Outside view of our greenhouse. 8x12 feet in dimensions.

3 Essential Tips for Successful Greenhouse Gardening

Greenhouse gardening is a great way to extend the growing season, protect plants from harsh weather conditions, and create a controlled environment for your plants. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, a greenhouse can be a valuable addition to your gardening setup. In this blog post, we will cover everything you need to know about greenhouse gardening, including choosing the right greenhouse, setting up your greenhouse, selecting the right plants, and tips for maintaining a healthy growing environment.

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1. Choosing the Right Greenhouse

A look inside the greenhouse showing tomatoes and basil growing well.
Inside our greenhouse

The first step in starting a greenhouse garden is selecting the right greenhouse for your needs. There are several factors to consider when choosing a greenhouse, including size, style, material, and location.


The size of your greenhouse will depend on the amount of space you have available and the number of plants you want to grow. If you’re just starting out, a small greenhouse of 6 feet by 8 feet or 8 feet by 10 feet can be a good starting point. However, if you have a large garden or want to grow a wide variety of plants, you may need a larger greenhouse. Our greenhouse is 8 feet by 12 feet and this enabled us to put two 2×12 foot raised garden beds on either side and still have an ample walkway in the middle.


Greenhouses come in several different styles, including lean-to, freestanding, and attached. Lean-to greenhouses are attached to an existing structure, such as a house or garage, and are ideal for small gardens. Freestanding greenhouses are standalone structures and can be placed anywhere on your property. Attached greenhouses are connected to a wall of your house or another building and are ideal for those who want easy access to their greenhouse from indoors.

Picture of greenhouse with garden bed along side of it.
Our 8 foot by 12 foot greenhouse


Greenhouses can be made from a variety of materials, including glass, polycarbonate, and plastic. Glass is the most traditional material for a greenhouse and provides excellent light transmission. However, it can be fragile and expensive. Polycarbonate is a durable and lightweight alternative to glass, while plastic is the most affordable option but has a shorter lifespan. We went with the polycarbonate as it’s more readily available and much stronger than either glass or plastic.


The location of your greenhouse is crucial for its success. The ideal location for a greenhouse is a spot that receives full sun exposure and is protected from strong winds. You should also consider the proximity to water and electricity sources. The north side of an open space would be ideal for a greenhouse. It will get both east and west sun in the morning and evenings. It will also get the most sun from the south during the shorter winter months.

2. Setting up Your Greenhouse

Inside view of our greenhouse with 2x12 foot garden beds along each side full of vegetable plants growing.
Garden beds built along the side with a shelf along the back.

Once you’ve chosen your greenhouse, it’s time to set it up. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Level the Ground: It’s important to make sure the ground where you’re placing your greenhouse is level. A level foundation will help ensure that your greenhouse is stable and that water can drain away from the structure.
  2. Ventilation: Good ventilation is essential for maintaining a healthy growing environment. Make sure your greenhouse has vents that can be opened and closed to regulate temperature and humidity.
  3. Shading: In the summer months, your greenhouse may need some shading to prevent the plants from overheating. You can use shade cloth or paint the greenhouse with a reflective paint to reduce the amount of sunlight that enters the greenhouse.
  4. Heating: Depending on your climate, you may need to provide supplemental heat to your greenhouse during the colder months. You can use a variety of heating options, including electric heaters, propane heaters, or even a wood stove.
How to heat a greenhouse?

We already touched on heating briefly but I wanted to go through some options that are commonly talked about and the ones that we’ve tried ourselves.

  1. Heat a greenhouse with a heat sink: I’m not saying this is not possible, but it is one of the hardest way to heat a greenhouse. You need so much mass in your greenhouse to keep it warm that you won’t have much space for any plants. We tried this our first year with a greenhouse. We filled the 4×12 foot walkway with 6 inches of gravel and placed two 55 gallon water barrels at the back of the greenhouse. Fill the barrels with water and painted them black. All of that made basically zero difference.
  2. Heated water tanks: We came across some videos showing people using heated water tanks to keep their greenhouse warm. We figured we already had 110 gallons of water in there we might as well try it. We used a submersible water heater that kept the water around 80°F (27°C) but it still wasn’t enough to make any meaningful difference. At night when the temperature would drop below freezing the hot water would only keep the greenhouse about 2 degrees above the outside temperature.
  3. Electric Greenhouse Heater: This is our recommendation for a consistent reliable heat source. There is some up front cost but with this running, we could see temperatures as low as 17°F (-8°C) and the greenhouse would stay above freezing by a few degrees and our plants would survive. Our Greenhouse Heater has let us extend our gardening season by 6 weeks on both the start and the end, giving us 3 months more growing time.

3. Selecting the Right Plants

Choosing the right plants for your greenhouse is key to a successful garden. Here are some tips for selecting the right plants:

Garden bed in our greenhouse with Tomatoes, Basil, and Dill growing.
Tomatoes, Basil, and Dill
  1. Consider Your Climate: Greenhouses provide a controlled environment, but you still need to choose plants that are suitable. If you live in a cold climate, you may want to choose plants that are hardy and can withstand colder temperatures. We use our greenhouse to get a jump start on our Carrots, Kale, Lettuce, and Beets earlier in the year.
  2. Choose Plants that Thrive in a Greenhouse Environment: Certain plants, such as tomatoes, and peppers, thrive in a greenhouse environment. These plants require warm temperatures and plenty of light to grow. Cucumbers come to mind when thinking of greenhouses as well but they require insects for pollination. Insects will avoid greenhouses due to the high heat and therefore you might not get a good yield.
  3. Think About Space: We have two 2×12 foot raised beds in our greenhouse and that’s what we plan for when doing our garden layout. Before you install a greenhouse think of what and how much of it you want to grow before selecting a size. You wouldn’t want to plant a pumpkin plant and have it take over the entire greenhouse.

In conclusion, a greenhouse is a great investment for any home gardener that wants to try to extend their growing season by as much as possible. If you follow the steps above you will be an expert greenhouse gardener in no time. Check out our growing guides that work both inside and out of your greenhouse.

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