The Optimal Greenhouse Site

the possibilities are endless - but choose wisely

Best Greenhouse Location Tips

you’ve decided you want a greenhouse…next is deciding the best greenhouse location and where to put it.

You know what you want to grow, how you plan on growing it, and you even know full well the amazing advantages for making this transition. Your first questions may be: “Where do I even start? How do I go about this to make sure that my system becomes a success?”

There are a lot of smart things to plan for before building and constructing your greenhouse. But there’s one very important thing to consider long before you ever break ground or unwrap that plastic: and that’s choosing the best greenhouse location.

Maybe you have a picturesque hobby farm, and that spot you’ve always imagined would be perfect for such a structure. Or perhaps you’re a full-time farming entrepreneur and you’re not too picky about where your structure will go in the long run – just so long as it does the job. Regardless of which, you’ll have to take a good look at your desired spot to make sure that it’s an ideal greenhouse location, and for a number of important reasons.

It’s not just about appearance, aesthetics, or convenience. There’s a whole lot more to the best greenhouse location than meets the eye. With that said, let’s take a deeper look at what these factors may be.

1. SLOPE

Want to set up your structure on that beautiful hillside you’ve always been admiring? Think again! For the most reliable and stable structure possible, you’re going to want completely level ground as a foundation. Slopes will, obviously, be difficult areas to work with under your cover, especially if you want those desired level rows, raised beds, or growing benches and that are the most ideal. Slopes also won’t contribute to a durable, safe structure in the long run, either.

That’s not to say that you can’t level certain areas for the best greenhouse site possible, just like you would with a house or another building for your target site. Slopes and hillsides can have areas dug up, flattened, or bull-dozed to make them more suitable, and then have foundations laid (optional, of course). Just be prepared for some extra labor and costs becoming a part of your project.

Slope1

2. DRAINAGE

Most drainage problems have to do with slope, but not all slope issues have to do with drainage. This is why, separate from slope, you should take the drainage of your chosen area into account. Take a good look at your future site: is the land shaped in a way that water will drain away from soil underneath your cover, instead of pooling there and remaining trapped? Is the site you’re choosing in a low spot or flood plain? Or is it on higher ground? Is it running length-wise along a slant, so that moisture from one end might drain down into another?

Areas that water drains into are very undesirable for the best greenhouse site. Not only do they lead to standing water and soils too saturated for direct planting, but the moisture also creates a breeding zone for illnesses, diseases, fungal issues, pests, and more – all of which have unhealthy impacts on your plants. Further, sites with an uneven slope (where moisture could drain from one part into another) can lead to radical variations in quality among the plants you grow, with some receiving more moisture than others (particularly if you’re planting straight into the ground).

Like slopes, however, there are ways to get the drainage you want out of your site – that is, if you’re prepared for extra work and spending. Installing drain tile is one example to get the drainage you desire. However, this may have some erosion and environmental impacts on other areas of your property, and requires careful planning in and of itself to be ecologically responsible. Keep all this in mind to get the perfect greenhouse location.

3. ORIENTATION AND EXPOSURE

Opting for a level, well-drained greenhouse building site is very important for your future growing structure. However, you’ll also have to think long and hard about whether or not your structure will be getting enough sunlight – yet another important facet of your growing system. To ensure that your setup will provide optimum sunlight for your plants, there’s really only a handful of details you’ll need to consider.

First of all: will your building go in a very clear and open area, far away from trees and other structures? Does your desired spot also give your greenhouse building the ability to run east-west, rather than north-south? This second part might not seem like a huge detail. But think about it: since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, structures running in an east-to-west direction guarantee that all plants get equal amounts of sunlight, rather than cast shade over each other (which happens in north-to-south buildings).

As it relates to orientation too, make sure that your structure gets a great deal more exposure to the southern skies. This is where your plants will be getting most of their sunlight from throughout the winter especially (in the Northern Hemisphere, that is). Placing your greenhouse just north of a tree line, for example, will cause the trees to cast shade on it all day. (And that’s definitely no good!)

While you may have eyed that one pretty spot you’ve always thought would be the best greenhouse location, make sure to give this site another look-over before building. If only a north-to-south building might fit there – or if it’s too close to a tree line – it’s time to continue searching for the best greenhouse site.

Orientation_And_Exposure

4. EXISTING WEED PRESSURE

This aspect of your perfect greenhouse location really depends on one factor: will you be planting directly into the soil under your cover, or no? If yes, before setting up your structure, take a good look at what kinds of plants and weeds are growing in that spot to start with. These plants will be your companions (or enemies, if you look at it that way) for the years to come. Are there rigorous grasses, thistle, knotweed, poison ivy? Or are you looking at a site with relatively few invasive weeds to worry about?

Why even worry in the first place? Well, keep in mind that any plants growing there before you will be your weeding competition. Especially if you grow organically in a greenhouse, these will be the ones you’ll battle time and time again, just to make room for the domestic plants you’ll be growing commercially (or as a hobby). Remember too that the bounteous, nurturing environment you’ll be creating for your directly planted crops (such as with compost, compost teas, worm castings, and fertilizers) will also provide advantages for weeds there as well. You can bet they’ll grow faster than and out-compete your crops in that case, and if there’s enough of them around.

So if you’re eyeing that site with the enormous stand of thistle or aggressive ragweed, maybe think of an alternative spot that won’t require nearly so much work – unless you’re ready and willing to weed.

5. WIND EXPOSURE

One last detail to keep in mind for the perfect greenhouse location is wind exposure. While plastic-covered growing structures are manufactured to be very stable, accidents can and do happen; hardline winds and storms are the most common causes for damage to plastic, whether that be rips, tears, detached pieces, and more.

In the wrong windy situations, these structures can become disastrous, even dangerous out-of-control umbrellas. If too much wind catches inside them, the whole structure billows, breaks, and can even tear clear out of the ground if not built up to safety codes, or fastened to a secure location. To avoid this though, full wind protection can be a tricky thing to account for, but it’s not impossible to prevent during the layout phase.

Generally, avoid sites that are at the very tops of tall hills or ridges in windy regions, or from areas with very open north or western exposure. The presence of tree lines, structures, hillsides, ridges, and more can all be protective against too much wind on your greenhouse, but these things also cast shade as well, so you can’t be too close.

Strategizing the placement of your greenhouse so it perfectly balances sun exposure with wind exposure is the real challenge. Still, getting the most out of both elements is the sign of a successful greenhouse – and all it takes is a little planning.

WHERE WILL YOU PUT YOUR GREENHOUSE?

Got some new, fresh ideas for where you’ll be placing your covered growing system? Better yet: have the tips in this article given you some confidence in the process? Securing the best greenhouse location is one of the many ways you’ll ensure that your project will be a success – and it’s quite easy.

In no time, you’ll be growing healthy, beautiful plants in the spacious greenhouse structure you’ve been picturing and even designing for so long. To make sure it truly lasts, however, the best greenhouse location really matters – don’t skip it as a step!

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Adrian White is an organic farmer of near a decade, and a food, health, and sustainable ag writer of 6 years. Her writing can be found in publications like The Guardian and Civil Eats, and she is also a regular contributor to Rodale's Organic Life and Healthline. She lives in Iowa as co-owner of organic farm Jupiter Ridge Mushrooms and Veg, fueled by her passion as a next-generation farmer.

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Adrian White is an organic farmer of near a decade, and a food, health, and sustainable ag writer of 6 years. Her writing can be found in publications like The Guardian and Civil Eats, and she is also a regular contributor to Rodale's Organic Life and Healthline. She lives in Iowa as co-owner of organic farm Jupiter Ridge Mushrooms and Veg, fueled by her passion as a next-generation farmer.

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