A Man Arranged Some Old Windows On His Turf - And Days Later, He'd Built An Astonishing Construction

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Kirk Lewellen had windows laid out all over his yard, and the neighbors weren't too sure what to think. They were shocked to see what he did with those windows. He built a beautiful greenhouse using old windows. A greenhouse can be an extremely useful thing to have on your property. Just like Lewellen, you can use repurposed materials to build a greenhouse. You can use old windows, wood pallets, plastic tarps, and more.

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Kirk Lewellen

In 2013, Kirk Lewellen, a boat salesman in Tennessee, collected a large stack of reclaimed windows and doors to use in his garden. He sketched out his greenhouse design using a 3D modeling computer program called Tremble Sketchup. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Shannon/Sustainable Simplicity]
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Kirk stated, "A plan is critical when trying to use reclaimed windows. Determining a plan, a layout, and the utilization of the materials was the most difficult part of the construction process."

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He Was Planning To Build A Greenhouse

He was planning on building a greenhouse in his garden and was building it completely out of reclaimed windows. He measured the windows and came up with a footprint of twelve square feet. 

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He also had to figure out the angle for the primary window wall in order to maximize its solar collection. He figured out all of his planning and could finally start building his greenhouse.

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First, The Frame Had To Be Constructed

He began by building the frame of the greenhouse. He wanted to cover the smaller side of the roof with a translucent, corrugated material to keep the wind out. The interior of that side would be insulated with see-through plastic. 

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The next step was to make sure that the windows, doors, and trim pieces were ready for installation. He painted the window frames white and would eventually paint the greenhouse's frame white as well.

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Installation Of The Reclaimed Windows Began

The next step was to install the reclaimed windows. He had shorter rectangular windows and six taller panel windows, which he bought from Craigslist. His design had the smaller windows in a row along the bottom of the sidewalls, and the taller windows would sit above those. 

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The shorter rectangular windows would be the tall, southern-facing wall. He installed all of the windows and then sealed them with silicone caulk.

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He Began Adding The Finishing Touches

Kirk started adding the final touches, which included filling in the corners and walls around the windows. He painted the rest of the greenhouse's frame white and installed a flagstone floor inside the greenhouse. 

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He left a soil area marked out around the interior edge for plants. The stone flooring would help keep heat in the structure and allow the plant life inside the greenhouse to flourish and grow.

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Finally, He Installed Tables Above The Soil Layer

Lastly, he installed tables above the soil layer, where he could put trays to grow more. He added an exterior porch, rounding off an extension of the interior's flagstone floor. 

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Kirk installed an irrigation system to keep the greenhouse humid and a fan and electric heater. The fan and heater combat the alternating climate to keep conditions at their best year-round. His greenhouse was finally finished.

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Reactions To His Project Have Been Widely Enthusiastic

Reactions to Kirk's greenhouse project were mostly enthusiastic. One person said, "Absolutely gorgeous, love the addition of the Victorian fretwork. Habitat store and Craigslist are great places for this type of project."

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Photo Courtesy: [Shannon/Sustainable Simplicity]
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It's amazing to see what he was able to build with some old windows. His greenhouse is proof that nothing is ever completely useless.

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Greenhouses Aren't Just For Plants

Many believe that greenhouses are just for growing plants and flowers, but that is not the case. They are actually used for various reasons, from growing food to housing exotic animals. One of the most popular uses for greenhouses is as a place to start seedlings because the controlled environment allows gardeners to get a head start on the growing season. 

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Some use greenhouses to grow plants with specific needs, such as cacti or orchids. In addition, some use greenhouses as sunrooms, where they can enjoy the sun without being out in the cold.

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Greenhouse Gardening Has A Long History

Greenhouses have been around a lot longer than people realize. The first known greenhouses were built in Rome during the 1st century AD. However, they weren't originally used to grow plants or food. 

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They were used as sunny retreats for wealthy families. In the 16th century, they started using a greenhouse for its intended purpose. They very quickly became popular among the nobility and aristocracy.

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Greenhouses Come In All Shapes And Sizes

Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes, such as small backyard models or large commercial operations. There are some that can be placed anywhere in a garden and some that are attached to the side of a building. 

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Greenhouses can be square, round, polygonal, or rectangular. In addition, they can be tall, narrow, short, or squat. The size and shape of the greenhouse depends on the amount of space available and what it is needed for.

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There Are Many Different Types Of Greenhouses

There are also several different types of greenhouses, including hothouses, cold frames, and solariums. Cold frames are usually used to protect plants from frost damage. Hot houses are heated greenhouses that are used to grow mostly tropical plants. 

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Finally, solariums are glass-enclosed rooms that are built to capture the sun's heat and light. There are many types to choose from, and it will just depend on what you are growing.

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Greenhouses Can Be Made From A Variety Of Materials

Greenhouses can also be made from several different materials. One of the most common materials used to build a greenhouse is polyethylene, a lightweight plastic. UV rays can actually damage polyethylene, so you need a thick grade.

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Polyethylene can yellow over time and become less transparent. Glass is also popular, but it can be fragile and hard to work with. Many choose to use repurposed materials when building a greenhouse.

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Greenhouses Provide The Perfect Environment For Growing Plants

Greenhouses are perfect for growing plants and food year-round. They provide the ideal environment that is protected from the elements but allows sunlight and rain to reach the plants inside.

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It is a controlled environment that makes it possible to grow delicate plants that would not survive outside. Greenhouses can also be used to start seedlings earlier in the year, which gives a head start on the growing season.

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Greenhouses Are Energy-Efficient

Greenhouses are unique structures that allow people to grow plants all year, regardless of the weather. One of the perks is that they are energy efficient. They use sunlight to heat the greenhouse, therefore, requiring very little energy to operate. 

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They can actually reduce heating costs by fifty percent. They also usually have good insulation, which also keeps the heat from escaping. Greenhouses are an environmentally friendly way to heat your home.

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Greenhouses In Roman Times

Most historians credit the ancient Romans with the development of the first greenhouse. Scholars have said that in the year 30 AD, royal physicians recommended that the sick emperor Tiberius eat one cucumber a day. 

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That became a problem during the winter months. As a result, gardeners and engineers created growing structures, which represented carts with roofs of a translucent material. The structures allowed them to grow cucumbers all year round.

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Medieval Developments In Italy And Korea

More than a thousand years after the Romans built greenhouses, the next significant developments took place. It was around the 13th century when the Italians developed the world's first botanic gardens. 

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They were built to house the plants and vegetables that early explorers were bringing back from their travels. One of the first botanic gardens was located at the Vatican, but it no longer exists today.

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A Greenhouse Renaissance

From the 16th century onward, the early days of the Renaissance saw greenhouses becoming more widespread all over Europe. The greenhouses that were built during this period benefitted from better quality glass and metal, making the structure more durable. 

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Also, during the time, the aristocratic classes in France, England, the Netherlands, and Italy were developing a taste for foreign plants and exotic fruits. Greenhouses were becoming a must-have status symbol on wealthy estates. In 1661, Louis XIV commissioned the great glasshouse at the Palace of Versailles.

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The Birth Of The Modern Greenhouse

During the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution made greenhouses more accessible to the growing middle class, especially in England. The cost of producing glass dropped dramatically, and the massive tax on glass and windows was abolished. 

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All of this led to the construction of some of the most magnificent greenhouses, including the Palm House at Kew Gardens near London (pictured above). It was also during this time that smaller greenhouses began to pop up in the gardens of middle-class homes.

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Greenhouses In The 20th Century

During the 20th century, more greenhouses started to incorporate aluminum framing, which allowed the structures to be more lightweight and better able to withstand rust. One of the earliest examples of this kind of construction was the US Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. 

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Growing techniques also changed, moving to hydroponic systems. The method really took off during World War II because it allowed Allied forces to produce their own fresh food.

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French Botanist Charles L. Bonaparte

Charles L. Bonaparte was born in Paris on June 29, 1822, and was raised in Italy. Charles has been credited with building the first modern greenhouse in the 1800s. Charles was a French botanist and the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. 

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The greenhouse was beautiful, but its function was to grow tropical, medicinal plants. He was also a French naturalist and ornithologist who was married and had twelve children, including Cardinal Lucien Bonaparte.

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Andrew Faneuil

Andrew Faneuil was a well-to-do Boston merchant who is credited as the builder of the first American greenhouse in 1737. Andrew was also a slave trader and philanthropist. He was known for his gift of Faneuil Hall to the town of Boston. 

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John Levell said of Faneuil, "Faneuil fed the hungry, and he clothed the naked; he comforted the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. He was a gentleman, possessed of a very ample fortune and a most generous spirit."

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George Washington Built A Greenhouse At His Mount Vernon Estate In 1787

George Washington studied and implanted improved farming methods throughout his life and even thought of himself as a farmer. He initially grew tobacco as his cash crop but later switched to grains. In 1787, Washington had a greenhouse built at his Mount Vernon estate. 

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He had admired Mrs. Margaret Tilghman Carroll's greenhouse at her home, Mount Clare, and wanted one like it. His greenhouse housed tropical plants and is the second largest building at Mount Vernon. It was also the most advanced greenhouse of its time.

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KEW Conservatory

The Kew Conservatory was established in 1987 by Princess Diana and is one of the most well-known greenhouses in the world. It houses more than thirty thousand plant species and is designed to be energy efficient. It is a botanic garden in London and is one of London's top tourist attractions. It has a glass roof that extends down to the ground, which gives it a distinctive appearance. The conservatory received the Europa Nostra award in 1989.

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"Even in the winter, this is a spectacular place to visit. Well managed, well laid out, and enough to occupy you for a whole day or several days. The orchid exhibition was amazing, the palm house unbelievable, and the shop and restaurant were excellent." ----- Addis Ababa.

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Palmenhaus Schonbrunn

The Palmenhaus Schonbrunn is located in Vienna and is a glasshouse built in the garden of the royal palace of Schonbrunn. It was built before World War II and has a long and colorful history. In 1945, it was partially destroyed after being heavily firebombed. 

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It was rebuilt and has grown its herbarium to one of the most prestigious in the world. It also houses the oldest plant in the world, the olive tree, which was donated by Spain in 1974.

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Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden

The Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden is located in Helsinki. It has three plump glasshouses laced with white, with quaint benches and tables. They are used as an educational facility and as a peaceful retreat from chilly Helsinki. 

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It is all organized by plant variety, and the most striking is the Asian waterlily rooms, the desert room, and the atmospheric rainforest room.

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Royal Greenhouses Of Laeken

Advancements in construction techniques in the 1800s made the greenhouse possible. Many greenhouses, including the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, that were built around that time looked a lot like a glorious wedding cake. The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken are several monumental heated greenhouses in the park of the Royal Palace of Laeken in Belgium. The greenhouses house tropical, subtropical, and cold plants. They were built on behalf of King Leopold II and now belong to the Belgian Royal Family. They are only open to the public a few days a year.

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"Only open for a few weeks in May, this is an absolute treat for anyone who likes plants, flowers, and gardens. I think it cost about 2 euros! Amazing building, with an amazing collection of plants, and just so well maintained and organized. I was really impressed and would recommend this to anyone interested in flora. Great tea room in a huge orangery! Well worth planning a trip to coincide with the opening weeks." ----- Claire R.

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Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is in New York and is named after Enid Anneberg Haupt. Haupt donated ten million dollars to save and restore the old conservatory in 1978. 

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The greenhouse specializes in orchid shows, the flora of the Japanese garden, recreations of Monet's gardens, wild medicine gardens, and edible gardens. In addition, it includes a hot desert room and a steamy tropical rainforest room.

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The Eden Project

The Eden Project is a greenhouse that was built in 2000 on a disused kaolinite pit in Cornwall. It consists of several linked geodesic biomes that house the largest rainforest in captivity and a rambling garden that cascades down the edges of the pit.

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In 2005, an education center was built and included classrooms and exhibitions to educate visitors about sustainability. Sustainability is the central message of the Eden Project. During the winter, the biome is full of rare carnivorous plants.

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Jardin Des Plantes

Some of the oldest and most beautiful greenhouses are found in Paris, and those include the three greenhouses in the Jardin des Plantes. They were built in the art deco style and house exotic plants from around the world. 

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The plants in the greenhouse include desert plants, tropical plants from New Caledonia, and a greenhouse that tracks the evolution and history of plant life across the planet.

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Copenhagen Botanical Garden Greenhouses

The University of Copenhagen Botanical Garden is located in Denmark and is known for its extensive complex of historical glasshouses. There are twenty-seven greenhouses spread throughout the gardens. 

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The greenhouses house every type of plant you could imagine, including rare and endangered species of plants from idiosyncratic climates, such as Madagascar, the Galapagos Islands, and the Mascarenes.

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The Tropicarium In Frankfurt's Botanical Garden

Most gardens in Germany are inside greenhouses because they experience some frigid winters. The Tropicarium in Frankfurt's Botanical Garden houses both tropical plants and cacti from different parts of the world inside beautiful architectural halls. 

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The inside was designed by Friedrich Von Thiersch in 1968 and is full of greenery punctuated by delicate latticework and flowery sconces.

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Mount Cootha Tropical Dome

Mount Cootha Tropical Dome is now known as the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and is located at the foot of Brisbane's tallest mountain. The gardens and greenhouses cover one hundred and thirty acres and were established in 1970. It encloses a lush forest and pond and has an array of cacti and succulents. It's plant heaven, and you can visit the gardens for free all year round.

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"Beautiful garden and excellent customer service. We spent an excellent and enjoyable day wandering around this garden. There are various sections, each focussing on a specific theme, e.g. tropical, Australian bush, etc. Customer service reps have been wonderful, knowledgeable, and patient in explaining the various sights and what to do. The onsite restaurant was very slow in serving on the day we visited. All in all, an enjoyable and fun outing." ----- Caterpie, Customer Review.

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Joseph Paxton

Joseph Paxton was an English gardener and was best known for designing the Crystal Palace. He also cultivated the Cavendish banana. The Crystal Palace was a greenhouse structure that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851. 

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The palace took two thousand men just eight months to build, and it was built with iron and glass. Paxton was also a member of the Kew Commission and suggested improvements to Royal Botanic Gardens.

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Flower Dome In Gardens By The Bay Park, Singapore

The Flower Dome in Gardens by the Bay Park is located in the center of Singapore and is famous for its Supertrees. The Supertrees are vertical landscape structures that use solar energy for lighting and collecting rainwater. 

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The park has two greenhouses, with one of them being the Flower Dome, which is designed for plants of the Mediterranean and other regions with a mild dry climate. It is the largest frameless greenhouse in the world, and it has a special arched construction that holds its glass envelope.

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Cloud Forest At Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

The Cloud Forest at Garden by the Bay is in Singapore but is smaller than the Flower Dome. Inside the greenhouse, there is a forty-two-meter-high mountain with a real waterfall. Visitors can take an elevator to the top and then go down a spiral trail while enjoying the exotic plants.

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It is home to flora from the tropical regions of Central and South America and Southeast Asia. The mountain is covered with ferns, orchids, anthuriums, and selaginellas.

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Conservatory Of Flowers, San Francisco

The Conservatory of Flowers was built in 1878 and is a large Victorian-style greenhouse located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The building was built with wood and is the oldest surviving wooden conservatory in America.

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It is known for its unique collection of rare and exotic plants, and it includes five galleries. Each gallery highlights a different ecosystem and includes the Aquatic Plants Gallery, Highland Tropics Gallery, Lowland Tropics Gallery, Potted Plants Gallery, and the West Gallery.

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Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago

The Garfield Park Conservatory is often described as the "landscape art under glass." It was built in 1906 and 1907 by famous architects, engineers, sculptors, and designers. The greenhouse resembles a haystack, and the interior structure is a series of natural landscapes. 

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Eight rooms in the grand glass pavilion house six hundred plant species from all over the world. One of the most popular displays is the Sala de las Palmas, which consists of eighty-four varieties of palm trees.

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L'Umbracle Greenhouse Valencia

L'Umbracle Orangery is part of the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, and its design attracts attention. It was designed by the famous Spanish architects Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela. 

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It sits above the two-story underground parking lot and houses roughly fifty-five hundred specimens of plants from the Mediterranean regions of Spain and tropical countries. There are palm trees, orange trees, varieties of shrubs, lianas, and aromatic herbs.

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Sun & Shade

Sunlight is essential to plants, so it is important to keep the windows clean to allow more sun in. Natural shade is also needed for certain plants. You can plant deciduous trees around your greenhouse to provide shade in the summer and sun in the winter. 

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It is also great for shielding against strong winds. If you can't or don't want to plant trees, you can always use artificial shades. There are roll-up shades that allow you to control when you want sun and when you want shade.

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Heating & Ventilation

Ventilation is also vital in a greenhouse because heat can be deadly to plants. It's also a good idea to install a second door to avoid losing heat to a draft. Colors can also be a factor in controlling temperature, with dark colors tending to absorb heat more than light colors. 

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It's also a good idea to install roof vents at the ridgeline of the greenhouse's ceiling and the roof. In addition, you could install airflow fans to help improve air circulation.

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Monitoring Pests

Greenhouses need to be maintained, especially in pest control, because prevention is better than cure. In order to avoid pests, you need to make sure you don't bring them inside the greenhouse. 

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Always inspect the new plants before bringing them inside and if you are already dealing with pests, try researching for a solution. Pests that can be found in your plants all have their own enemies.

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Maintaining Humidity

Humidity is essential for plant growth, and the more humid the greenhouse, the better. The plants need to be watered regularly but not too much as too much water can drown out your plants, so consider the damping method. 

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If you wet the hard surfaces in your greenhouse, the wet surfaces tend to evaporate and increase the humidity. Also, make sure to be cautious with the anti-dripping linings.

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Plant Care

The main use of a greenhouse is to grow plants, so you have to make sure that you take care of those plants. The basics when it comes to caring for your plants include pruning dead leaves and branches and removing them from the greenhouse. 

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Those dead leaves and stems will steal nutrients from other parts of the plant. Also, remove weeds and other unwanted plants from the area around the greenhouse. You do not want weeds stealing nutrients from your plants.

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Cleanliness & Orderliness

In order for plants to grow properly, the area must be kept clean. Keeping the area clean is a very effective way to prevent pests as well. Make sure to wash tables and benches with soapy water to remove dirt. 

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Scrub and mop the floors regularly if your floors are smooth. Make sure to wipe the windows, clean all of the surfaces, and sweep the floors for fallen leaves, dirt, or anything else.

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Lean-To Greenhouses

There are several different types of greenhouses, and one of them is the lean-to. "Lean-to greenhouses are ideal for those wanting to enhance walled gardens, create a feature wall, or are limited on garden space. There are many benefits of a lean-to greenhouse. First, they can be installed in even the smallest garden or courtyard space so anyone can have a greenhouse; they are not just limited to those with a large outdoor space."

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"Second, a key benefit of a lean-to greenhouse is warmth. If sited against the wall of your house, your greenhouse will benefit from the warmth inside your home. Even if it is built against a garden wall with no residual heat, it will still retain heat in an efficient manner. An added benefit of installing a greenhouse close to the house is the proximity to its amenities, often making it easier to install utilities such as electricity and water." ----- Tom Hall.

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Freestanding Greenhouses

The freestanding greenhouse is ideal for those with flexible garden landscapes that aren't limited by space or other structures. These designs allow for options and allow gardeners to house an array of crops. 

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It's important to leave at least three feet of space all around the greenhouse. Freestanding greenhouses also offer more space to be transformed into garden rooms for relaxing or entertaining.

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Abutting Greenhouses

Abutting greenhouses and glasshouses are usually attached to a building or other structure. They are similar to a conservatory, and the result can look stunning and architectural. 

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These greenhouses can also be very practical because you won't have to leave the house. They are ideal for blurring the divide between your home and garden. You will especially be grateful they are attached during the colder months.

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COMBI Greenhouses

The Combi greenhouses are part greenhouse, and part shed. It's perfect for those who want somewhere to store all of their tools but also grow plants. You will have all of your tools nearby while you are tending to your crops or plants. 

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It's really about convenience and will mean you won't have to walk back and forth when you need a different tool. If you are going to have a shed and a greenhouse, why not combine the two?

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MINI Greenhouses

The Mini greenhouse is perfect for those gardeners who don't have a lot of acres of space to play with. If you don't have a lot of space, you will want a smaller greenhouse. Mini greenhouses are compact and stylish, but still allow you to grow delicious crops and beautiful plants. 

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You will be limited to how many crops and plants you can have, but it's better than nothing. They still come in glass, plastic, timber, or sturdy shelves with removable covers and can be placed on patios, courtyards, or balconies. Another bonus is that they are much more affordable.

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