For those of us who live in colder climates, experiencing five months or more of winter each year, the benefits of greenhouse gardening can be enormous. Gardening with a greenhouse allows for an extended growing season that can begin and end months outside of the traditional outdoor growing season in your climate. Greenhouses may even allow you to grow plants year round. Greenhouses can also provide a warmer mini-climate for plants that typically would not grow in your zone, allowing you to cultivate many varieties of plants that are unique to your area.

When growing plants in a greenhouse, it's important to remember that the air temperature inside can be as much as 30 to 40 degrees warmer than the outside air temperature. While the warmer air is wonderful for your plants during the cool months of late fall, winter, and early spring, in the hot summer months, these temperatures can pose a real threat to your plants. When the temperature inside a greenhouse gets too high, your plants can actually burn. In the hottest part of the summer, it's a good idea to add a shade cloth to your greenhouse to help keep the inside temperatures down. When building your greenhouse, consider aligning the roofline in an east-west direction so that the largest area of the roof is exposed to the south. This will accomplish two things. First, if a shade cloth is required, you'll likely only need to cover the southern facing side of the roof, saving you time and money in materials. Second, by having more roof area exposed to the intense southern sun, you'll get maximum solar gain in your greenhouse during cooler months, when you need it most.

For those of us who enjoy vegetable gardening, another benefit of gardening with a greenhouse is the ability to start vegetables from seed early in the year. While many nurseries and garden centers to sell vegetables as young plants in the early part of the year, these small plants can be expensive to buy. Certainly when planting on a larger scale, starting your plants from seed is a much more economical option. Additionally, when planting some certain types of herbs and vegetables, starting plants from seed may be a requirement, as most nurseries don't grow the more obscure varieties and hybrids.

In the case of vegetables that grow well in containers, such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, strawberries, and many herbs, a greenhouse can be a way to grow your own produce year round and save money on your grocery bill. One option is to begin your vegetables in the greenhouse early in the year, and then move then outdoors during the warm summer months. When the weather cools off again in the fall, the plants can be brought back into the greenhouse to extend harvests for several more months, or as long as the lifespan of each individual plant will allow.

While a greenhouse can be a significant up front investment, the rewards of greenhouse gardening are almost endless. Your greenhouse will pay you back with new and unique varieties of plants, bigger and better harvests, and a wealth of invaluable gardening experience.

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