Selecting a Greenhouse

Greenhouse questions and considerations

If your school is considering building, purchasing, or resurrecting a greenhouse, there are a number of factors to consider--and questions to ask--long before you begin designing planting projects. This section highlights some of those factors.

Your decision about the type of greenhouse will be influenced by how you plan to use it.

Planning Questions

Gather key participants in your school to answer the following questions early in the planning process:

  • What are our goals in initiating a greenhouse program?
  • How do we envision using a greenhouse? (For student plant experiments? For teaching plant science concepts? For extending the outdoor gardening season? For a plant business?)
  • How many students would we like to use the greenhouse at one time? Which grades will be involved?
  • How do we want to integrate it into the curriculum at different grade levels and in different subject areas? During which seasons do we hope to use the greenhouse?
  • Who are resource people in the school experienced at indoor and/or greenhouse gardening? In the community? How much time can they commit to the project?
  • Who will be responsible for the technical aspects of greenhouse operation?
  • How committed are the school district, board, faculty, and staff to the greenhouse project?
  • Might vandalism be a problem? How can we guard against it?
  • Where might we get funding?

Talk with greenhouse builders and people at nurseries, botanical gardens, and other schools that have greenhouses to gather information specific to your situation.

Green Thumb History

The earliest recorded greenhouse was built about 30 A.D. for the Roman emperor Tiberius. Because glass had not been invented, the greenhouse (called a specularium, from the Latin "to look") was made of small clear pieces of mica, a naturally occurring mineral. It was quite time-consuming to build and was devoted to growing delicate citrus fruits. For the next 1,500 years, the wealthy people who did own greenhouses raised exotic fruits and flowers. From the 1800s on, developments in technology provided new materials at lower cost and higher efficiency. What more can your students learn about the history of greenhouses?

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