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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.

Solar vs. Supplemental Heat

There is a distinction between greenhouses that are heated largely by the sun and those that receive supplemental heat. In all but the deep South of the United States, the sun is never directly overhead, but moves across the southern sky from east to west. Its arc is higher in the summer and lower in the winter.

Solar greenhouses are meant to maximize light and heat, and to heat with the same light used to grow.

Greenhouse Styles

 

Greenhouses can be either freestanding or attached to a building and come in a variety of styles. Most commercial greenhouses are freestanding structures built in exposed areas with plenty of sunlight (maximum sunlight is the most important factor for efficient plant growth).

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:

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Kids Gardening and the National Gardening Association actively work with schools and communities across the country to provide educational resources and build gardens to promote health, wellness, and sustainability.

 

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Last updated on 11/25/2014
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