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 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.


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.


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."

Grass Feeds the World

Students' eyes might roll when you ask, Who eats grass for breakfast? Seize the opportunity to challenge them to bring in empty boxes, wrappers, or containers of things they ate for breakfast that week.

Ask, What part of the plant do you think we eat when we eat grasses? Offer a hint by passing around some familiar items that come from grasses: popcorn and rice. Ask, What plant parts have you observed that also look like these? Explain that while animals can digest the leaves and stems of grasses, humans worldwide depend on grass seeds for survival.

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Last updated on 01/22/2015
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