How Does a Greenhouse Work? | Everything You Need to Know

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Is there any better place to grow plants than a greenhouse? WE DON’T THINK SO!


What is a greenhouse exactly?

How does a greenhouse work?

What makes it so beneficial?

And what should you consider if you’re building one?

We answer all these questions and more below. If you want to learn EVERYTHING, there’s to know about greenhouses and how to use one to boost your plant-growing skills – check it all out below!

How Greenhouse Works in Brief?

How Greenhouse Works in Brief

The process is as simple as you can imagine. Here’s how it goes:

  • Light hits the greenhouse
  • This light warms up the exterior
  • The warmth slowly crawls inside
  • This warmth circulates inside
  • Plants absorb part of the light while other plants reflect the light out
  • As the greenhouse warms up further, moisture occurs
  • Air flows freely (given enough ventilation)
  • Plants grow and thrive in this warm yet moist environment

In short words, a greenhouse helps to warm up the interior so plants can withstand harsher environments without struggling.

Many other steps and processes happen in-between, but this will give you a general idea of what happens.

The Greenhouse Effect in a Greenhouse

What happens inside a greenhouse is pretty much the greenhouse effect.

Consider the earth. It has an atmosphere. This thick cover maintains the warmth and oxygen inside. As the sun hits the atmosphere, it fades out lightly. This prevents the sun from hitting everything under the atmosphere too strongly and causing damage.

Another similar effect would be cloud covers. Don’t you sometimes feel weirdly warmer when there are many clouds than when the sky is clear? That’s because heat tends to stay under the clouds as it can’t pass through them. But when the clouds go away, the warmth goes up without getting trapped.

The same happens with a greenhouse. A plastic, glass, or fabric cover prevents the warmth and moisture from going away. In the meantime, it protects against harsh sun rays. It does the same job as an atmosphere or clouds but at a way smaller scale.

Why Greenhouse Effect is Important?

A planet is a gigantic place despite being just a tiny dot in a milky way. Some areas in the earth have freezing temperatures for most of the year. Without the greenhouse effect (atmosphere maintaining warmth), it wouldn’t be only a few places with freezing temperatures…

It would be the entire world.

The greenhouse effect is a lifesaver. Without it, most of the earth’s life wouldn’t exist. This includes most plants.

With that in mind, imagine growing plants outside of their temperature range. For example, a cactus in a far northern or southern area. Would that be possible? Without a greenhouse or any other method of warming the environment – probably not.

That’s when the greenhouse effect inside a greenhouse increases and keeps temperatures higher than average. This offers a wide arrange of benefits, but the best is obviously the rise in temperatures that makes life possible in unlikely places.

How Does a Greenhouse Help Plants Grow?

How Does a Greenhouse Help Plants Grow

If a greenhouse works by harnessing the power of the greenhouse effect – how does that help plants?

Here are a few ways a greenhouse benefits your garden:

  • Ideal Environment

Don’t stay away from plants that aren’t supposed to grow in your region.

Say you want to grow succulents that require warm areas, but you live in a pretty close place.

No worries. Install a greenhouse, a few heaters, and make sure the sun hits the plant consistently.

You will get thriving succulents in no time.

A greenhouse makes it possible to achieve that ideal environment by increasing temperatures and humidity. Whether you’re growing succulents or tropical plants, a greenhouse will work to perfection.

  • Extended Growth

Alongside the perfect environment under the greenhouse, you also get the chance to grow plants for longer than usual.

Let’s imagine you’re growing a plant that starts to lose its leaves in the fall when the cold wind hits. A greenhouse can prevent this cold wind from hitting, thus keeping the plant with leaves for longer.

The same could happen if you want to extend the harvesting season. Plants that require warm areas to bloom and fruit will remain blooming and fruiting for longer, given the warmth never goes away.

  • Climate Protection

Live in a place where harsh winds, heavy rains, and scorching sunrays are common? A greenhouse will keep your plants away from any of that.

The weather can be pretty unforgiving to plants. But a protective structure like a greenhouse keeps them free of damage, whether frosts from early fall or the beaming sun rays from the summer.

And this is true even for the cheapest greenhouses. A simple structure covering the plants is enough to protect them from most weather dangers.

  • Pests and Critter Protection

The number one enemy of some plants is not the climate but other living beings. Insects and plant-eating animals can be life-threatening to many species.

That’s why the shelter from a greenhouse is sometimes more than enough to keep these things away. Pests won’t be able to go inside, given the solid structure. Critters will have a hard time even finding out about the plants.

This also comes with the advantage of fewer pesticides and repellents. Your plants will grow a lot healthier without unwanted chemicals.

  • Convenience and Ease of Use

Did we mention how a greenhouse saves you time and effort? You won’t have to be so worried about your plants or care for them so consistently. Greenhouses keep them safe and thriving.

And this is without mentioning how some greenhouses are transportable. You can move them around without making much of an effort. Some may even let you break down and rebuild within a few minutes.

Going into a greenhouse and caring for plants is also a piece of cake (especially with big ones).

How Does a Greenhouse Work Exactly? Comprehensive Explanation

How Does a Greenhouse Work Exactly Comprehensive Explanation

Feel like everything we’ve explained already is not enough? Well, then you may want to read our more complete account of how a greenhouse works.

  • Light Enters the Greenhouse

The first step is simple. Light goes into the greenhouse and stays there.

This happens because greenhouses typically have translucent walls and ceilings.

As the light goes in, plants have more readily available brightness to nurture from.

  • Heat Happens

Sunrays are hot. They produce heat. Greenhouses start to warm up as the light comes in, increasing the temperature of everything.

This happens because light produces infrared energy that harnesses the power of light, transforming it into more docile particles.

  • Structure Traps the Heat

Because the walls and ceiling are solid, there’s no way for the heat to exit.

Light particles lose the same strength as sunrays, forcing them to stay inside as infrared energy. It can’t go out.

Dark objects and surfaces exacerbate the process, increasing heat further as they can’t reflect light (and thus, energy) away.

White objects and surfaces reflect light better, increasing light strength even when transformed into infrared energy. Heat doesn’t get trapped as quickly.

  • Total Warming

As the heat stays inside the greenhouses, everything warms up from the plants to the object, the temperature increases in general.

This is increased by the air-tight nature of most greenhouses. It can be compared to getting into a garden shed in the middle of the summer. Or inside a car, after it’s spent hours under the sun.

As a consequence, moisture also happens. Moisture starts to evaporate as heat increases, keeping the environment more habitable for plants.

  • Further Warming

The more sunlight hits the greenhouse, the more heat is produced, and thus the higher the temperatures get.

This warming will depend heavily on how much sun rays hit the greenhouse. Sunny summer days intensify the heat exponentially, while overcast days tend to reduce warmth, regardless of how hot the environment is.

Keeping the greenhouse closed on cold days is essential for that reason. But ventilating when temperatures rise too much is also crucial to keep plants from frying.

  • Plants Thriving

The warmth and humidity happening inside the greenhouse give life to an essential process: photosynthesis.

As carbon dioxide, light, and moisture unite inside the greenhouse, plants use them as food. Your plants literally get nurtured when the environment achieves this perfect balance – ensuring maximum life production and sustainability.

How to Get the Most Out of a Greenhouse?

How to Get the Most Out of a Greenhouse
Garden Green Greenhouse Conservatory Plants Trees

A greenhouse gets the job done almost instantly. But it is not perfect by itself. If you want a greenhouse to help your plants thrive, follow these tips:

  • Maintain the Heat

It doesn’t matter where you live: keep the heat up.

This would obviously be harder in places where temperatures stay low for most of the year. Most plants require warmth to survive, so freezing environments will make them struggle. This also applies to the end of the summer where temperatures start to lower.

Luckily, keeping the heat is all about adding heaters. Increasing and maintaining the heat will be a lot easier with one of these.

Also, don’t forget to ensure maximum sun exposure, regardless of how little. Few things keep a greenhouse warm as much as sunlight.

  • Ensure Proper Air Circulation

Whether you’re getting heat from machines or the sun itself, you need to promote good airflow.

This is what spreads the warmth around to increase heat and keep plants healthy. Without air circulation, only a few areas would heat up (or none at all). A fan alongside the heater is always an excellent option for that.

  • Don’t Forget ventilation.

Greenhouses produce a nearly perfect environment for plants to thrive. But this environment may also become slightly toxic or unnecessarily hot (when summer arrives).

Nothing works better than a ventilation system, including fans, windows, and an air-filtering system. Together or alone, these additions may ventilate the place to prevent damage from either temperature or fungi.

  • Take Advantage of Location

The most crucial part of building a greenhouse is choosing the right place. This could be the difference between getting enough sunlight for most of the year or barely getting any.

For example, east-facing greenhouses tend to receive more sunlight than models facing other directions. Of course, this also depends on the region. Southern areas will do better with north-eastern directions, while greenhouses in northern areas do better with south-eastern sun contact.

But sunlight exposure is not enough. You also want to keep the greenhouse where weather conditions are less likely to cause damage, for example, close to other structures or trees in case of harsh winds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. How cold is too cold to install a greenhouse?

The lower temperature to keep a greenhouse working ideally would be -17 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than that will make it nearly impossible for a greenhouse to work. And even at this temperature limit, a greenhouse will only work temporarily.

Q2. Is there a way to improve greenhouses in winter?

Yes. You can use water containers to increase humidity and thus warmth inside the greenhouse. You can add a landscape cover on the floor and darker objects in the vicinity to increase heat even more. This should help maintain the greenhouse warm even in cold environments.

Q3. Are there disadvantages to greenhouses?

Yes. For one, greenhouses can be expensive, both when buying one and when maintaining them (gas, paraffin, or electricity cost money). Plus, they require maintenance and care, especially if you grow fragile plants. And lastly, they require garden space (some are gigantic, so they need a lot).

Q4. Does the floor matter inside a greenhouse?

To maintain the most heat and humidity, it’s always better to use gravel and rocks over straight-up soil. Depending on the place, slabs and concretes may also get the job done.

Q5. What is the lifespan of a greenhouse?

There’s no specific number of years you can get from a greenhouse. A quality structure may last decades or even hundreds of years, while a low-quality greenhouse may not last one winter. Go for solid materials if you want more durability.

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