all ages

Cooling

To maintain comfortable greenhouse temperatures, you may need to keep some light out of the greenhouse. Overheating problems are actually more common than underheating problems in greenhouses. Even in the North, a late spring temperature of 110° F has been recorded inside a greenhouse on a sunny day.

You can use various methods to block some of the sun's rays. These include:

Air and Soil Temperatures

Air - Plant growth requires heat. Temperature determines how quickly plants take up water and nutrients, their rate of photosynthesis, and their growth. Maintaining a comfortable air temperature for your plants can be a challenge. Generally, 50 to 60°F is a minimum temperature for greenhouse plants, while 85°F is the maximum. Plants generally do best with a 10- to 15-degree drop between day and night temperatures.

Light

Light provides the energy necessary for plants to produce food through photosynthesis. Even though the amount of light inside your greenhouse usually depends on the amount of natural sunlight available, it's helpful to understand a bit about plants' light needs.

Greenhouse Climates

The following greenhouse characterizations are based on the temperature that can be maintained inside the greenhouse. They range from the least to the most expensive to build and maintain. Refer to this information when reviewing what you want to grow in your greenhouse.

Greenhouse Conditions

Greenhouse environments require some control and monitoring

While a greenhouse can provide a delightful environment where living things thrive, it is an artificial environment in which you attempt to control as many factors as possible for the benefit of your plant denizens. It helps to recall what actually makes plants grow. Plants convert light into energy (sugar) during photosynthesis. This process requires light, carbon dioxide, temperatures between 45°F and 85°F, and water.

Glazing

The material that covers a greenhouse and through which the sunlight passes is called glazing. There are many types available, each with advantages and disadvantages. These include glass, acrylic, polycarbonate panels, polyethylene films, and fiberglass. If you're building, buying, or reconstructing a greenhouse, you'll want to talk with experts and manufacturers about the pros, cons, and costs of various materials.

Location

Whether your greenhouse is attached or freestanding, it's important to choose a location (site) that will give you the most sunlight when it's in use, during fall and spring for most schools.

Figuring Costs

The cost of building or buying a greenhouse varies tremendously. It could range from several hundred dollars for an unheated polyethylene greenhouse to $3,500 or more for a year-round, automated, heated structure. Northern climate growers should consider the cost of heating, while schools in southern climates need to be more concerned with ventilating and cooling.

Growing Wildlife Habitats

"There is such a push to teach kids about biodiversity and interdependence through studying rainforests that are thousands of miles away, but it's much more powerful and effective to first explore these same concepts up close in our own backyards," says Waco, TX, educator Mary Nied Phillips.

In an effort to increase biodiversity on their urban school grounds, Mary's primary students turned a grassy courtyard into a thriving "wildscape."

Cultivating Keen Observers

Inviting students to closely inspect materials and phenomena in the natural world can spark their interest and generate compelling research questions.

Observation is also one of the primary tools we use to gather information and make sense of the world. It is a skill that many teachers assume students have, but without guidance, tools, and adequate time, student observations often lack detail and precision.

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Last updated on 12/16/2014
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