Have you made the switch to organic food? It’s a trend that continues to grow in popularity, reflecting increased consumer interest in the health benefits and reduced environmental impact of organic produce.
Organic food does tend to cost more than it’s alternatives though. A great solution to this problem is to embrace organic gardening, and grow your own organic produce for a fraction of the cost.
What is organic gardening?
Organic gardening involves growing fruit and vegetables using only natural methods. Synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides are a no-go with this approach. The aim is to grow produce in harmony with nature, without upsetting the natural balance of the ecosystem.
If you’re thinking about making the switch to organic kitchen gardening, the first thing you should do is identify an outdoor area for your plot. This could be a part of your garden, or an area of your patio if you’d like to grow in containers.
Why should you build a greenhouse for kitchen gardening?
Installing a greenhouse for organic gardening is a great idea for a number of reasons.
- You can maintain an optimum growing temperature inside the greenhouse, which allows you to extend the growing period well beyond the warmest months of the year.
- A greenhouse protects your plants from unfavourable weather conditions, pests, and predators – great from an organic viewpoint.
- You can utilise a small area to grow a wide variety of plants. You can also use a greenhouse to grow exotic plants that wouldn’t survive outdoors.
Types of greenhouses
There are plenty of greenhouse designs that cater to particular needs. This means it’s easy to choose a greenhouse structure that best suits your requirements. Here’s a quick guide to the main types of greenhouse, based on structure and covering material.
Based on structure
Greenhouses are classified into various types based on the design of the structure.
1. An Even Span Type Greenhouse is the standard greenhouse structure, with roof slopes of equal pitch and width. Even span designs need to be constructed on levelled grounds, and are often used for small-sized greenhouses.
2. An Uneven Span Type Greenhouse is usually constructed in hilly areas. The roof sections are of unequal width, which makes the structure suitable for uneven grounds.
3. A Ridge and Furrow Type Greenhouse is constructed by connecting two or more A-frame greenhouses along the length. The side walls are eliminated, resulting in a single large structure with a huge interior.
4. A Lean-to Type Greenhouse structure is used when the greenhouse is designed adjacent to other buildings. This type of greenhouse is usually attached to the adjoining building.
Based on covering material
The covering material has a direct impact on the air temperature inside the structure, and as such it plays a primary role in the performance of a greenhouse. Based on the covering material, greenhouses are divided into the following types.
1. A Glass Greenhouse has glass as the covering material. This type of greenhouse can maintain greater light intensity and lower humidity.
2. A Plastic Film Greenhouse has a flexible plastic film covering. Polyethylene, polyester, and polyvinyl chloride are used to cover the structure. Plastic film greenhouses have become popular mainly due to their cost-effectiveness.
3. Rigid Panel Greenhouses are covered with polyvinyl chloride rigid panels, fibreglass-reinforced plastic, acrylic, or polycarbonate sheets. Most commonly, plexiglass sheets cut to size are used as the covering material in this type of greenhouse. It is durable and helps maintain uniform light intensity throughout the greenhouse.
Glass, acrylic, or plastic – which one is better?
With all the various types of greenhouses described above, you may now be confused as to which covering material to use for your kitchen garden.
Although glass greenhouses can conserve a better light intensity inside, installing these greenhouses can be expensive. In addition, glass is vulnerable to breakages, which can be a safety issue and incur additional cost.
Plastic film covering is cheap. However, its short service life makes plastic a poor option (unless you intend on only having a greenhouse for a short amount of time).
This leaves us with acrylic or polycarbonate sheets. Here’s why acrylic sheets are a good choice.
Benefits of building a greenhouse using acrylic sheets
In recent years, polycarbonate sheets have become a popular choice for greenhouse covering. In fact, plexiglass (acrylic) has replaced glass as the main covering material. This graphic gives you a quick guide to the benefits of plexiglass covering.
It’s shatter proof!
If you have children or grandchildren playing around the greenhouse, you definitely need to think about safety. Unlike glass, polycarbonate sheets are flexible, which means they can cope with the impact of balls, toys and even rocks without breaking. Polycarbonate sheets won’t be damaged by hailstones either.
More effective plant growth
The optimal sunlight needs of most plants range from 70 to 75%. Due to the high absorption ability of glass, light can have a burning effect in glass greenhouses.
By contrast, acrylic sheets have a natural ultraviolet filter that protects plants from excessive exposure to UV radiation. Plexiglass acts as a light diffuser and helps to maintain optimum heat across the greenhouse.
For rigid panel greenhouses, plexiglass is cut to size and installed on the structure. Plexiglass is durable and highly impact resistant. Therefore, greenhouses with acrylic covering can operate effectively for much longer periods of time.
If you’d like to spend more time gardening, and less time taking care of your greenhouse, polycarbonate sheets are pretty low maintenance. Unlike glass, you can also easily replace the sheets once they wear out by cutting plexiglass to size and installing the sheets yourself.
Easy on the wallet
Greenhouses used to cost much more than they do today. With the widespread use of plexiglass, a gardening enthusiast can easily get a well-functioning greenhouse at a very reasonable price. Polycarbonate greenhouses are not only cost-effective, but also offer more benefits than a conventional glass greenhouse.
Longer growing season
As we’ve already mentioned, acrylic sheets are capable of diffusing light evenly throughout the greenhouse. This means you shouldn’t need to install artificial heating in an acrylic greenhouse. The plants will get just the right amount of energy and light, allowing you to easily grow your favourite fruit and vegetables pretty much all year round.
Polycarbonate sheets are lightweight, which makes them very easy to handle. There is no need to provide extra supports for holding the sheets in place. By contrast, glass is very heavy, and you need to be extremely careful while handling it.
Acrylic greenhouses are easier to install. You just need to assemble the sheets of plexiglass cut to size and you’re done. The complete job typically takes a maximum of one day. Installing a glass greenhouse requires a lot more time, as well as professional assistance.
Better heat insulation
Plexiglass has better heat insulation properties, which is a great advantage over glass. Acrylic retains heat inside the structure, effectively allowing less heat to escape. This maintains a higher average temperature and provides better growing conditions for your plants.
Acrylic greenhouses are available in a wider range of shapes and designs than traditional greenhouses. You can ask for pretty much any design, shape, or size, or you can choose a modular design and alter it according to your requirements.
Glass greenhouses are still popular due to their classic feel. However, the advantages that acrylic provides over glass are substantial. If you’re a home gardener, and want to provide the best growing conditions for your plants, it makes sense to go for an acrylic greenhouse. Set one up in your backyard and see your organic garden flourish!