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A greenhouse is a structure that allows people to regulate climatic conditions, such as temperature and humidity, to create an optimal environment for plant growth. Greenhouses can be used for a variety of purposes, from growing food to cultivating ornamental plants. On this page, you will find information on different types of greenhouses, their construction, and how to use them sustainably.

Greenhouses are one (expensive) way of growing under cover.

Greenhouse redirects here. For information on the greenhouse effect, see Global warming.

Types[edit | edit source]

Cold Frame[edit | edit source]

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A cold frame (also known as a hotbed) is a way of growing young plants during the cold end of winter or start of spring, keeping them warm to give them a chance to survive and thrive despite the cold. A cold frame consists of a wooden box with a glass lid that can be opened and closed with ease. The cold frame acts as a mini greenhouse which can be opened to take advantage of the day's heat and closed to keep the warmth in at night.

Cloche[edit | edit source]

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From Cloche
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A cloche, French for "bell", is a miniature greenhouse that can be placed directly over plants.

A DIY cloche can be made from a plastic bottle; alternatively, just the bottom can be cut off and the top pressed into the ground, providing warmth and protection for seedlings. In cold climates this allows seeds to be planted a few weeks earlier. The cap may be used for further control - remove it in warm weather, replace it at nights. A simpler way is to leave it off entirely - this will still offer some protection (though not as much) while needing less attention (and less concern about letting the seedlings overheat by leaving the cap on during a warm day). Further info: An internet search for plastic-bottle miniature-greenhouse yields many relevant hits.

Plastic bottle greenhouse[edit | edit source]

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Photo by Eljay CC-by-SA

It is possible to build viable greenhouses with only the following construction materials:

  • Plastic bottles
  • Structural material (timber, brick, etc)
  • Wire, or resilient cord
  • Fasteners (nails/screws)

Seawater Greenhouses[edit | edit source]

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Fig.1 A diagram of a Seawater Greenhouse [2

Seawater greenhouse is a new form of technology, invented by Charlie Paton that can help to address water scarcity and quality problems. So far this form of technology has only been implemented in a handful of pilot systems around the world and all of these are still currently in progress; however, they show extremely high promise in the areas they have been deployed and give hope for the struggles of the people living in arid lands. Currently, there is no determined limit to the applications or the lifetime of the greenhouses. Thus, seawater greenhouses are not applicable everywhere.

Seawater greenhouses vary a fair amount from the conventional Dutch greenhouses, which is what the public normally associates greenhouses with. The differences though, are pretty astounding as they work in similar, but much more sustainable ways. They can be cheaper than the standard Dutch Greenhouse, they provide free water with no upkeep costs and without running into the carbon dioxide constrictions that Dutch greenhouses typically run into.

Chicken greenhouse[edit | edit source]

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The chicken greenhouse is a design concept proposed by Bill Mollison and frequently mentioned in permaculture literature and courses. It is a combination of chicken coop and greenhouse. Body heat from the chickens would serve to heat the greenhouse during cold weather. Thus it is often used as an example to illustrate permaculture principles such as stacking functions. Despite the spread of the concept, there are few known attempts to build a chicken greenhouse.

Chinese Solar Greenhouse[edit | edit source]

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Farmers in Chinese greenhouse. Background shows implementation using concrete supports, a very economical and common design option.

There is a special type of solar greenhouse that is common in China but largely unknown in the rest of the world. The concept originated in the 1970s and 80s and has been promoted by the government in China. To maximize solar heat collection, the greenhouse is facing south but has solid walls on its north (back), east and west side. Another feature is that it can be covered with insulating material at night (straw mats, other), which is then rolled up again in the morning. Most of these greenhouses do not require extra heating during the cold season, yet still manage to avoid freezing temperatures. The precise geometric configuration depends on latitude. All sorts of variations exist, from very low-tech, build-it-yourself versions with simple materials (bricks, rammed earth, bamboo, etc.) to very high-tech versions (steel, ventilation). The articles linked below, especially the one from Low-Tech Magazine, have much more information and photos.

Related projects[edit | edit source]

Project examples[edit | edit source]

1 million pounds of food on 3 acres[edit | edit source]

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  • 10,000 fish
  • 300-500 yards worm compost
  • 3 acres of land in green houses
  • Grow all year using heat from compost piles.
  • Using vertical space
  • Simple 1 pump aquaponics

A packed greenhouse produces a crop value of $5 Square Foot! ($200,000/acre). That is if the whole acre was under greenhouse.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

FA info icon.svgAngle down icon.svgPage data
Keywords agriculture, solar, construction, sustainable farm energy alternatives, gardening
SDG SDG02 Zero hunger, SDG07 Affordable and clean energy, SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities, SDG12 Responsible consumption and production
Authors KVDP, Chris Watkins
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Translations Russian, Spanish
Related 2 subpages, 239 pages link here
Aliases Greenhouse
Impact 2,978 page views
Created February 18, 2007 by Curt B's bot
Modified October 23, 2023 by Maintenance script
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