power you can make your greenhouse a happy home for most any type of plant, whether ornamental or edible.
You Can Grow Food of Unparalleled Quality in a Greenhouse
I’ve been involved in greenhouse gardening on a commercial scale for many years. My primary crop has been greenhouse tomatoes.
But though I’m always delighted, I’m no longer surprised when a customer tells me that my tomatoes are the best that he or she has ever eaten. I’ve heard that many times.
And they don’t say: “Your tomatoes are the best I’ve had except for summertime tomatoes.” Nor do they say: “Your tomatoes are the best I’ve had except for the homegrown tomatoes I grow in my own garden.” They just say: “Your tomatoes are the best I’ve ever had!”
Why are our greenhouse tomatoes so good?
It’s pretty simple, really. We grow them in a controlled environment, where the pampered plants receive exactly what they need to produce perfect tomatoes. That’s the advantage of greenhouse growing.
And it applies to everything you’ll grow in your greenhouse, not just tomatoes. (But trust me – you’re going to love your greenhouse tomatoes!)
By the way, the sheltered environment of your greenhouse will allow you to grow the most cosmetically perfect plants and produce you’ve ever seen. Think about it: Your plants won’t get rained on, wind blown, dust stormed, hail battered, frosted or sun-scorched.
The result will be exotically lush plants producing food that is off-the-charts delicious and nutritious – and beautiful to boot!
No, Your Greenhouse Won’t Be the Garden of Eden
I don’t want to get carried away and paint too positive a picture. Growing plants in a greenhouse isn’t a perfect panacea for eliminating all of those gardening thorns-in-the-side. You can have pest problems in a greenhouse. You can have disease problems, too.
But I don’t know of any potential negative that isn’t more easily prevented or controlled within the protected environment of a greenhouse.
An example: My greenhouse tomatoes that I was so shamelessly bragging on a few paragraphs up? They are grown without any form of pesticide. We can control insect pests in our greenhouse without ever spraying insecticides, and we can control fungal diseases without ever spraying fungicides.
From season’s beginning to season’s end, not a single drop of pesticide enters the doors of our greenhouse.
Doing Your Growing in a Greenhouse Puts You In Control
If you’ve been gardening for a while, you’re accustomed to nature dictating the terms of your relationship. Try planting too early in the season or grasping for a few extra precious days late in the season, and nature is liable to slap you down hard. It’s happened to all of us.
But in your backyard greenhouse, you’ll set the terms.
First frost date – last frost date? Meaningless. Shortest day of the year? So what?
In your small greenhouse, the temperature can be what you want it to be. The day length can be whatever you need it to be. What you’ll be able to grow will be dictated by what you want to grow.
If you’re accustomed to playing by nature’s rules, you’ll find that doing your gardening in a greenhouse offers an exhilarating sense of freedom – and lots of gardening fun.
And by the way: Though I’ve admitted above that a greenhouse isn’t a Garden of Eden, it’s easy to believe otherwise when I step inside one of my greenhouses on a bitter cold winter’s day.
I can remove my coat, and comfortably work among my plants in shirtsleeves. Though winter rages outside, it’s magically held at bay by only a few thousands of an inch thickness of plastic.
As I work, my breath provides a bit of extra carbon dioxide for my plants, and they enrich the atmosphere with oxygen for me. And we all enjoy the virtual springtime oasis created by the snug and cozy greenhouse.
No, it’s not the Garden of Eden. But it can’t be far off.
Are YOU Interested in Greenhouse Gardening?
Regardless of your decision to grow determinate or indeterminate plants, I would still recommend using some kind of tomato support technique. Some gardeners believe in letting their plants grow wildly, and allowing them to settle on the ground, but once they sprout tomatoes, any that are touching the ground will quickly become rotten and unusable. Another negative to this theory is that when a tomato plant contacts the ground, it is more easily affected by disease, fungus, and pests.
garden plant supports
There are many options for tomato plant support, and you will have to decide which one is the best for you. The type of support system you’ll see more often than any other is staking. The length of the stake should be somewhere in 3 to 6 foot range. Indeterminate plants require the longer end of the range due to the fact that they grow taller and taller through the season. You can purchase commercially produced stakes that are made of fiberglass or bamboo, or use metal rebar or wooden fence planks. The type of stake you choose is not important, but make sure you bury it no less than 1 foot into the soil so that windy weather won’t topple over your plants. You also want to install the stakes at the beginning of your growing season so as not to disturb the roots.
garden plant supports
As your plant begins to grow higher, you can attach it to the stake. It is important not to use any type of wire or twine, because it will grow into the plant stems and damage them. I recommend using old cloth rags torn from shirts, silk panty hose, or something of that nature to tie up the plants. Make sure to tie the stem loosely to the stake using a figure 8 type knot. If at some point later in the season, your plant height exceeds that of the stake, simply prune the top of the plant to make sure it doesn’t get too tall that it can’t be supported any longer.
Now, for the next system of tomato support, which is known as caging. It can be a little bit more expensive of a technique to set up, but it works really well at ensuring the plants continue to grow upward and not outward. As with most gardening implements, you can purchase ready-made caging systems, or you can construct your own. If you choose to make them yourself, you’ll need to buy some metal concrete mesh from the hardware supplier. It is sold in large “rolls” and you’ll need to cut it down to the right size for tomato garden applications, and 5 foot lengths work well. Cut the bottom rung from the mesh, leaving the little metal “stakes” on the bottom of the cage. This is what you’ll be planting into the ground. As the plants continue to grow, weave the stems through the mesh of the cage. By doing this, you will be making sure no parts of the plant hit the ground, and more sun and air will be able to get to your plants.
If you are new to tomato gardening, or haven’t tried staking or caging before, I highly recommend giving it a try during the next growing season. Tomato support systems are a very effective way to keep your plants healthier, grow taller, and produce more and more delicious tomatoes!