Why I don't want a greenhouse
I used to dream of owning a
greenhouse. In my imagination, I would be raising tropical fruits
like pineapples, mangos, and avocados and eating fresh vegetables all
winter. I also remember the pure joy I got from walking into the
biology greenhouse when I was in college and inhaling the warm
greenness while snow coated the walk outside. At first, I figured
I'd build a greenhouse as soon as I could afford it, but now I'm not so
- Greenhouses breed pests.
I love our dwarf
citrus, but I've noticed that once a year, the inside trees come
down with whitefly infestations. Luckily, I can just move the
trees into the garden in the spring and let natural predators deal with
the problem, but I've heard about hobbyists who completely gave up on
their greenhouses as a result of pest infestations. If you follow
natural gardening techniques, there are tons of critters, both in the
soil and in the air, working to make your garden a success, but you
have to fill all of those environmental niches yourself if you cut your
plants off inside a greenhouse. In the end, you usually have to
spray noxious chemicals or lose the growing space for good.
- Potted plants are a lot of work.
While we're on the topic of "nature does it better", I should admit
that I consider potted plants a pain in the butt. You've probably
noticed that I start fewer plants inside than nearly any serious
gardener, and there's a reason for that --- I'd rather not mess with
reinventing the wheel when I can get nature to do chores for me.
It is possible to plan greenhouses so they're open to the earth
underneath, but then you tend to get a buildup of buildup of
salts and other problems in the soil.
- Greenhouses have to be heated.
No matter how much you plan your greenhouse with passive solar
techniques in mind, you're going to have to add supplemental heat in
the winter if you're growing anything truly tender. Electric heat
is expensive (and getting more so), and I don't think I'm willing to
commit to stoking a wood stove in a greenhouse in the middle of the
night. That means I'd be limited to growing spring and fall crops
like broccoli and lettuce, which can be raised nearly as efficiently in
a quick hoop.
- Quick hoops are simpler. When I
learned that I could grow
tomato sets just as well in a quick hoop as under grow lights
inside, I was overjoyed. The more I use cold frames and similar
methods of protecting plants outdoors to give them an early jump on the
growing season, the more I think these techniques are my style.
Nature takes care of watering and I can easily move the quick hoops to
new patches of ground every season, so pests and diseases don't build
up in the soil.
- I love seasons. I
dream of the summer garden all winter, but I also love spending at
least a couple of months with no garden chores. Greenhouses
promise out of season bounty, but the truth is that I wouldn't want to
lose the building anticipation as I wait for the first strawberry or
Which is not to say that
I might not succumb to the greenhouse bug someday, but I hope I can
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