For those who choose an off-grid living or sustainable living lifestyle, the importance of producing one’s own organic food cannot be overstated. With limited access to supermarkets (or personal preference for avoiding them), it falls on them to grow their own fruits and vegetables. One of the most popular and economical means of accomplishing this is by using a greenhouse to house the plants. There are many options available when it comes to greenhouse construction and design: greenhouse kits that can be purchased, home greenhouses that can be constructed by a garden or landscaping service, and DIY greenhouses.
There are a variety of fruits and vegetables that can be grown all year round, which is ideal for the off-grid living enthusiast looking to raise his or her own organically-grown produce in a greenhouse. Radishes and artichokes, cabbages and lettuce, avocados, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, apricots, onions, celery, leeks, beetroot, cauliflower, kale, beans; the list goes on. Having a residential greenhouse can be a huge benefit, allowing produce to be grown effectively and in a safe environment, and have full control over the growing process and what (if any) chemicals find their way onto the plants.
Probably the easiest way to get a backyard greenhouse is by purchasing a greenhouse kit and having it installed. These kits are readily available on the internet and from local gardening centers. Greenhouse kits can range in price significantly depending on both size and material, but usually fall somewhere between $500 and $3000. Most kits come with a frame of either wood or aluminum, and a ‘glaze’ of either glass or plastic. Wooden frames do not typically last as long as aluminum ones, but are considerably more energy efficient. These greenhouse kits can often be installed or constructed by the supplier, but some personal effort may be required.
For the true off-grid living enthusiast, a Do It Yourself (DIY) greenhouse is the only way to go. Again, any greenhouse will consist of a frame and a glaze, and greenhouse plans can be easily found on the internet. The materials used will vary from plan to plan – PVC pipes, wooden planks, straw bales, window frames, even CD cases can be used. Simple greenhouses can be constructed for as little as $25, and other plans are available that only run about $1 per square foot. Another great option for small greenhouse design is what’s called a lean-to greenhouse, a design that is becoming more popular for greenhouse gardeners on a budget. Built up against the wall of an existing building, such as a house, a lean-to greenhouse is offered additional support and shelter by the building, and can be significantly less expensive to construct compared to a stand-alone greenhouse.
Also important to consider is the growth medium: greenhouse gardening can be performed using either a traditional soil medium, or a hydroponic system. Soil systems utilize a combination of the soil and fertilizers to provide the plants with nutrients, while hydroponics is based on using no soil at all, housing the plants in an inert substance such as perlite and providing water and nutrients. Both are viable options, but with the number of smaller systems controlling temperature and humidity, (among others that comprise a hydroponics system), traditional soil growth media are much easier for beginners.