The Pros and Cons of Greenhouse Gardening

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greenhouse gardening pros and cons

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The dream of a year-round harvest and the ability to grow exotic fruits and vegetables can be incredibly enticing. This is where greenhouses come in, offering a controlled environment to nurture plants. However, the “greenhouse vs garden” debate is a real one for aspiring green thumbs. 

While greenhouses boast impressive capabilities, traditional gardens offer a simpler approach. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of greenhouse vs traditional gardening to help you settle on the right fit for your gardening aspirations this year.

Benefits of Greenhouse Gardening

greenhouse vs garden

1. Ability to control the growing environment

Growing plants in a greenhouse allow you to tweak the environment for optimal plant growth.

By controlling temperature, humidity, and light levels, growers can ensure that plants receive the ideal amount of each of these factors.

A controlled environment also protects the plants from pests and diseases. Keeping the greenhouse free of insects and fungi minimizes the need for pesticides and herbicides, both of which can be harmful to plants.

Greenhouse gardening provides a consistent and stable environment, helping you produce higher quality and quantity crops.

2. Extend the growing season

Savvy farmers use greenhouses to start and extend the growing season.

Enclosing a planting area in a structure that traps heat creates a microclimate ideal for crop growth. In the spring, greenhouses are used to start plants earlier than possible outdoors. In the fall, you can extend the growing season by protecting plants from frost damage.

In addition to starting and extending the growing season, greenhouses protect plants from pests and diseases. By controlling the environment inside the greenhouse, you can create an inhospitable environment for pests and diseases, preventing them from damaging your crops.

3. Experiment with different crops

Greenhouses provide a controlled environment for crops, a valuable asset for farmers in regions with challenging growing conditions. By regulating temperature, humidity, and ventilation, greenhouses create an optimal environment for plant growth, regardless of external conditions.

This allows farmers to grow crops that would otherwise not be able to thrive in the region.

For example, many tropical plants can only be successfully grown in a greenhouse due to their requirement for high humidity levels. Similarly, the controlled environment inside a greenhouse protects delicate flowers that would be damaged by frost.

Greenhouse Downsides

pros and cons of greenhouse

1. Steep initial costs

The initial costs of setting up a greenhouse may be prohibitive to would-be gardeners.

Assuming you’re starting from scratch, the initial costs of setting up a greenhouse garden can be broken down into three categories: the cost of the greenhouse itself, the cost of preparing the site, and the cost of planting and maintaining the garden.

The cost of your greenhouse will vary depending on the size and type of greenhouse you choose. A small hobby greenhouse can start as low as $200, while a larger, commercial-grade greenhouse can cost upwards of $10,000. If you have the handyman skills to build your greenhouse, you can save money on this upfront cost.

The second major cost is preparing the site. The cost is minimal when you already have a suitable location for your greenhouse. However, these costs add up quickly if you need to level or grade the land, install a foundation, or run utilities to the site.

There are also the ongoing costs of planting and maintaining your garden. These costs vary depending on the type of plants you grow and the level of maintenance required. However, you can generally expect to spend around $50 per month on things like seeds, fertilizer, potting soil, and pest control.

2. Extra upkeep

Greenhouse gardens require more frequent attention than traditional gardens for a few reasons.

First, greenhouses quickly trap heat and humidity because they are enclosed, leading to fungal problems like mold and mildew.

Greenhouses that rely on artificial lighting may require more watering than traditional gardens. As a result, greenhouse growers need to be vigilant in their maintenance to produce healthy plants.

Here is a checklist for your greenhouse garden that should be performed every week:

  • Check the vents and doors to ensure they are open or closed as needed.
  • Check the structure of the greenhouse for any signs of damage or wear. Repair any damaged areas promptly to prevent further deterioration.
  • Inspect the plants for signs of pests or disease.
  • Remove any dead leaves or flowers.
  • Water the plants as needed.
  • Check the temperature and humidity levels.
  • Adjust the ventilation as needed.

3. Susceptibility to pests and diseases

While enclosed, controlled spaces are great for plant growth; they also attract a host of challenges, especially pests and diseases.

Greenhouses provide an ideal environment for pests and diseases to flourish, and the enclosed space makes it difficult to control their spread.

In addition, many greenhouse plants are highly susceptible to pests and diseases. As a result, it is essential to take proactive measures to prevent and control these problems. Some basic steps include selecting disease-resistant varieties of plants, quarantining new arrivals, and regularly inspecting plants for signs of trouble.

In addition, prompt removal of affected plants can help to prevent the spread of pests and diseases. By taking these precautions, gardeners can minimize the impact of pests and diseases in their greenhouses.

Traditional Gardening: Cost, Control, and Climate

greenhouse vs outdoor garden

While greenhouses offer the allure of year-round harvests and exotic possibilities, gardens boast a simpler setup and a connection to the natural world. Let’s look at the other side of the greenhouse vs garden debate, exploring the pros and cons of traditional gardens in terms of cost, control, and climate.

Cost-Effective Gardening

Traditional gardens hold a clear advantage in terms of upfront costs. Setting up a garden bed typically involves basic tools, seeds, and potentially some soil amendments. Compared to the expense of purchasing or constructing a greenhouse, outfitting it with heating/cooling systems, and factoring in ongoing electricity and water bills, a garden offers a budget-friendly entry point into the world of growing. 

While ongoing costs like pest control and soil maintenance can add up, they generally pale in comparison to the ongoing expenses associated with greenhouses.

A Natural Balance of Control

While a greenhouse allows for complete control over temperature, humidity, and light, gardens offer a different kind of control – the art of working with nature. 

Seasoned gardeners learn to read the signs – the tilt of the sun, the feel of the soil – to choose the right plants for the right places and anticipate seasonal changes. This fosters an understanding of the natural rhythms of growth, encouraging the selection of plants that thrive in your specific climate.

Embracing the Local Climate

Gardens allow plants to adapt and develop resilience to the natural fluctuations of your local climate. This can lead to hardier plants that require less intervention. 

While some delicate or exotic plants may not survive outdoors, gardens excel at cultivating vegetables, fruits, and flowers that are well-suited to your region. This not only reduces the need for artificial climate control but also promotes a more sustainable gardening practice.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while greenhouses offer unparalleled climate control and extended growing seasons, their cost and maintenance needs can be significant. Traditional gardens, on the other hand, are more affordable and require less upkeep, but are at the mercy of the elements.

The choice between a greenhouse and a garden depends on your budget, desired level of control, and climate, making both options valuable tools for cultivating a thriving world of plants.

  • Clara Rosedale

    Clara is a renowned gardening writer and environmental advocate known for her insightful articles on sustainable living and organic gardening practices. With a background in horticulture and a passion for eco-friendly living, Clara's expertise and engaging writing style have made her a trusted voice in the gardening community, inspiring many to embrace a greener, more mindful way of life.

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