How to Build a Greenhouse
More and more people across the United States are growing fresh food in backyard gardens. The Slow Food movement promotes local, organic foods over fast food produced with pesticides on factory farms. Many people who don’t have backyards or live in apartments can grow food with their neighbors in a community garden. Gardening is a great way to become self-sufficient or turn a profit. It also gives you an opportunity to enjoy working in the outdoors. A serious gardener can grow delicious fruits and vegetables at home by building a greenhouse.
How Do Greenhouses Work?
Greenhouses retain heat and keep your plants warm in the winter through a process called convection. The glass or plastic sides admit many types of solar radiation, but greenhouses reflect infrared light and heat as it rises from the ground and the plants inside.
Many greenhouses have windows that open so that you can let heat out and allow cool, fresh air in before your plants get too hot. Some also have fans to circulate air, manage humidity levels, and prevent rot, mold, and mildew. With a greenhouse, you can grow fruits and vegetables such as oranges and olive trees even in cold climates in the middle of winter. A greenhouse will also protect your plants from high winds, heavy rain, and other harsh weather.
How to Build a Greenhouse
- Build a Greenhouse on a Level Surface
- Use Aerial Lifts for Lifting Greenhouse Parts
- Use a Telehandler to Move Heavy Items
- Use a Boom Lift for Lighter Materials
- Use a Scissor Lift to Move Items and Workers in Tight Spaces
- Install Solar Panels and Grow Lights
Build your greenhouse on a level surface. If it’s on a slope or at the bottom of a hill, too much rainwater could collect, leaving the soil overly wet and damaging the greenhouse foundation. The rain could also cause erosion and take away from your greenhouse the nutrients your plants need to grow.
You can use a laser level, also called an automatic or engineering level, to make sure that you build your greenhouse on a flat surface. Transit or theodolite levels are also available. They look like telescopes on tripods, and they’re often used for precise surveying.
If the place where you want to build a greenhouse isn’t completely flat, you can make it level with a rototiller. These machines look like miniature versions of plows, and gas or electricity can power them.
Rototillers break up the roots of weeds and the soil where you plan to place your greenhouse. If you want, you can grow plants from seeds directly on a soil-based floor inside a greenhouse. With the help of a level, you can use a rototiller to create a flat surface for easy construction and use this piece of equipment to work fertilizer or compost into the soil.
To build a greenhouse, you’ll need to lift objects such as wood beams and fragile panes of glass. Many of these parts are too large for you to install using a ladder. A telehandler, a boom lift, or a scissor lift can lift these objects for you, and these lifts come with safety railings to keep parts from falling and breaking or hurting people on the ground.
A telehandler, also called a telescopic handler, looks like a boom lift, but it doesn’t have the same hinges as an articulating boom lift. The end can have a work platform, tines like a forklift, a bucket, or other attachments for excellent flexibility. Telehandlers can lift from 4,400 lbs to 12,000 lbs, and they’re between 19 ft and 54 ft tall.
After you have your heavy material already in place, you can use a boom lift to work on the slightly smaller stuff. A boom lift can be from 30 ft to 180 ft tall, and you can choose an electric, diesel, or dual-fuel model. If you plan to do some construction work inside of your greenhouse space, electric boom lifts are best because they don’t create harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide.
If you need to reach over or around obstacles, use an articulating boom lift, also called a cherry picker or a knuckle boom. These machines have two or more hinged sections for an extensive range of motion. They can also fit between buildings and other obstacles and through doorways. Most have four-wheel drive so that you can use them on any terrain.
A scissor lift can carry up to 2,500 lbs, and it gets its name because the parts of the lift that move the platform resemble several sets of scissors. A scissor lift can only go up and down, not from side to side like a boom lift.
You can choose a model from 26 ft to 50 ft tall, and many scissor lifts will work on rough terrain. The platforms can be from 2 ft wide, and 5 ft long to 4 ft wide and 10 ft long, so more than one person and a variety of materials and equipment can fit. You can operate many scissor lifts from the platform without another person at the base. A scissor lift can prove helpful if you need to access the ceiling of your greenhouse to install solar panels and grow lights (see section below).
You can add solar panels to your greenhouse to power fans, water pumps, grow lights and other equipment. In cold climates, you may need solar panels to provide extra heating as well. However, using the sun to heat the air inside your greenhouse directly is more efficient. The glass walls and roof of a greenhouse can keep the warm air near your plants in all but the coldest conditions.
Grow lights simulate the light from the sun, letting your plants thrive no matter how rainy or cloudy the weather is outside. Incandescent bulbs are least expensive, but they produce heat that could damage your plants. Fluorescent lights create less heat and are relatively inexpensive compared to High-Intensity Discharge or LED lights that are more costly, but they’re efficient to use. Look for lights with a blue tint to promote vegetative growth and switch to a red or orange hue to encourage your plants to flower.
You can save money when building your greenhouse by renting the equipment you need, such as a scissor lift or a boom lift, from BigRentz. When you do, you won’t have to pay for transportation to your job site, storage, maintenance, repairs, or insurance. You can also choose the best machinery to build your greenhouse without paying a premium price. Rent for as little as a few hours or more than a month with no hassles.
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